Life of a Librarian: Ch 1

Thaddeus Jaeger just wants a job. The Librarian’s Guild wants an assassin.

Genre: adult, fantasy, romance

Well. The artwork was beautiful. I’ll give the bored underclassmen that. The fact I had smeared it all over my hands, my papers, and my sleeves before discovering someone had drawn all over the desk made me less forgiving.

“Jaeger?” Dr Hamilton’s cracked voice disturbed my ruminations. I looked up to find him with his hand out, waiting for my portfolio and final paper. I grimaced, placing the now smudged papers and binder in his gnarled palm. He grunted at my offering, turning his hand to find black stripes across his fingertips. The sigh of disappointment did nothing for the pit in my stomach or the heartburn at the back of my throat.

This was the last class I needed. Graduation was planned in a week’s time. My mother had insisted I send a letter announcing my graduation with a Masters’s in Library Studies to every person she could find an address for. Who honestly comes to a Masters’s graduation or a PhD graduation? I had wanted to keep it intimate. Mom, me, maybe Great Uncle Tad. The people who were proud of me for getting the first post-secondary degree in my bloodline, let alone continuing past my English major to go for a Masters. My graduation cap and gown were hung on the worn closet door in my shoebox of a studio apartment. The tassel was on my key chain, so I wouldn’t misplace it.

“Thaddeus Jaeger?” Dr. Hamilton’s voice broke through my anxious musings.

“Yes, sir?” I snapped to the powerpoint slide on the dry-erase board. An agenda sprawled across rows and columns, dates and times.

“You wrote your time down?” His red laser pointer circled my name on the board. Next to it was my placement for the week. I was to show up to the downtown public library on Thursday to fill in as one last internship before graduation. I had a job lined up with an academic library in the rival college in town. The last two years had seen me participate in every internship inside out outside of the city. This one-day internship felt like a lost cause. It was also thirty per cent of our final grade. I had worked too hard at my GPA to not show up. I hastily jotted my time down in my phone and nodded.

“Good. Now…” he started in on presenting information that I had already read about on Sunday. One of my classmates, Sienna, ducked out when her phone vibrated. I mused about work, doodling in the lines of my notebook, sketching out what the underclassman had left.

“It is a treat, students,” Dr. Hamilton pulled me back out of my focus on detailing an eyelash, “to work at the public library, for there, the world becomes vastly different from the meanderings of non-fiction. The basic concept, whether you wish to work by Harvard Yenching, Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, or what have you, is that you must instinctively understand in the fiction world that not all fiction resides in the same spot.” We watched him, just ever so slightly puzzled. Of course, fiction ended up in the same spot. It was on the other side of nonfiction, always and forever never to interrupt one another’s paths, as long as you didn’t get into any religious debates, or UFO accounts, supernatural, or those few things that tended to be placed as either historic first-hand accounts or subjective “documentary” evidence.

“This week, you will each receive the opportunity to go to this state’s largest public library to help the head librarian. She is currently looking for a new apprentice, and I, as her good friend, would like to make her proud enough to call one of you hers. She is in the midst of cataloguing a new collection she received three years ago and is going to place that collection in the hands of her new apprentice. It would be a great honour, and I hope you seek this privilege,” he eyed each one of us. It felt like Osiris was weighing my heart against the feather of truth here. I had told myself not to get wrapped into a public library. They were small, usually only up to date on failing young adult fiction and the latest glossy issue of the tabloids. They were seriously underfunded and always needing repairs. I had already found myself a spot in the academic library at the university where I was comfortable. These books were faceless, devoid of character and easily allowed me to escape back to my family in the evenings. Out there, in the wilds of fiction, I might never come back.

I scoffed at my melodramatics. I had fallen down that hole once before, where I could lose myself in a three-foot stack of books and finish them all in one day. I swore to myself that I would not waste my life away living in someone else’s fantasy.

