From the Prison Writing Project
Libraries are for idiots. At least that's what the librarian told me this morning while I perused a row of literary novels on a tall wooden bookshelf.
The librarian's black bob cut hair bounced with each step as she stormed past me. "Idiots."
I barely understood what she had muttered as she sped past, making a beeline for the front desk. I furrowed my brows and pulled a book from the shelf.
A group of fine young men had congregated at the front desk. I could hear their voices, but they were too far away to comprehend what was being said.
I wondered if the librarian had just uttered an insult directed toward me or the young men. At the time she passed me, I was the only one who could have heard her idiot comment.
When she reached the young men, she shook her head. In the relative silence of the library, she bellowed, "You guys are being too loud!" Her hair bounced with the effort of each word.
Startled, the young men halted their conversation and faced the source of commotion.
I moved closer to the front desk, as did many other library patrons. Everyone wanted to see the cause of the disturbance.
I realized I had moved a little too close. My face flushed. I turned to walk away from the growing storm before the other library patrons thought I was part of the group of condemned young men.
Apparently satisfied with the men's newfound silence, the librarian sighed and headed back toward her office, again mumbling "idiots" under her breath as she passed me.
Halfway to her office, something must have short-circuited in her brain. She wailed like a banshee, "Hey! The library is closed! You all are making too much noise! We're closed! Thanks for coming! Bye bye!" And with that, she stomped the rest of the way back to her office.
Library staff began their closing process: gathering books, processing last-minute check-outs, and flipping the sign on the entrance to "closed." Library patrons looked at each other, confused, not sure if the librarian was to be taken seriously.
I looked at my watch. The library had only been open for sixty-eight minutes, so I clearly understood the patrons' confusion. She couldn't be serious. Wouldn't she just ask the boisterous individuals to leave the library? Surely the librarian wouldn't close the entire library because of fine young men having a conversation. But this was indeed what happened. She was serious.
Unaware that I had subconsciously followed her to her office, I found myself standing in the librarian's doorway. I tucked the book I was carrying under my arm and rapped on the open door.
The librarian sat perched behind a metal military-style desk. She had a smile on her face. I had expected her to be pumped with adrenaline after such an outburst. But no. She was as calm as a lake on an icy winter morning.
I poked my head farther into her office. She looked up with the same patronizing smile fit for her type of patron.
I asked, "Did you really close the entire library because of those young men?" I adjusted the book under my arm. "Couldn't you have asked them to leave?"
"There were too many of them," she answered, the smile never fading. "Only idiots come to the library anymore."
Once again, I wasn't sure if I should be personally offended by her comment.
She said, "I'm not really into books, reading, art." She waived her hand as if to dismiss the entire library. "It's a paycheck, but sports is where it's at."
She logged off her computer and stood. She wore tennis shoes and joggers. Interesting attire for a librarian.
She came around her desk and faced me. "I can't be around these idiots all day, and besides, there's a game starting in fifteen minutes on ABC."
I wondered if she had thought this through. She was a librarian that despised the arts, and claimed that all patrons coming to the library to study are idiots. Did she even consider the mental capacities of her sports-minded compadres? Especially the ones with the big foam cheese hats and painted naked chests, screaming obscenities?
It was my turn to shake my head. I held my book firmly under my arm. I made my way toward the front desk, wondering if my college degree was enough to make me a qualified library patron. What type of advanced degree must one have to get off the librarian's Idiot List?
When I reached the front desk, I handed my book to the clerk to be checked out.
"I'm sorry," the clerk said, "the library is closed. You'll have to come back to check this book out another day. Bye bye!"
I left the book on the counter, and wondered if the clerk had mumbled "idiot" on my way out.