Little Beckie Thompson could not sit still during Mrs. Betty's story time. The circulation librarian was not well versed in entertaining children, especially with her uninspired rendition of "Green Eggs and Ham". Beckie looked around her, noticing all the other patrons milling around attempting not to notice Betty somehow damaging each rhyme as she created run-on sentence after run-on sentence.
Beckie noticed several adults going to the back of the library, to the door to the basement where the computers were kept. As Betty stumbled on with foxes in boxes, Beckie stood up and wondered towards the door and down the steps.
The florescent lighting cast harsh shadows around the figures hunched over their computer screens. Naomi the Reference librarian stood over the printer, staring at the pages pouring out. Beckie wove her way into the cubical garden, staring at the flashing screens. She stopped in front of one man, one screen where the shapes on the screen hold her attention.
Norma Thompson, Beckie's mother, stood up from the terminal. Checking her watch, she gathered her purse and books and began walking to pick up Beckie. As she walked down the aisle, she was shocked to see her daughter standing in the computer lab.
"Beckie?" Norma said.
Beckie did not move. She seemed transfixed at the screen of the man in front of her.
"Beckie?" Norma said again. She began walking toward her daughter, cursing the older men who hung around the library watching "My Little Pony." What do they call them? she thought, thinking back to the news report she saw a few weeks ago. Goonies? Moonies? Bronies, that was it.
Norma took her daughter's hand. Beckie looked up at her mother and pointed to the screen. Norma looked and screamed as loud as she could.
I was sitting in my office when I heard the scream. I did not get up from my chair. Despite what you hear about libraries being tombs of silent study, a good bit of noise does go on. Plus, Betty was outside doing story time and Naomi was downstairs. While Dave from Tech Serve is often out of pocket, I bet in a pinch even he would lend a hand.
No, I do not often have to worry about the screams. Not until the authorities become involved, anyway. I just have to worry about getting my girlfriend some flowers on the Internet. Normally I would go down to Forgiveness Flowers on Second Street and get some tulips and a simple vase, but I am avoiding the owner, Ed, after I chose not to use his overpriced poinsettias around the library for Christmas this year. How much does something have to cost that people only appreciate once a year?
So, here I am, trying to pick between “Lover’s Bouquet” with the red vase and the “Tulips for Kissing” with the optional stuffed bear when Norma bursts into my office.
No one ever knocks on my office door. I am not even sure why it is there. It is as if the door was constructed only for folks to make dramatic entrances.
“Mr. Banned! Do you know what my daughter just saw?” she says.
I put on my most non-threatening, dealing-with-a-mad mother smile and say, “Norma, so good to see you. How is little Bethany?”
“Beckie. Her name is Beckie. And she is traumatized.”
Behind Norma I see little Beckie. She peaks her head around her mother’s hips and gives me a toothy grin.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“My daughter was looking for me in that basement you call a computer center when she saw a man...”
“Yes?” I say, my heart dropping just a little.
Norma reaches down and clasps her hands over Beckie’s ears, “Pornography. He was looking at pornography.”
“Oh, I am so sorry. We do not allow that kind of material to be displayed in the library,” I stand up, attempting to look in charge of something, “In fact, it is against Mississippi law for those types of materials to be displayed in public. I’ll look in to this at once.”
That must have sounded at least a little convincing because her scowl has become a slight smile. A vengeful one, but a smile none the less.
“What are you gonna do to him?” she asks, her smile growing a little more.
“I’m sorry, but this is more of a library matter now. But don’t worry, something will be done,” I say as I walk around my desk, “Would you like to wait for a bit in my office?”
I see little Beckie eyeing my candy jar so I reach in and give her a root beer sucker while her mother looks around my office. Distracted by the assortment of old movie posters and various science fiction memorabilia, Norma does not notice the hand-off or Beckie slide the sucker into her pocket.
“No, we need to go,” Norma says, “Thank you for hearing me out.”
“You are very welcome,” I say. Her shoulders relax and she guides little Beckie out of the office and to the front door.
I watch them from my window as they leave. People do not realize this, but the librarians see everything, the whole of the community. We know your secrets, even if you do not say anything, even through closed doors in an office. We do not spy, that would be unprofessional, but librarians by nature are inquisitive knowledge seekers.
Take Beckie and Norma, for instance. Beckie likes Dr. Seuss, but also sometimes looks at the big picture books, looking for Waldo and gravitates to books where father’s are a big topic.