5 Spooky Situations That Give Librarians Goosebumps!
Halloween is right around the corner so it’s time to let you into the crypt of library secrets! Not many things have librarians and library workers quaking in the stacks, but a few things do. Behold! Five dreadful doozies you’ll not soon be able to forget:
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1- Picture Book Explosions!
Imagine you are a Library Page. Your job is to re-shelve books. Usually, you meticulously arrange them on a cart and move out into the library to do your work. Sometimes people leave a few books on a table or within the stacks, which is fine — you’ll re-shelve those, too. Your work is pleasantly meditative until you turn the corner into the kids section and find…HUNDREDS OF PICTURE BOOKS ALL OVER THE PLACE!!! Apparently, prior to your arrival, that area had been the playpen of several little demons and their negligent Satan-worshiping parents!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand how difficult it is for parents of evil toddlers to prevent them from ruining everything, but responsible parents tend to step in after a dozen-or-so books hit the floor. A picture book explosion is when the tawdry little rascals spend their whole library time pulling books off the shelves and tossing them around like hot skulls at a “Welcome to Hell” bash.
The worst thing about it is that because they are so slim and there are so many of them, picture books are the most time-consuming to re-shelve. And that’s why a picture book explosion is what nightmares are made of.
2- Deep Sleepers
Some libraries prohibit sleeping, some don’t. Those that do will occasionally get patrons who fall into such a deep slumber that waking them is a challenge akin to waking the dead. And the snoring! All the way across a building you hear him, like a thousand cows farting in unison! Other patrons come to you with pleading looks in their eyes, please, they silently say, the rafters are shaking, we’re all going to die here. Wake him up! Do it for us…Do it for humanity!
You take a moment to collect yourself before making your way towards Mr. Foghorn. As you approach, his every burst is marked by the shuddering of the ground beneath your feet. Five feet away, you start to lean forward to avoid being knocked down by the wind of his exhalations. Interestingly, your mind is calm. It occurs to you that, to be exact, he sounds like what a Tyrannosaurus-Rex growl would sound like if the dinosaur were cross-bred with a cruise ship.
Finally, you make it to his chair and tap lightly. His eyes pop open.
“Oh, did I doze off?” He asks.
“Well, thanks for waking me up…” he pauses, “…For all you know, I could have been dead!”
3- Thank You for Your Donations
People are kind. When they have books they no longer need, they often drop them off at the library. Unfortunately, some also drop off items that are less useful for the library like ratty old paintings, used tennis shoes, and (h/t to
But back to books. The boxes of books you get have often been living in attics or basements, sometimes for years. You are apt to discover in them mold, spiders, and perhaps larger critters. That’s all okay (read: it’s disgusting, but you’ll deal with it). What’s truly scary is when donors strongly insist that you add every single one of their donations to the library collection. Aren’t books sacred, after all? Um, well…
I’ll just lay it on you straight: Whatever talismanic power that 1961 tax preparation guide, fad diet book from 1992, or dog-eared and highlighted copy of The Sound and the Fury had when it was acquired is probably gone now. As is the practical use of instruction manuals for long-dead appliances, how-to books for historical programming languages, or tomes on personal finance that see women home-makers as the default. If you have donations for the library, please don’t be scary: Let the trained professionals decide what to add the collection. And please check your boxes for critters. Dead mice are only (slightly) charming when donated by cats.
4- Decluttering Old Library Buildings
Librarians abhor throwing things away — especially children’s librarians. That is why, in 2011, when staff was cleaning out the old West Hollywood Library in preparation for moving into the lovely new building, we were horrified (more like amused) to discover all sorts of “vintage” goods. Thirty-year-old Summer Reading Program posters, crumbling craft supplies tucked deep into cabinets and forgotten, and old office supplies never to be used, were standard. That was a sixty-year-old building, now imagine cleaning out the basement storage space of a 100-year old library! Now that’s frightening!
It’s probably pretty dark there in the first place, and the stairs creak when you make your way down. The smell is a mix of mold and mouse droppings. What you’ll find is probably pretty boring. You’ll wonder why many of those things weren’t disposed of years ago. As you get deeper into the de-cluttering, you’ll notice old personnel files, like a fossil record of ancient staff drama. Maybe you’ll see a pile of boxes and papers in an odd heap in the corner. You’ll remove them carefully with your legs (not your back) because you just had that training on safety in the workplace. Too bad they didn’t cover getting over the shock of discovering the desiccated skeleton of Old Man Grundy, who’s been missing for the last 43 years!
5- Ghosts (and more!)
Okay, okay, let’s calm it down. Let’s end on a quiet note. You’re the last one in the building, finishing up some work and closing up. The lights are off as you do one final round of the building.
Empty libraries are one of the creepiest places to be alone. Building makes a lot of odd noises if you stop and listen, and when you’re by yourself in the evening, you have no choice. Even the click-clack of your footsteps are enough to send the occasional tickler up your spine.
It’s as you’re turning a corner into the section on “Customs, etiquette & folklore” that you notice a light growing brighter. You shield your eyes and try to make out what is in front of you. You barely see the outline of a large head and small body. It has big eyes and sizeable sloping forehead. On the whole, the alien is about 3'8" on a tall day. Your eyes grow wide and you’re mouth opens…
“Say, Bözör, would you mind turning down that head-lamp, it’s blinding me!”
“No issue, Ms. Phillips. I will comply immediately,” responds the extraterrestrial, turning down the beam. You notice that it’s in the 394s, the holiday section. You can even make out what Bözör is reading. It’s a book about Halloween!
“You didn’t tell me you were coming tonight, Bözör. I was just getting ready to set the alarm for the building.”
“Many apologies, Ms. Phillips. I simply had to find out which was more advantageous: ‘trick’ or ‘treat’. I have never spent Halloween on Earth before.”
“I think you will find that among the children of the United States of America, a ‘treat’ is the preferred choice,” you turn to go, “Have a nice time trick-or-treating, Bözör! Pass my regards to your families.”
“Thank you, Ms. Phillips!”
“Oh yes, and don’t forget to alarm the building when you’re done.”
“I will not,” it said, through its translation device. “Thank you for letting me learn about Earth here, Ms. Phillips! We had considered destroying your planet, but you librarians changed us.”
“Changed your minds, Bözör.”
“And us, Ms. Phillips.”