“What defines a library? Is it a collection of books for the masses? Is it a collection of knowledge for the taking? Or is it simply a quiet place to contemplate and learn? One might say that it’s a magical place filled with imagination, creativity, and the lost thoughts and ideas of the past. For Eleanor, all of those things were true. Not only did she inherit a brick and mortar building housed with books, but she also inherited something a bit magical.
Eleanor trudged up the large marble staircase of the Newton Public Library. The weather was dreary and so was her mood. She had no idea what she was going to do with her massive inheritance. Not only was the building itself falling into disrepair, but the catalogue was terribly outdated, and only a sparse following of patrons remained loyal to the tired system of borrowing physical books. Society had progressed by leaps and bounds in the years since Eleanor’s grandfather had opened the library. Most everything could be found online these days, and print books were becoming a distant relic of the past. As much as Eleanor tried to keep her library relevant by updating the computer system and providing ample space to access the internet from various electronic devices, fewer and fewer people continued to wander through the doors.
At first she had been honored to receive her grandfather’s most treasured possession as her inheritance, but she soon realized how much work actually went into the up keep and staffing of the library. She now realized that not only did her grandfather spend so much time in the library because he enjoyed it, but because it was necessary to keep things in order.
As a young college graduate, she felt that the library distracted her from pursuing her budding career as a journalist. She had recently finished her internship at a prestigious quarterly magazine, and was about to start a job there full time. First, she needed to get things in order with this library. One set back after another both depleted her finances and her chances at starting her career. So far her potential boss had been patient and understanding, but he couldn’t wait forever.
Her current challenge was to find a reliable security guard to check up on the place after hours and several times through out the night. Joe, the man her grandfather had previously employed, had slipped and fallen down the stairs breaking a hip. Eleanor had left the library unattended one night and it had been ransacked causing hundreds of dollars in damage. After that she had tried desperately to find someone else to no avail. Eventually she took the duty upon herself, which is why she was trudging up the stairs in the dreary weather late in the evening.
She paused at the giant oak doors, and turned around to view the street below. Cars and pedestrians were making their slow way home as the sun sank behind the cityscape casting an orange foggy glow. It would have been the perfect scene for a greeting card, or even a Christmas television special. She loved this part of town. It had been all she had known for most of her life. She spent countless days and evenings with her grandfather in this library, listening to his stories, and exploring her own. It would be a bitter sweet thing to take this new job and move away from her beloved neighborhood. IF she could ever take the job and move away. With a small sigh, she continued through the doors and into the impressive lobby.
As she made her way through the lobby her shoes made a soft clicking sounds across the marble floor. As far as she knew she and the evening librarian, Jill, were the only two people in the building. The library had technically been closed for half an hour, but with such a small patronage hours were more of a suggestion than a rule.
Jill was a rare breed, still more concerned with customers and their satisfaction that her own personal comfort. Sometimes she would stay for hours after the scheduled closing time to allow a flustered student extra time to study for an impending test, or a loyal patron find just the right book for the local book club to indulge in. It didn’t happen often, but when it did Jill never complained. She just quietly found things to do, whether it be cataloging, sorting, or filing until her patrons were ready to leave.
Eleanor rounded the corner and saw Jill patiently waiting behind the circulation desk for a single patron to finish up his allotted time on the public computer.
“Good evening, Jill” Eleanor whispered softly as she slipped out of her rain coat, and sat her purse underneath the counter.
“Hello, Eleanor. Mr. Jennings will be finished here in just a moment. He has about ten minutes left.” Jill replied in the same hushed tone with which Eleanor had initiated the conversation, and a warm smile.
“Anything exciting happen today, Jill?” Eleanor asked, leafing through a stack of return slips.
“Oh no. Nothing exciting per say. There was a bit of a leak in the Natural History section, but Bob got it patched right up. Thankfully it didn’t damage any of the books.”
“Natural History section? Isn’t that up on the third floor?”
“Yes it is. One of the sky lights was giving us a fit today. Most of the time it’s as dry as a bone up there.”
“And you said that Bob got everything taken care of? Or do I need to call a repair man to look at the sky light?”
“Well Bob got it all patched up, but I don’t think it would hurt to call a repair man. Wouldn’t want to leave it unattended and lose some of those books up there, you know.”
“Thanks Jill, I’m out of here. You all have a goodnight.” Mr Jennings called as he stood up from his seat at a nearby computer, and made his way toward the front door.
“Thank you Mr Jennings. If you’ll wait just a moment could you walk me to my car?” Jill replied.
“Sure thing. I’ll be just outside the door. Goodnight Eleanor.” Mr Jennings said, continuing his way through the lobby.
“Goodnight!” Eleanor called as she helped Jill gather her belongings and bundle into her coat. “Goodnight to you as well Jill. Thank you for staying over tonight.”
“Any time, dear. Any time.” Jill answered, buttoning up her rain bonnet over her silver permed locks and making her way toward the door.
Eleanor listened carefully for the sound of the lock being thrown, and then started to make her first round through the vast expanse of books. While she was certain when Jill had been waiting for Mr Jennings, Mr Jennings had been the only person left in the building, making her rounds helped pass the time. She also wanted to head upstairs and check on the troublesome sky light.” -R. MacCeile
Look for Eleanor’s Library Kindle and paperback versions to arrive late November 2019.
Copyright R. MacCeile 2019