Saturday, November 7, 2020

January 17, 2014: A Book Moves Somewhere and I Know it


A Book Moves Somewhere and I Know it

I have not been getting enough sleep lately. Late at night I go downstairs into my bitterly cold basement, turn on a small electric heater, and wrap a giant faux sheepskin blanket around me. For some reason this makes me feel like Victor Hugo, so, naturally, I write. Blog posts, yes, but I try to make them as good as his poem The Ocean's Song, which is not as high a bar as one might think. And then I go to bed and get six hours of sleep. 

It is a well known scientific fact that I require 11 hours of sleep each night to function properly. So I am spending a lot of time in a strange hallucinatory daze at the library. This daze makes me a less efficient worker, but it also gives me access to strange and heightened clerking abilities. So, though most of what I am capable of at work in this sleep deprived state is, 

1. reading books 

2. leaning on things, and 

3. staring into space, 

I am also at my peak of what I'll call Heightened Library Awareness, or HLA. This is a skill that leads to feats that, from the outside, can look a bit like magic, but really just has to do with the power of the human mind.

I'll explain.

There was a book that I loved when I was younger called The Tracker. It is Tom Brown's story of growing up spending a lot of time in the Pine Barrens, in the woods, and it is about learning about tracking, and the wilderness, from an older Native American teacher. What I am thinking of now is the quote on the back. Tom Brown says:

When somebody moves something in your house, you notice it. When somebody moves something in the woods, I notice it.

Well, when somebody moves something in the library, I notice it.

Tom Brown, in this entertaining book, recounts some amazing abilities. He is able, for example, to observe a few scuffs in the dirt, then a mark on a tree, and perhaps a bit of grass out of place, and from that he can construct a detailed account of the travels of a small bird, one that ends in finding it on, yes, that branch there. 

It is not only what he has learned, but his deep presence and familiarity with the woods.

I am very familiar with this library. I am interested, and I am here a lot. Sometimes I'll hear people discussing books, and a book will come up that I've never read, but nevertheless the cover will appear vividly in my mind, the author, perhaps along with a blurb from the back, and its precise location on the shelves. Sometimes a patron will come to the front desk and say "I just have a quick question." and I will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what the question is.

But it is only when I am exhausted, with my conscious mind too bleary to put up a fight, that my strongest HLA, heightened library awareness, comes through.

A woman comes to the desk.

"It's in the Board Room." I say. "Go upstairs. Left, and left again."

Not believing I can know the answer to her question before she asks, she asks. "Where is the PACA meeting?"

"It's in the Board Room." I say. "Go upstairs. Left, and left again."

I am walking through the library in a daze, on some vague mission to get a few Mo Willems books from the kid's room, when a man at a computer waves an arm to flag me down. I don't even look. "After you hit print, select "shrink to fit page" on the lower right." I say it not even breaking my shambling stride.

"How did you know that?" The man calls after me. "How did you know that!"

I'm in the back tending the machine, or leaning on the machine, or whatever. A couple co-workers come back because a book that a patron had on a table got "cleaned up" and put onto the machine. No one remembers what the book was. It could be anything in 25 bins. I walk to one bin and pull out a paperback. "What about this one?" They laugh. I am being silly again. "No, no, try this one." I say. Me and my comedy routines. One co-worker heads back to the patron for more information. I stand there in my stupor saying "This one. This one." 

It ends up being that one indeed.

Even writing this my co-worker Dave asks to use the computer for a minute. He needs to put something to mending.

"It's stained." I say. And though you cannot see that until you open the book, it is.

So how do I do this? How do I know all this?

I've seen it all. Over and over. And I am so tired. Too tired to pretend I don't know exactly what's going on in this place just to be polite. I will tell you this though. All of these magic tricks put together are probably not worth being able to get a whole cart of books shelved without staring into space drooling for 45 minutes.

I have got to get some sleep.

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