THE CAT JUMPS, impatient for breakfast. Because Richard is away, she misses attention and prompt feedings. She expresses her annoyance by marching along the headboard of the bed. The fog may come in on little cat's feet, but not this cat's -- and not on Monday morning. She stomps, I feed her and heat some coffee water.
Off to an elementary school this morning to meet 120 5th and 6th graders. The librarian has asked me to talk about the public library's catalog on microfilm. The kids are used to the old card catalog. I'm also going to take along some books to talk up. Didn't finish "Long John Silver's Revenge" in time, so I'm taking "Tulku" by Peter Dickinson.
By 8:30 I realize I don't know where the school is. A panic run downstairs to the northern Virginia map pinpoints the school. I drag my canvas bookbag to the Toyota. The car is cranky in this rainy weather. I've had to cancel this school visit twice before, so I baby the accelerator and clutch down Rte. 1.
The school librarian introduces me and I settle down to two hours of instruction, slapstick, book promotion and answering questions.
The kids have read everything from "Where the Sidewalk Ends" to "The Black Stallion" to "The Shining" to Judy Blume's books. Especially Judy Blume's books. After two hours, I'm hoarse and can barely croak thank-you-for-inviting-me.
My aide arrives at the library at 1, her hair done and looking ready to go to work. Since we haven't shared work schedules in two days, we need to talk about plans for the week. Messages on the desk urge calls here and there, and I try to get to them. A staff member fills me in on staff rumbling and grumbling about children's services. I seem never to tread as lightly as I would like. On the other hand, maybe since I'm new, most changes I initiate will ruffle someone or other.
Promptly at 3:15, the kids come in. The reference pad notes are mostly homework questions: the Lewis and Clark Expedition, feast days of the Virgin Mary, a Malcolm X record, where are the Judy Blume books?
I use my best snippy librarian voice on a table of girls who have been fooling around with increasing noise for the last half hour. All I need is a bun and a Ticonderoga pencil. Tuesday
I retrieve The Post and settled down for a few minutes of page turning. Article about children's TV. I should cut it out and route to the region's young people's librarians. Houseplants need water. It's been raining for three days, so no need to think about outside. At least I don't have to mow the lawn.
Read "Tamworth and the Litter." British. Funny and accurate observation of brother-sister relationship. I like the kids and their unquestioning acceptance of Tamworth the pig, who's at his porcine best when lecturing a grade school class about St. Francis.
Need to go to my old branch to use some art books, then to library adminstration offices to talk about a bibliography project and attend the bimonthly meeting. It's fun to see everyone I used to work with, but I have very unsettled feelings. I liked working there so much. The bibliography gets organized quickly. The other four members of the book selection committee wander in. Not too many books today and we're out early for once.
I try out my idea for a project using the comic drawings I found this morning. My aide has been checking in new books and has left them aside for me to look at.
A steady procession of homework questions tonight: I need a colored picture of the Pennsylvania state flower. How do you write footnotes? Do you have "Blubber"? (Entirely impersonal question. It's a book by Judy Blume.)
Our volunteer is here tonight and we talk. By 8:45 p.m., the staff having blinked the lights several times, most patrons are on their way out.
I pack up some notes and grab my purse before all the lights go out. The library pages have a disconcerting way of darkening the second floor when I'm trapped in a corner. Downstairs the aides are closing the library. Three patrons line up at the desk for a last minute checkout of books.
I'm in charge tonight, an honorific requiring little on ordinary night but the responsibilty for emptying and securing the building. Once in awhile it can mean reporting flashers, deciding whether or not to close when the lights have gone out after lightening struck the building and extricating kids from the stopped elevator, etc. Luckily, this is an ordinary night.
Home, a little TV, bed. Wednesday
Up at 8:36 a.m. and scrambling to get ready for a 9 o'clock meeting.
The young people's services coordinator is waiting in her car outside the library we had planned to visit. I realize instantly that we (mostly I) don't have the key. To McDonald's for a short wait. The library staff comes along shortly and lets us in.