I snapped out of my revelry in time to hear Professor Hamilton tell me that I was to see Melissandra Grable on Thursday, the last day of the public library experience, to provide my services for the cataloguing of the new collection. “Yes, sir,” I responded quickly, acting like I had been paying attention. He eyed me warily before nodding. I knew I could never fool him. He knew it too.


I breathed a tedious sigh. This had been quite the set of years. I flicked the windshield wipers over in a futile hope of getting more of the vapours on the glass to dissipate. I leaned my head against the headrest. Parked in my apartment parking lot, early morning had come on humid and smelling of river water. My hair crunched, reminding me that my moussed curls would evaporate if I abused them.    Closing my eyes, I noted a grinding sound coming from the engine. Today was not a good day to be having engine trouble on top of everything else. I had been able to finish the last of my homework assignments, all that was left was this last day of interning, then dead week, then my presentation of my thesis. I had a hard copy of my second to final draft, and to my utter bitterness, last night, when I had finished typing up all of my edits that I had meticulously handwritten on that draft, my computer crashed. Hardcore. Like it’s never coming back from those death throes. I should have known better than to run that machine for so long.

I watched my downstairs neighbour load up her kid in the back seat of her little hatchback. Her husband had ditched her a month back, and she was doing the best she could. The toddler fought her every step of the way, constantly trying to point back to the apartment they had come from. I glanced to the door to see a little stuffed rabbit doubled over on the stoop. Vanessa wasn’t getting the concept, in a hurry. I opened up my door and went to grab the little toy. I heard the door shut and the little kid crying. “Vanessa!” I yelled to get her attention before she could climb into the driver’s side. I held up the stuffed animal.

“Oh, Deus! Thank you. I didn’t know what Billy was going on about.” She came around her car as I approached.

“No, problem.” I tossed it to her. She caught it and waved, turned back, and climbed into her car.

I returned to my own seat. By that point, the mist on the windows had finally dissipated, and I could see the sun coming up over the baseball field fence off to the edge of the apartments. I knew it. I was going to be late to my internship opportunity. Not the best move when one wants to get hired off the bat. I had dressed in the typical hire-me-now-I’m-desperate uniform of a standard black suit, white button-up, and basic blue tie. A silver bracelet and watch peeked out at the edge of my shirt sleeve. My inner jacket pocket held my mala, if only to act as a good luck charm.

I threw the car into reverse and backed out of my parking space. The radio djs were talking about the middle east wars. I knew that getting on the road any later than 7:34 would mean serious backup at every light to the Public Library that was in downtown. Just my luck. I hit every red light.

I parked the car in the rear of the library, in staff parking. I had received my pass that I hung on the rear-view mirror that let me park there so that I wouldn’t get a ticket. I picked up my briefcase and my portfolio that contained my crisp, newly printed this morning letter of recommendation and resume.

My heels echoed down the back staircase. The place looked empty. The back hall was small and sterile. It was a muted grey-yellow with beige carpet. The place smelled of fresh paint and condensation. Some of the ceiling tiles showed signs of water damage and mould growth.

I frowned. Such was the life of the Public Library, the last entity in the state to get decent funding. Schools weren’t having any better luck. I guess the big-wigs didn’t believe that education and opportunities for academic growth were useful for career development. That showed evidence just by the price of undergraduate and graduate studies programs. My mind raced down bunny trails as I followed signs pointing me to the front of the building.

Finally, I emerged from the back hallway into the stacks. The shelves were enormous, standing at least fifteen feet high, all grey metal with sliding ladders on each one. These held research material, journals, encyclopedias, the general material that was not to leave the library under any circumstance. I continued through the stacks and noticed a shift in temperature and light. I had entered the main rotunda where the stacks turned into eight-foot mahogany shelves. Little brass plaques under the directory cards indicated that the shelves had been a donation by the local carpentry club, funded by a D.W. Simil. Not bad, I told myself as I eyed the decorative dovetail joints. Brass rolling steps were mounted to each shelf. The smell had changed from paint and condensation mould to my favourite smell, print and book dust. It smelled of home and memories. It didn’t help that I had taken over the entire dining room with bookcases back home and turned it into a personal library, so yes, it actually did smell of home.

