Estelle’s Book Club

Submitted into Contest #211 in response to: Begin your story with a librarian searching for something.... view prompt

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Fiction Friendship


Estelle Anderson tore through every drawer in her desk, desperately searching for her notes. In 15 minutes, she was due to lead a book club discussion for parents of young children. They had all read a book that explained how children were designed to learn through play. This was the first meeting of the book club, and as the newest librarian at the Mercyville Public Library, she’d had to fight hard to convince her coworkers that the book club was needed. She couldn’t let it fall apart before it even had a chance to really begin.



Estelle rummaged through each drawer a second time, still coming up empty. She grabbed a clump of hair from each side of her head and pulled until it hurt. Where could it be? She was sure she’d left the outline on top of her desk when she’d gone home the previous night. There was no doubt in her mind. She hadn’t taken it with her because she’d been afraid of accidentally forgetting it at home.


Estelle crawled under her desk, searching between every crack and crevice where paper could have fallen. She glanced at the clock and saw that she was down to seven minutes. As she crept back out and carefully stood up, something in the trash can caught her eye. There, splattered with coffee, covered in crumbs, and stuck with a random wad of gum, were all her notes.


Estelle fought the urge to cry as she blotted the papers with tissues from her desk. Who would have thrown her notes in the trash? The cleaners knew better than to touch anything on the librarian’s desks. And, why was there a coffee cup in her garbage can? She didn’t even like coffee, and definitely never drank it. Estelle didn’t have time to figure it out right now. She had about two minutes to get to the conference room and start greeting the members of her book club.


Estelle straightened her skirt, smoothed out her hair, grabbed her soggy notes, and rushed down to the conference room. She was glad she’d thought to set up the room as soon as she’d arrived at work that morning, so that was one less thing to worry about. Estelle reached for the door handle and turned it as she pulled, only to find the door was locked. How odd. She was certain that she’d left the room opened, because it was only supposed to take a minute for her to retrieve her notes. She peeked in the little window and saw that the cardboard boxes, tubes, and other loose parts that she’d so thoughtfully collected (so the parents could have a chance to experience self directed play) were no where to be seen. Estelle was beginning to feel like she was either losing her mind, or someone was trying to sabotage her. She ran to the circulation desk to grab the conference room keys.


“Hey, Janet. Can I have the keys to the conference room? The door was somehow locked again,” Estelle explained.


“No problem,” Janet replied, handing over the key ring.


Estelle ran to the conference room and unlocked it. She would decide what to do about her lack of loose parts when the time came. Speaking of time, why wasn’t anybody here yet? She’d had 15 parents RSVP to this event, and it was now six minutes past when it was supposed to start.


Estelle set her papers down on the table in the conference room, but thinking better of it, took them with her. She walked to the library’s main entrance, to make sure her book club members weren’t confused, and waiting in the wrong spot.


The entrance was empty, but Estelle noticed a sign on the door. She stepped through to the other side to see what it said.


Book Club Meeting Canceled!

Sorry for any inconvenience.


Estelle raced back to the circulation desk.


“Janet, who put the sign on the front door? Who canceled my book club meeting?” she demanded to know.


“Gosh, I don’t know,” Janet sputtered.


It was then that Estelle noticed a disposable coffee cup on Janet’s desk. It was identical to the one that Estelle had found dumped out in her trash can.


“Hey, Janet, do you have a piece of gum I could chew?” Estelle asked, her suspicion growing.


“Of course,” Janet said, leaning down to grab a piece from her desk drawer. 


As Janet pulled out a pack of gum, which happened to be the same color and flavor as the piece in Estelle’s trash can, her foot shifted, and a mountain of cardboard tubes cascaded out from under her desk.


“Umm, Janet? You sure you don’t know who canceled my book club?” Estelle asked again.


“We should talk,” Janet said.


She placed a sign on the desk telling patrons that she’d be back in 15 min, then lead Estelle to the break room.


“I did it. I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I was really good friends with the librarian who was here before you, and it’s been hard to watch you make changes to the way she did things. I think part of me is jealous that you were hired for the position, instead of me, as well,” Janet mumbled, refusing to meet Estelle’s eyes.


“Janet, I don’t even know what to say to you. This book club is a really important step in improving the lives of the children in our community. And my job is something I put my heart and soul into. I was chosen for the position because I was the best candidate,” Estelle began.


“I’m really sorry,” Janet murmured, still refusing to meet Estelle’s eyes.


“You might not know this, but I was a kindergarten teacher for 20 years before I was hired here. I walked away from a career that felt like my life’s purpose the day they removed the play kitchen and dress up corner from my classroom. The higher-ups demanded that 5 year olds have more rigorous academics in their days. I refuse to do anything other than what is in the best interest of children. Here, away from school administrators and policies, I can do what’s right. I can make a difference. Mary was a wonderful librarian, and her legacy will be long lasting. But times are changing, and the library needs to change to fit the needs of children. It’s never a good idea to continue doing something a certain way just because that’s the way it’s always been done. We have research now that tells us that children learn best through play and movement. You’re going to start seeing a lot more play and movement at the library, and you’ll probably be hearing more noise, too. Children are people and they deserve to fully exist in public,” Estelle continued.


“I know you’re right,” Janet said, finally glancing in Estelle’s direction.


“I would love to have a partner in all of this at the library. It would be nice to have someone on my side, instead of always feeling like I have to convince others that what I’m doing is good. You can be that person, or we can constantly butt heads. I don’t intend to let anything stop me, either way,” Estelle finished. 


“I would like to be that person,” Janet declared.


Estelle and Janet put their differences aside and went on to create the most impactful children’s department any library has ever known.


August 18, 2023 12:56

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6 comments

S. A. McNaughton
19:20 Aug 22, 2023

I'm so frustrated by Janet's behavior! She sabotaged Estelle in so many ways! It wasn't clear to me why Janet confessed when she did. I think it would a little stronger if Janet denied her involvement for longer or if the stakes were higher, like she didn't admit it until Estelle threatened to go to the higher-ups at the library. Or maybe there would be a way of showing that Janet felt guilty and that was why she admitted it. Thanks for sharing this story!

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J. D. Lair
03:38 Aug 22, 2023

Were you a teacher at some point, frustrated with the direction education has gone? It feels like you’re speaking from experience and what you had to say here is very true! Makes me even more glad I work at a school that gives as much importance to hands-on learning and being in nature, as it does to academia. :)

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Chelsey B
13:00 Aug 22, 2023

Not a teacher, but a nanny who has seen how school is harming children. I also have a friend who runs a nature immersion preschool and it’s the most magical thing I’ve ever experienced. Children treated with respect, trusted, allowed to move as much as their bodies need, allowed to take risks, encouraged to follow their own interests. There is no doubt in my mind which way of schooling benefits children more.

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J. D. Lair
14:11 Aug 22, 2023

Makes sense. :) my kids are not even two yet, but I’m glad they’ll have a place to go that let’s them just be kids

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Bruce Friedman
17:42 Aug 18, 2023

Chelsea, I like the way that you write in a straightforward manner. Your story discusses a common human problem, getting along with your peers and people reporting to you. A couple of friendly suggestions. The cadence of your story would be improved by breaking up a few of your longer paragraphs. Also, the numbers 1-10 are usually written out rather than using the numerical form.

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Chelsey B
17:54 Aug 18, 2023

Thanks for the feedback.

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