This is a small storefront library scheduled to move to a new community several miles south of its present location. Shelf space will be severely limited and its book stock needs to be decided on. We weed books most of the day.
I go home tired. Thursday
Storytelling this morning, and I need some time to decide what to tell. I take my usual walk around the children's room , turn on the copy machine, gather up yesterday's statistics sheet (which records the reference and other question we've answered). The picture books I see are so worn they need to be discarded. Some of the fiction waiting to go back to the shelves needs mending or new covers.
There's Blume again, on the sorting shelves. By now the kids know enough to look there, too, for popular books. Some books just circulate from there and never make it back to the regular shelves. I fill in the holes in the display shelves with a mix of very popular and good-but-slow reading.
A catalog on microfilm is not working. Raggedy Ann is missing; either a child has taken the big stuffed doll for a walk or it has been stolen. An empty book cart needs to be returned downstairs. The ladies room toilet is flushing non-stop. The repair men are banging on the roof. It's 8:58 a.m. and we're about to open the library.
My hideout looks the same: part professional office, part toy chest. A magazine picture of Woody Allen looks down ruefully upon us all.
At 10:15, parents and kids ascend (the room is on the second floor). Suddenly everyone, everything is in motion. I finally give up saying hello to kids. I recognize, reassuring newcomers, repeating the names of films scheduled for 11 a.m. and giving instructions to a young volunteer.
"Is anyone ready for a story?" I hear myself ask (for a gin and tonic?) We head into the storyroom, and the pedlar and monkeys of "Caps for Sale" and the goat threesome surnamed Gruff are on stage again. The grownups come in to see two short films. After much chaotic leavetaking ("Say thank you to the librarian") the morning programs are over.
I run an errand in the afternoon. On my way back, a staff member and I talk about the young adult browsing spot she's been looking after. It looks good, showing all the attention she's given it over the past few months, but it's tucked into a corner. Too few readers see it. The Rapunzel puppet show which she's organizing also needs some time. We have to find a way to get five staff members together, borrow a good tape recorder and costume the puppets.
A group of retarded adults is at the library today. They're longtime patrons and familiar to most staff members, who stop to talk with them. We talk a little, and I hunt up a book request. Then downstairs to spend an hour on the adult reference desk. Luckily, it's rather quiet. Adults don't need Judy Blume, just Value Line, the car price "blue book" and The Wall Street Journal. Friday
Today I was supposed to start at 9:30 a.m., not 9 as usual. I forgot, of course. No wonder I get blank looks trying to explain my hours: Mostly it's 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- except for the 1 to 9 p.m. days or the 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. days. Toss in one out of three Saturdays and an occasional Sunday for further complications. The public library is open from 9 to 9 most days, so there's no other way to keep a professional staff scheduled without "crazy" hours.
Fridays can be a more leisurely day, a time to catch up on paperwork odds and ends. I try to write the monthly report and look over new books, setting some aside for the bookmobile. There's even time to straighten a section of shelf, some of the 900 books. The hours from 3 to 6 p.m. are interminable. Richard comes home tomorrow. Saturday
The house looks like a disaster following this week of living solo. Architectural Digest definitely would not be interested. I put on a Luciano Pavarotti album and get to work. Halfway into "Funiculi Funicula" I finish (or give up).
Lunch certainly isn't a balanced meal, but I polish off the last of the week's eclectic meals. Satisfied with cleaning and a meal, I sneak the cat a little tuna. The afternoon consists of grocery store and Edmund Crispin mystery. Richard comes by cab from Dulles, so I don't even worry about falling asleep on the couch. Later I hear the cab pull up and I go outside. We're delighted to see each other, modestly kiss and go inside for a rowdier welcome. Sunday
Laziest day. Rechard makes coffee and a big breakfast. The newspaper is all over the living room floor. We talk. We telephone our parents, a Sunday habit. Supper is grilled steak. The wine is a special bottle, and good. Nobody mentions Judy Blume. Tomorrow is another day at the library.