Honestly, I do not remember the last time I visited the library since I moved from my old apartment in Florida State to live in Arkansas as a kid. I guess it was at age 8 or 10 not too sure. Well doesn't matter, my father had decided at the time, that we give up on our old cramped apartment for a new spacious one that would be fit to accommodate our six members family to live in comfort.
However, i do remember and possibly will never forget even at age 110 (by then, already struck by the aging curse of dimentia), how the interiors of a library is organised and decorated, together with how its most strictest and number one rule (don't speak while in the library) must be obeyed. Obviously the noticeboard is ever stuck on the inner walls of the library to make it visible for likely offenders. Also, how being a librarian is mostly a woman's job. How librarians are always noticed to dress smartly, and last but not the least, putting up his/ her best of friendly attitude towards customers. And finally, displaying profound intelligence at explaining, recommending and skillfully searching through shelves for a readers choice. All of this I have observed and known since my childhood, that makes a library a library (a place meant to be conducive for reading and where knowledge is sought), and I could say that anybody who grew up visiting a library regularly, would share this view with me and totally agree with it.
When I was a child, my Dad used to walk me to the city's biggest library every three days in a week. Monday, Thursday and Saturday's.
He would first of all greet the smartly dressed librarian at the counter, "Mrs. Evelyn kent", (an African American ) before leading me to the shelves to pick a book of interest. Mrs. Evelyn kent was far off older than Dad, telling from her age (50 years) -(as she once revealed) and her bit coloured greyed hair. This, i always found difficult to believe, since her outfit always seemed to give her the look of a teenage girl.
She was kind, and warmly spoke when attending to customers,
"Good day Sir. I'm Evelyn Kent. How may I be of service to you?"- she would say formally.
She was also an intelligent tutor and seemed to know all about the stories in every book in the library when explaining and recommending books to customer. I sometimes called her the "library Witch" for possessing such intelligence. Once, I approached her at the counter because i needed a particular book.
"Maam..Mrs. Evelyn"- I said.
" Yes my little lamb. What can I help you with?". - she said smiling and squeezing my big cheeks a little.
"Can I get the book of King Arthur slaying the dragon"- I said.
" Of course, my boy, lemme go check for you"- she said. Leaving the counter and going towards a shelf that was on her right side. A sign that reads "books for kids" was placed in front of the shelf. And within seconds, she was back with the exact book I had requested for, handing it over to me. Saying.
" You can have it as a gift, my boy".- she smiled again.
Since we moved from Florida state to Arkansas. I could hardly forget the library and Mrs. Evelyn Kent. I stayed in Arkansas for over eight years. This new year would make it the nineth year of my stay in our new apartment. Never have i been so disgusted, infuriated and sadly concluded never to visit any library in this city until I go out of it completely after my worse experience on the first day and surely the last day of visit to one of its libraries.
Tony, a friend, had earlier suggested that we both visit the "Johnson's library" to mark the national library week anniversary together. We agreed to, and then marched down to the place. Surprisingly, there was no security guard at the door post, we entered unsearched and went straight to the counter of the librarian ( it was vacant). Its interiors we're not attractive to the eyes. I noticed that the book shelves were all dusty and the books were untidily placed. It was kind of jam-packed, that a few books had to fall, laying helpless on the ground. We still stood, waiting for the librarian to come out and help us in searching for two particular books. When the averaged skinny looking man decided to finally come out of his unknown hole, after hours of keeping us standing, hitting hard repeatedly on the small bell on the counter that was meant to call his attention when he is away. He majestically walked up to us like he had not cared if we stood, like forever, waiting for him to arrive
" Yes, what can I do for you"- he said poorly, and without showing some feelings of remorse for keeping us waiting for three damned hours. I wasn't sure of what was going on in his mind at the moment, but his look was definitely like a person who sadness, depression and laziness made good friends with.
" Could it be that he hates this job?"- I wondered, still looking at his "pitiful" face.
He looked down to attend to something we couldn't see over the counter as Tony spoke to him.
" We would like you to help us search for two novels, titled "A passage to India and the invincible man" - he said.
He slowly raised his head and looked at us again. Just then, did i observe his poor outfit. His white shirt was very rumpled and already worn out, and seems to have missed a few button, making his inner singlet visible at any range of sight. His black pants was now greyed color like the shirt I was wearing. A portion of his shirt was hanging out loose from his pants. His shoe is nothing to write about. I can only say it reminds me of a shoe pair my dad cherished so much, given to him by his dad ( my grandfather) before he died. The edge of the shoe was a bit long and pointy. It peeled off so badly that the original black had to be replaced by a greyed color.
" Follow me"- he ordered.
We got to the first shelf, and incompetently he searched through, making another few books drop to the ground ,adding to the already laying ones. He seemed not to bother about the books on the ground, picking only the ones his little strength can let him carry and crossing over the remaining on the ground to the next shelf. We got to the next shelf, still he couldn't find the book. And the next, still the same. And the next, still the same. We followed him for another long hour from one shelf to another, still the same. Finally, we stopped at the seventh shelf ( I counted), and found the books. He handed them over to us, without saying a word, (at least any intelligent librarian is expected to talk a little about the book to customers and give it their rating ). Already it was shown all over his tiny body that he was too exhausted from the long search. So he went back to the counter and napped all through, from the time i started reading and when I ended too. I was so disgusted and at the same time infuriated, seeing him nap while on duty.
" This guy is nothing of a librarian. Did you notice his poor sentences when talking to us initially?. He is not even intelligent a bit, and totally lacks in all it takes to be a librarian. He should suitably be a trashman than being in here"- I said to Tony, who was now awaking the lazy dog.
When he finally awoke. We returned the novels back to him. All he could do was to collect the books and stare a little at us without saying a word, atleast, every caring librarian is expected to ask his readers if he/she enjoyed the book and maybe ask for their own ratings.
Tony and I headed for the exist door without looking back. As I stepped out of the door, I had vowed never set foot into this library again.
I went home, still thinking of the poor conduct of the librarian few hours ago. Just then. I realize that I didn't get to know his name since he had intially failed to welcome us formally and introduce himself like a professional librarian should.
" The johnsons.. Yes!, Mr. Johnson.. should be his name"- I said, remembering the name of the library.
I so much missed Virginia for having a standard library and a very qualified librarian in charge. On an occasion as important as this, I enjoy going with my dad to the library in Virginia, where we both marked the national book week happily. Sadly, I just couldn't get that feeling this year, even worse, I wouldn't go back to Virginia anytime soonest.