Friday afternoon is one of the slowest times at the library. Teenagers are ready to start the weekend; parents are planning their big sleep in. Still, we get enough people to keep us busy.
I smile at each person as they walk through the automatic doors and slip their books into the return lot. My favourite part of the job is checking in the returns and slipping them back on the shelves, where they belong. I do love having people check out books, but I feel uneasy when I see the empty places on the shelves. When I slide them back into their spot, it feels like I’m returning them home.
Most of the other librarians, Denise, Judy, Rosalind, Maribeth and Norma, handle the computer systems, overdue loans and any new books to add to the library. When we have nothing to do, we all sit around the table in the back room drinking coffee and discussing novels.
That’s how I find myself that Friday afternoon – curled up in my chair with a warm mug in my hands. We’re discussing the latest authors when I hear the doors open with a whoosh.
“I’ll get it,” I climb out of my chair and straighten my black shirt and skirt.
I sit myself down at a computer and smile as a family enters the library. A little girl waves at me and I offer a wave back. She giggles and runs away.
I check their returns into the system before stacking them on a trolley to be returned later. I like doing that last before heading home.
Sitting myself down at the computer again, I pull up my latest read from under the desk as I wait. About five minutes into it, the door opens again and a steady stream of teenagers comes in. I duck out of instinct as they file passed and head for the free computers against the east wall.
It isn’t enough for Jason and his gang to harass me at school. They occasionally come into the library to use the computers and pick on me as well. They’re smart enough not to do so openly in front of the other librarians, but rather wait until they have me alone at the desk and can whisper awful names to me. The thing is, I could tell the others if I wished and I know they’d ban them in a second flat. If there was anyone to trust in the world, it’s these old ladies who always check I get home safely from work and have a good day.
A feeling of dread trickles into my blood stream and I make the conscious decision to get busy. I gather the recent returns into my arms and head out from behind the desk to get them to their rightful place. I work in a clockwork motion. I start on the left area where the children and young adult books are located before moving into the centre of the building where the CD’s and movies can be found. I streak to the north side of the library, careful not to alert the rowdy teenagers at the computers, where the adult and non-fiction books are found. I peak around one of the aisles the check they’re focused on the screens and prepare myself to make a run for it. I’m just about to do so, too when someone tugs on my skirt. I jump in fright before glancing down to realise it’s the little girl I waved to before.
“Hey there,” I smile weakly. “What’s wrong?”
“I need to find a book,” she whispers and holds her hands behind her back.
“Oh sure. What were you looking for?”
“I don’t really know,” she whispers again and I have to bend down to hear her. “I just want to read something.”
“That’s my job and I’m here to help.”
Knowing they won’t come at me with a little person beside me, I’m able to walk freely back to the children’s area in search of appropriate books.
“Now, how old are you?” I ask.
“Eight," she tells me shyly. I'm a little surprised at this since she looks at least ten dressed in a black dress with her red hair pulled back in a pony-tail.
“What types of books do you like?”
She has to think about it a moment before brightening up.
I begin to pull out books that fit the criteria and explain them all to her so she can decide if she wants them or not.
I’m still trying to find a right one before she pipes up,
“What’s your name?”
“Christina. What’s yours?”
“Madeleine Jane Broadshaw," she giggles. "What’s your full name though?”
I grin at her, too as I pull out more books. I consider Harry Potter, but that's maybe a little to old for her yet.
“Christina Magdalene Jackson," I tell her.
“That’s a pretty name. I like yours.”
“Yours is pretty, too,” I hold up the books in my arms. "Do you like these?”
By the end of ten minutes, little Madeleine has her arms filled with Rainbow Magic books and a big smile on her face.
“You have to check if you’re allowed to get so many,” I tell her. “You better ask your parents.”
“I don’t think it’d matter,” she informs. “I read a lot of books.”
I send her off to find her parents and return to the front desk.
“You’ve been gone a while,” Judy looks at me over her glasses. “Were you talking to those awful teenagers?”
“Gosh no,” I grin. “I helped a little girl find magic books.”
“Oh yes. God bless the innocent children.”
Judy has to been one of the wisest people I know. She began working here fifteen years ago at the age of twenty-five and has never thought about quitting. I often ask her where she gets her knowledge and she always responds with,
“Books and experience, Christina.”
She acted as my mentor for my first year of volunteering and helped me with anything I needed. In return, I always bring pastries everyday for her and the other ladies to nibble on. They say if it weren’t for girls like me, the library would never be able to keep going and that fills me with pride to think about.
The clock just turns to 4:45 pm, fifteen minutes before closing, when Madeleine reappears at the front desk along with her father, mother and baby brother.
“How are you?” I ask politely and say goodbye to each book in my mind as I check them out.
“I told you I could keep them all,” Madeleine teases as she places her five Rainbow Magic books.
“Lucky!” I gasp for her enjoyment and scan them quickly.
I advise them to meet me around the other side of the desk, so the alarm won’t go off. Gathering the books into my arms, I take them over to the waiting family.
“Here you go,” I smile and help slide them into a bag.
I wave goodbye to Madeleine as they head out the door as she waves back. Right before the door closes, she sings out,
“Bye, Christina Magdalene!”