A large centralized desk sprawled in the middle of the rotunda. It was bright and airy, and distinctly warm. It didn’t help that it was directly under a three-story skylight. Once at the desk, I was able to look around. It was empty and quiet. The sun had burned the room golden, but that was starting to yellow as it moved on. Above the racks and recessed back over the metal stacks were another two floors to the library with more shelves that wrapped about halfway around the rotunda. On the western wall were the grand double door entrance and a massive stained-glass window over it with small niche windows cut out sporadically all the way up that wall.

In the stained glass window were warped so many characters from classic novels that I recognized that it was almost dizzying. There was Dracula and Captain Hook, Alice from Wonderland, The Tin Man and Toto, Curious George, Red Fish and Blue Fish, Pierre, and many many more. It didn’t gleam across the library, but I knew about the time lunch rolled around that the library would be bathed in blues and reds and greens. How had I never been in this library before?

“Thaddeus Jaegar, I presume?” A shrill, cold voice snuck down my spine. I spun around and closed my mouth, knowing that I had been gapping at the window. I found a shrewish woman in a pink sweater cardigan and baby blue button-up shirt with fawn brown pants and impossibly white high heels. Her black hair was cut in a bob and thin green rhinestone glasses hung from a beaded chain. She actually was not bad looking. She appeared to be a retired pageant queen really. She had high cheekbones and full lips with moderately symmetrical eyes and decent make-up.

I was intimidated at once. “You are Melissandra Grable?” I asked, trying to throw out timid in the trash and put assertive in its place, but knew I was failing miserably.

The woman’s grey-green eyes twinkled. “No, I am Ms Krimshaw. I am currently covering for Mrs Englewood while she is away on an errand. We hope she will be back by the end of the month,” the woman answered.

I frowned as I processed her statement. “Yes, ma’am.” I also wasn’t sure if I should pry. The woman had made it sound like a delicate matter, and sometimes, though just trying to be polite, I found out about things that I would have rather not known.

“You are the first to not question me about Mrs Grable. We will see how you do. If you can keep up with me today, I will take your letter of introduction and resume that you have in your portfolio and look it over this evening. Please, follow me,” she motioned for me to come back around the desk to check-in and give me a badge.

“Dr Hamilton mentioned work on cataloguing a shipment of books?” I took the offered badge and pinned it to my breast pocket.

Ms. Krimshaw glanced at me over her glasses, unimpressed. She sighed. She sounded disgusted with me already. Was I really that late? “Yes, yes. Your colleagues asked the same question. Here.” She handed me a lanyard with a card that would let me into the staff room for lunch. I slipped it into my jacket pocket and followed the woman out of the circulation desk.

“The books are in the backrooms. We received a shipment under donation from Simil. He’s the guy who gave us all the shelves you see here.” She flicked a manicured fingernail to the wooden shelves stacked high with books. “He’s always sending us donations, but this? This is a little beyond us.” Ms Krimshaw ducked through a hallway hidden at the north side of the rotunda and unlocked a door. She pushed it open and watched my face when she hit the light switch.

Shock and awe. It was like finding the Ark of the Covenant, and then realizing that there were snakes everywhere. The room was the size of a small aircraft hanger, and it was stacked with wooden crates of books from floor to ceiling in five double rows down the centre of the floor. I could live in this room for the rest of my life sorting books and probably not get half of it done.

“Yeah, Douglas left after he saw this. Felicity actually threw up on my shoes – those were Roger Vivier. I think I honestly could have shot something. Jacob gave it a half go and got through about ten books before heading to lunch and not coming back. Sienna didn’t even show up. She apparently was forewarned about this, whereas it looks like no one cared enough to tell you.” Ms Krimshaw stared me down, her eyes begging me to turn tail and run. I could tell that my face had drained of colour. It was that funny numb feel like when you hadn’t moved in a long time. I took a steadying, deep breath and set my teeth. Make it or break it, I wanted a job, and I was here to get a grade, so I might as well tough it out.

