The library is haunted. Why is that such a shock? We all know it, we even talk about it in whispers. It’s never been a secret. But what’s really interesting is that 60 plus years ago the library was located about three blocks away from where it is now and it was haunted then too. When the library was moved to this new location the ghosts came along with it. The spirits followed the books and silently watched as different librarians took control.
The library watched as patrons entered the new building and the rules and regulations became lax. Sixty years ago you weren’t allowed to speak above a whisper and even then the stern librarian would glare at you. Now talking is allowed, beverages are allowed, ringing phones are allowed, screaming kids are allowed. No more are patrons shushed for uttering the lowest of sounds, anything goes at the library in this new age of technology. An age that the library spirits never imagined.
The library doesn’t like this change. It doesn’t like that the silent respect for it is gone. It isn’t happy so it allows its ghosts and spirits to haunt the new building especially after closing time. And sometimes a very sensitive person, like myself, can hear the library whisper to itself about the changes telling the wandering angry library spirits to be prepared for when the library closes for the day. Because when the last librarian leaves for the day it’s time for the ghosts to take control.
The library was closed for over a year. “Restorations,” the city said. “It will be better when it reopens,” the city said and when it reopened, over a year later, there was no difference. The chairs were the same and the tables were the same, but the setup was a little different, and there were less books. The library was not happy.
Everyone was welcome to the library grand opening. The crowd sat and lightly applauded as councilmen gave speeches and apologized for the six-month delay of the opening. “New heating system, new cooling system, more computers,” they bragged. All of that might be true but the real reason the library was closed was because the city knew about the ghosts living there and these spirits had to be exorcised. The ghosts knew too much and they were getting much louder than they were in the previous century. Pretty soon non-spirits would be able to hear the complaints.
The library is still haunted. I’ve been there at least ten times since it’s reopening and the ghosts are still haunting the shelves. I saw my friend Janet there today. But not the 65 year old Janet, who might or not still be alive. She was very sick the last time we spoke seven years ago. Instead of the older Janet I saw the five year old Janet, the one who was wearing her school dress with patent leather shoes and her little white socks. The Janet who ran around the card catalogs at the old library, the one who was interested in the Dewey Decimal System by the time she was ten years old.
Five year old Janet spotted me, smiled and ran over and took my hand. “Where have you been, Sharon? We’ve been waiting for you to come.” “Who’s been waiting for me?” I asked. “All of us.” Janet said indicating a corner of the room which on first glance appeared empty but then I saw them. I saw some other patrons from 1960, people who I haven’t seen in decades.
I also saw Madeline who lived in all the Madeline books I read as a kid; and there was the Phantom Tollbooth with Milo and Tock standing guard; I saw the three children from “Half Magic” and remembered how one of them, while sleeping, wished that his dead father would come back. I remember how I felt when I read that part as a child thinking that I would wish that too if my dad died. I have wished that many times as an adult. I saw the little child knight I read about in a book who had the mumps and his cheeks became so swollen that he couldn’t get his head gear off.
I saw Stephen King’s clown laughing in the back showing his sharpened teeth holding his dangerous colorful balloons. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight were there talking with some other knightly characters. And trying to take control of the situation was a librarian from 60 years ago who was hushing everyone.
My mother was there too looking up from her book to smile at me. I’m pretty sure my sister and father were there too along with some of my cousins and long gone friends.
“See, Sharon, we’re all here. Your friends, family, and characters you’ve loved to read about. Stay with us Sharon, we’ve been waiting for you.” It was tempting, I wanted to stay but I turned to Janet and told her that I had to get home. It was 5:55 PM and the guard was making the announcement that the library would be closing in five minutes and to proceed to the checkout machine to borrow books. Janet looked up at me and said, “Check out machine. The librarians used to check out our books. You remember when they did that and now you have to do it yourself.” Yes, I remembered.
“Please proceed to the machine to borrow your items, shut off your computers, and please log off all devices you have connected to our WiFi” the guard stated.
“WiFi, computers, devices, do you really like this better? Wouldn’t you rather stay with us here in 1960?” Janet asked. “No. No, not really. I do prefer 1960 but my cousin is coming by tomorrow and I promised him I’d be home. I can’t stay today but I’ll come back for a visit on Saturday. But one day I will stay here with you in 1960. We will play again, Janet, and maybe all our other childhood friends will be around too. Then we all can talk with the book characters and be happy all together again. But I can’t stay now, maybe in ten years, maybe in 15 years maybe within a year, I don’t know but when the time comes I will stay here and haunt the library with all of you.”
Janet dropped my hand and gave me a small wave as did the little knight and the clown, “It.” “I’ll be back to visit day after tomorrow” I sadly said because, the truth is, I would like to stay with them and see my old childhood friends, and maybe seek out Robert Frost and Herman Melville and other authors. They have secrets to tell me, dangerous secrets that the city tried to silence by the having the new “renovations.”
It would be nice to stay but that won’t be for a little while. Until then I will visit my old friends, books and people, at least three times a week.
Yes, the library is haunted and everyone knows it. The renovations didn’t get rid of the spirits living there. They will always be there, forever, and one day so will I.
To see more of my childhood memories go to S.A.K. Remembers on my blog.