Several people have posted something about libraries today…which got me thinking back to my first job. The only “real job” I’ve ever held (I’m not counting temporary essay reading jobs or seasonal jobs working in book stores and music stores…none of those lasted more than three months…or the paper route I had when I was 12-14). There weren’t a lot of jobs for teenagers in the small town I grew up. Not if you didn’t want to work at one of the few restaurants in town (which I didn’t). There were only two jobs I would’ve wanted when I was in high school…a job at Books Etc. in the mall (which is LONG gone) or a job in the library (which is still there). I got hired at the library when I was 15…and I worked there until I went away to college.
I loved my job! I wasn’t even paid minimum wage until I turned 16, but I didn’t care…I loved working there. I loved being surrounded by all those books…I loved the feel of the punch card machine that checked books out to patrons…I loved helping patrons find books…I loved cleaning records in the back room…I even mostly enjoyed shelving and shelf reading. I loved the library so much that…I didn’t always go home when the library closed. I would PRETEND I was leaving at closing time…the adult I worked with would go out the back and I would head toward the front…but once I heard the back door close, I’d make a beeline for my favorite spot in the back room. And I would sit alone in the library after hours and write stories. Real exciting life I had there, eh?
No one ever knew I did this…until one night I heard sirens. And the back door opened. And the police came in. Along with the library director. Apparently someone had driven by and noticed a light on in the library and they thought they saw someone moving around inside, so they called the police. Imagine my boss’s surprise to find ME alone in the library at 9:00 on a Saturday night.
I was asked to “please go home when the library closes from now on.” In fact, for several weeks after that, whoever I worked with MADE SURE I left when the library closed.
While the whole thing was terribly embarrassing when it happened, I also knew it would be make a good story one day…if I ever really did become a writer. And it has…I tell that story often when I visit schools.