“Where will all of these books go when they are catalogued?” I asked her, taking a tentative step into the room. The temperature dropped. The room was climate controlled and moderately dry. They didn’t want mould to grow or the spines to crack. Someone knew how to store books.

“Simil left us with instructions that if we could get the first two crates catalogued, he would put in for the raising of a fourth and fifth floor to the building to accommodate all of these books and that we could then use this room for all of the children’s picture books he had waiting,” Ms. Krimshaw lead me over to the first crate. On the side, in dripping black letters, was stamped DWSimil. My heart sank. That was going to be quite a tedious job. I tried to regain my composure.

“What will we do with the first two crates of catalogued books?” I ventured a peek into the open box. On top lay new shiny hardback jackets for Rick Riordan and Frank Herbert. I picked up the first book on the pile, The Son of Neptune. I had just finished reading that book to Dante, a kid my neighbor was fostering, the week before. I smiled.

“You seem amused,” Ms Krimshaw looked tired.

“I just read this to Dante. He likes Percy. I’ve read him all of the books and the Kane kids. I like them too. They get to meet gods. Riordan also actually does his research, so his material is pretty believable.” I glided a finger over the embossed letters.

“Hmph. Well, for now, we’re moving what we can into the stacks. Riordan, seeing as you’ve read him anyway, as you know, goes in the young adult, and Herbert goes in Adult Sci-Fi,” she told me. She picked up Chapter House and looked it up and down like a piece of meat.

“I’ve read that one too. I like Dune and Children of Dune the best out of all of them, but Chapter House is pretty good,” I was trying to make conversation, anything.

“Really? what about this?” she asked, handing me Holes. I had never read the book, but it wouldn’t hurt to open it.

“No, I haven’t read it yet. Classic literature was never really my forte.” I went to flip through the page. Ms Krimshaw stopped me. I looked up at her, a little perplexed.

“Might just read that on your lunch break, alright? We need to get to work. Beatrix is already here. She was getting coffee in the lounge but will take over the circulation desk for us for now.” She bustled over to a computer that I hadn’t noticed in the corner right next to the door. She turned it on, and it flicked over to a black screen with green letters. It was all I could do to keep from groaning. The thing was ancient. It had to be from the early 2000s at least, if not maybe 1998, but that would be pushing it.

She typed in a few command lines, and a table popped up. She dug out a stack of indexing cards and the small cataloguing typewriter that was hidden in the computer cabinet. With a flip, the end of the cabinet raised up to make a tiny table that she was able to set the typewriter on. I was not good with typewriters. Somehow my lines always went screwy. “Well, here you are, Miss Oppenheimer. Your lunch break is at 12 sharp. You can find everything you need for putting on the jacket covers, the stickers, and our alarm tags for inside the spine in the little closet over there.” she pointed to the complete opposite end of the room. There was a storage locker tucked behind a pile of books that looked half-completed. This was going to be a freakishly long day.

I cringed. Oppenheimer finally processed. I could have sworn I had officially changed my records to Thaddeus Jaeger. Why the hell did this lady know my deadname? For a second, I thought of walking out.

“Good luck.” Ms Krimshaw waved to me as she headed ducked through the door. The latch click. I panicked for all of two seconds as I dashed to the door. The handle gave way, and the door swung open with ease. My face was washed with warm, humid air. I guess the door wasn’t locked; the jam was just loud. It probably wasn’t a good indication that I was already terrified about this job if I was afraid that my boss had locked me in the room.

I stared at the warehouse full of books around me. It boggled the mind to try and imagine just how many books were probably in all the boxes. I kicked my hard-soled wingtips off and put them neatly under the computer desk so that I wouldn’t lose track of them and dig myself in. I decided to finish the job at the end of the room where the stacks of partially bound books were accumulating dust.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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