Back in the dark ages of my youth, and I don’t mean to say that it was a dark time— quite the contrary, it was rather brightly illuminated; I was making a hyperbolic statement to illustrate the vast gulf of time between my salad days and current doddering condition of senescent decrepitude (another exaggeration) and probably should have capitalized Dark Ages to make clearer that fact, but I believe we’re all on the same page now. Some writers, I know, will work this out in their heads first and winnow out the verbal chaff through the process of drafts, but this way you get to see my process-- how the sausage is made, so to speak. As if a painter overlaid his sketches with his succeeding refinements rather than separating each step before committing paint to canvas. Lucky you, Constant Reader.
Anyway, back in my early twenties, my girlfriend Erica announced one day that she was leaving film school and applying to the graduate program in library science at UT. Galvanized, I dropped to one knee and immediately proposed marriage. Erica was over six feet tall, with long black hair and the bone structure of a supermodel, which she probably would have been had her parents not been rich, and the idea of her in librarian drag (and coming dramatically out of it), sent my already racing libido into maximum overdrive. Like all book nerds, I’d been secretly plighting my troth to teachers and librarians since first discovering that it was generally young ladies in charge of the books and information, imagining myself the lucky beneficiary of the moment when the hair is unpinned and the schoolmarm dress pools on the floor. For my money, the glasses can stay on. Having one of these for my very own would have been the end of my catting about and I’ll never forgive her for abandoning library studies in favor of law school. The world lost a Sexy Librarian Ideal when she went to the dark side and I hope she realizes what she’s deprived all the poor smitten dorks of, fantasy-wise.
The Ukiah Library has a few employees that fit the S.L. bill, that is, clearly beautiful young women camouflaged in the deceptive accoutrements of their trade, and one in particular whose big clunky glasses and penchant for floral prints fit her squarely into the mold. Once I even saw her in one of those short bolero sweaters fastened with a fine gold chain, shawl-style, which nearly had me swooning onto the library floor. I should probably point out here that I am not stalking anyone. I will confess to harboring a profound appreciation of the model, and its place in our collective consciousness is permanent and undeniable and therefore open to scrutiny and analysis, but my interest is not pathological.
Every library I’ve ever frequented in my life has had at least one, which leads me to the obvious conclusion that these young ladies know exactly what they are doing and their place in the pantheon of feminine archetypes. I don’t fault them for this and it’s only masculine cluelessness that makes men think only they can see beyond the veneer of straight-laced rectitude to the wildcat within, but knowing they know, and surely glory in, their role kinda makes me feel like a sucker being manipulated by womankind targeting my base impulses to further their agenda of rightful control, which of course I, like like every other heterosexual male, surely am— at their mercy, that is.
But librarians are, of course, people, and objectifying them as fantasy-fulfillment symbols indicates a superficiality I don’t like to think myself restricted to. Beyond the reasonable assumption that the average librarian is probably intelligent and literary-minded, they are surely as different from one another as any set of people bound by inclusion in any profession and reducing them to prurient symbols is sexist, shortsighted, and contrary to modern respectful correctness.
I don’t care, though. If I don’t get to date a librarian before I die and watch as her unlimbered tresses cascade in slow motion before me, I’ll consider it an altogether wasted life and spend eternity wondering why I didn’t try harder to make it happen instead of cravenly peering over the top of my book as they went about the strangely thrilling business of shelving, checking materials in and out, and (at one time) stamping.
Stamps, of course, have gone the way of the card catalogue, which has joined the “quiet library” model on the list of extinctions, along with the microfiche reader, magazine archives, and hot-water taps, and the library now performs multiple functions as day-care for the mentally ill and homeless retreat. This necessitates the presence of a security guard, which position is currently held by an old friend of mine who I met years ago doing the same job at a dope house. Good for him, of course, but I miss the days when the only library enforcement necessary was a raised finger laid atop pursed lips in the universal “ssh” symbol.
The Wildly Variegated Eccentric Oldster, another staple of the library environment, is alive and thriving, unchanged over the years and doggedly clinging to the bygone library model as a place to quietly read and check out actual books. Clad in violently clashing thrift-store clothing and bucket hats or berets (both genders, and folks of their generation are comfortable with the binary distinction), they can be seen on the bus with their canvas shopping bags full of garbage fiction, discussing the latest Grisham or Patterson before alighting at the library to re-up with more “crackling good reads.” Though their presence is comforting, I find it unwise to engage them in conversation as disentanglement can be tricky. One hates to be impolite but nattering in mundanities sets one’s teeth on edge.
The public library has now, like every other institution and commercial enterprise, an app to streamline and simplify their process and it surely does, allowing patrons to monitor return dates, scan available materials, and place holds from their phones. It is an invaluable tool and we’re all richer for its presence, but there is also a companion app called Hoopla which essentially obviates the brick-and-mortar library entire, offering e-books and videos to “check out,” downloaded temporarily on one’s phone and ten days later automatically whisked away. No muss, no fuss, no bus. A library in your pocket with a drop-down menu in place of a helpful and perhaps tantalizingly prim librarian to assist your search. Progress? I guess, but not only do I not like turning “pages” every ten seconds, I still like the library, despite all its concomitant uses resultant of idiot economic and social policies. I like actual books and I clearly like librarians. I foresee an inevitable future of information implantations replacing actual reading and education, but at least for now I’ve a place to aimlessly peruse the stacks and indulge in the occasional harmless fantasy.