Near 500 words: TW in the library

When you visit a library, you have the secrets of the universe at your disposal. When you’re a librarian, you are a guardian of those secrets, making sure they are available to everyone. Perhaps that is why TW (aka The Writer) believed there were no librarians in Stalinist Russia. The Great Executioner had murdered them all.

If ever there was a perfect job for a perfect character, reference librarian was the one for TW. Each weekday, at exactly noon o’clock, TW took his place at one of the reference desks in the Great Hall of the Alphonso Wigglesworth Everspacher Academic Library. The Library was better known as AWE Central to the students and faculty of The University.

TW had worked this routine of noon to nine in the p.m. Monday through Friday since the way way back when in the 1980s he’d joined the library staff. He could remember the very first assignment given him that September day. Mrs. Bosworth, director and overlord of the kingdom known as AWE Central, asked him to come to her office after he found his bearings.

“You will convertig our beloved card catalog to a computer database.” Then she assigned him to Mr. Newcombe. Mr. Newcombe was so old that it was suggested he knew Abraham Lincoln personally. That and his whoppers about the beloved President.

TW knocked on Mr. Newcombe’s office. “The director sent me to you. I am here to help convert the card catalog to a computer database.”

“Would you please return to Mrs. Bosworth and ask her this. Do we categorize the cards as title, author or subject?”

Mrs. Bosworth’s answer, “I would think that it would be all three.”

Mr. Newcombe threw another monkey wrench in the assignment. “Won’t work. We already confuse our students and faculty with having three choices. They’ll never figure this one out.”

Mrs. Bosworth was a very patient woman. It was how she had risen far in the campus bureaucracy. “Pick one of the three to come up when a patron does a keyword search.”

Now Mr. Newcombe was having none of that. “What’s a keyword?” he asked his young ward.

Though she had patience galore, there were limits. “My dear young man, you do know what a keyword is, don’t you?”

TW had been enjoying the whole process. It was almost as much fun as it had been watching Luke Skywalker defeat Darth Vader. “Yes, ma’am,” he answered enthusiastically.

“Then you can relay that information to my good friend, Mr. Charles Everett Newcombe.”

Back in the ancient alchemist’s office, TW said, “I am supposed to explain what a keyword is.”

After TW completed his explanation, Mr. Newcombe looked up at him and smiled. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course, I am absolutely sure.”

“Well, I will need references. Perhaps you should write the definition up for me. Yes, I think that would be best. And make it a five-hundred word essay.”

Mr. Newcombe went to leave the library for the day. On his way out of his office, he reminded TW, “I’ll need that first thing in the morning.”

After several weeks of this back and forth, Mrs. Bosworth had had it with Mr. Newcombe.

She stood up from her desk and walked down the long long hall to the other end of the building. She walked into Mr. Newcombe’s office and dropped a memo on his desk. “Mr. Newcombe, it’s time to get started with the card catalog conversion. I’ve put it in writing. Now do it.”

Mr. Newcombe had not been at the university as long as he had without knowing a thing or two about surviving the bureaucracy. He knew where the power lay. He had tenure, and he was not about to be treated like some servile employee.

He reached down and picked up the memo and passed it back to the director. “I’ll need that in triplicate.”

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