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bizgirl

international librarian of mystery

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Coffee with Artemis

My 3.30pm coffee date with nine-year old criminal mastermind Artemis loomed. I was on a seemingly un-ending reference desk shift, usually a highlight for me, but, today, a deadzone. No-one, it seemed, was in need of expert information retrieval. The minute hand crawled on, and eventually staggered up to the half-hour mark.

I didn't see Artemis in the cafe upon my arrival, so I grabbed a flat white and a scone, took a table and pulled out the latest New Scientist I'd snaffled from Acquisitions.

Artemis arrived about five minutes later, walking in wearing one of those anonymous white-shirt-black shorts-brown-socks-black-shoes school uniforms. Tucked under his arm was a large folio-holder. He spotted me and walked over.

"Hi Artemis."
"Hello Natalie. How are you?"
"Excellent thank you. Could I get you something?"
"A short black thank you."
"Haha. I am not buying you coffee Artemis."
"Why not?"
"Artemis, really, I'd need to see a parental permission slip to buy you coffee. In fact, I'm probably breaking some obscure librarian's code that prohibits me from meeting patrons outside of work hours."
"You're a librarian Natalie. And I have coffee all the time."
"I'm not buying you coffee."

Artemis huffed at me, then marched off to the counter and ordered. He pulled out some plastic to pay with, got his number and came back to the table. He popped himself on a chair and pulled his folder open. Sitting inside was the map of central Wellington's underground drains and utility tunnels he had copied from the plan I had found for him in the Dungeon. Like he had told me, Artemis had added a transparent film layer of the overground streets and manholes, and then, on top of that another layer onto which he'd added several notable buildings. The usual suspects: the Beehive, the Cable Car, the Railway Station, but also all the McDonalds, Kirkcaldie & Stains, National Library and Archives New Zealand.

A waitress bought his coffee over, setting it in front of me. Artemis pointedly pulled it across to himself, took a sip, and nodded. I looked at his map.

"This is fantastic Artemis," I said, "well done."
"Thank you."
"Although, where's my library?" I asked Artemis, pointing down at the map. "You've got all this other stuff."
"Your library's not important enough to go on."
"But Kirkcaldie & Stains?"
"It's a heritage building."
"Where's the Old Bank Arcade then?"
"Ugh, it's a dinky-trap."
"A what?"
"Really, if you don't know, I'm not going to tell you."
"Please Artemis. I hate not knowing stuff."
"You must have a hateful life."
"Oh haha."

Wee shit. I ate some of my scone, not offering Artemis any. He leaned forward.

"Natalie," he said, "would you like to look after my map? I really don't have anywhere at home to store it, and it's just going to end up getting chucked out."
"Really? You'd give me your map?"
"Not give. You'd be looking after it."
"And I get from this ... what? Exactly?"
"I thought you might like to look after it. I thought that was a librarian thing."

Fair enough.

"Well, actually, you're right, I would like to look after it if it has no better home, I could even add it to the catalogue if you wanted."
"So other people in the library could use it?"
"If you wanted. Probably just as a reference item."
"Would you find my name on the OPAC if you looked me up by author?"
"Yes."
"That would be brilliant."

Artemis seem genuinely pleased. He took a rest from verbally sniping at me for a few minutes, and, despite a persistent case of know-it-all-itis, he acted like a normal nine-year-old for about ten minutes. We talked school.

"Soooo," I said, having decided his defences were down a bit: "What's the new project then?"
"New project?"
"Scuba diving? Archives security?"

He knew I was onto him.

"Er, Natalie, okay. Promise you won't tell?"
"I promise," I said.
"And that you won't laugh?"
"That too."
"Okay. I'll tell you."

[ continued here... ]

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