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international librarian of mystery

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Phrase and Fable

The worst thing about working at the Library is closing up. There's about 20 chores to do, and you can't really get them under way properly until you've got all the patrons out the door. It's like a cruel indoor version of sheep herding, but one where the sheep take affront at your efforts to move them through the gate.

Today, for example, I was trying to tidy up the study desks around the Reference Collection, returning the various discarded books, CD-Roms and Journals back to their designated place. The only person who hadn't got up and left at the ten-minute warning was a middle-aged woman who had pulled out half of our literary reference sources over the course of the afternoon. She had them spread out around her in a wide fan, and was reading Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. The reference librarian within me was impressed, but it was 4:53pm on Friday afternoon, and my personnel file was back in my cubby-hold, still half un-read after a too rushed scan-through during my abbreviated lunch-break.

"Excuse me," I said, "we're closing up now."
"I think you close in seven minutes," she said, looking at her watch and nodding agreement with herself, without actually looking up at me.

Oohh, right. You're going to be like that then, are you? I decided to get on with the job around her, thumping books together into piles as I arranged the displaced titles from around the various desks close to my interloper. I threw in a good sniff and sigh, for good measure, but nothing worked: she was either oblivious, or impervious to my annoying efforts.

With maybe two minutes to go, I gestured to the pile of books scattered about her. "Could I just tidy these books up?"
"Not just yet, thank you, I'm still reading them."
"All of them?"

She looked up at me. "Yes."

She didn't look like a crazy, but I suppose they come in all shapes and sizes. I left her to it. I'd done all the other Reference tidy-up chores, including shutting down the PCs, so I couldn't even surf while I waited. I was tied to the desk while I waited for 5 o'clock to arrive, and for my Phrase and Fable reader to depart. I sat on the high stool behind the desk and glowered at her, sniffing malevolently.

The five o'clock closing time message finally rang over the library's PA, and she got up, nodded thanks in my direction, and headed to the stairs to leave. She was taking Brewer's with her.

"Excuse me!" I shouted after her. "Miss!"

She turned around.

"The book!" I said, "Brewer's - it's a Reference Collection book, you can't take it out."
"Oh, " she said, holding it up for my inspection, "this is my own copy."
"Oh. Sorry."
"That's all right."

She turned and continued away.

Her own copy? Grrr.