Library Noir

Vicki Doudera here, closing up our series of posts pertaining to National Library Week, and wondering what to say that hasn’t been said by my fellow Maine Crime Writers?

Should I regale you with sunny stories of libraries I have known, such as the Walpole Public Library (on the Common in Walpole, Massachusetts, although I see they have a brand new “green” building in a new location as of last month) where my dad and I spent every Thursday night?

Relay some histoires charmantes about the bibliotheques I frequented between baguettes while a student in Paris? Or describe meeting Barbara Bush when she dedicated the new addition to the Camden Public Library back in the early 90’s?

Like everyone who’s blogged this week, I have fond memories of graduating to the “adult” section, searching the stacks, and speaking about writing before rapt library crowds, which is, I will admit, one of the best things about my writing career.

Yes, I could wax wonderfully about all this, but what about my darker library stories?  Dare I describe for you my first work study job at Hamilton College?

The setting was Burke Library, in Clinton, New York. I’d been assigned to the front desk and my extroverted freshman self could not have been happier.  Checking out books and chatting up patrons suited me fine, so imagine my surprise when I was unceremoniously demoted to the bowels of the building by the grumpy, frumpy, dumpy woman who was my boss. I swear she gave an evil smile when she handed me a stack of poorly typed index cards and explained that they needed to be sorted, or alphabetized, or some such thing. My days at the front desk were over, she chortled. I was now to sit on a hard metal seat in a windowless cell with only the index cards for company.

I lasted two weeks, then landed a life guarding job at the pool. No Dewey Decimation for me.

And then there was the time when I felt extreme fear at the Camden Public Library.

I was there with a passel of kids:  my two boys, ages at that time 10 and 8, my toddler daughter, and my friend’s ten-year-old twin boys.  We sprawled on the rug in the (then) crowded, basement-level Children’s Room for story hour, which happened to be a special presentation on owls. We listened to the visiting biologist from Chewonki describe owl behavior, and oohed and aahed over the adorable barred owl he’d brought along. He then indicated a big, cloth-covered cage. He explained that he had a Great Horned Owl, and that he would take him out, but that we had to be totally still, because if we moved just a muscle it would greatly disturb the owl.

Naturally the twins decided to attack each other while everyone else was being incredibly, totally, still.

Gulp. I can picture it to this day. That owl swiveled his head and locked onto them with the most penetrating stare I have ever seen. Suddenly I knew what it was to be hunted. To be a mouse scurrying across a moonlit Maine road, only to hear, when it was far too late, the velvety swoop of a wing….

Real fear. That is what I felt when that owl took in those twins, not as roughhousing little boys but as potential food. And the look on the Chewonki guy’s face? Like he was going to lose his lunch.

I’ll close my look at Library Noir with some scenes courtesy of Hollywood. Remember Donna Reed transformed into the frightened spinster librarian in “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Thank goodness that stereotype, so prevalent in the past, is on the way out. And here’s the fictional Maine town of Derry, visited by the uber-evil Pennywise the Clown, in the Library Scene from Stephen King’s IT .

Hope you enjoyed our posts for National Library Week.  Any libraries that are interested in having Maine Crime Writers visit, please let us know.

Read on!






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3 Responses to Library Noir

  1. John Clark says:

    Pun intended: The owl story is a hoot. I could see it in my head as I was reading it. My favorite animal in the library story happened 3 years ago when a deaf lady was using one of our computers and a mouse ran across her foot. I think echos from her scream are still reverberating through the universe.

  2. John, I love that story! That poor woman. Did she ever come into the library again?

  3. MCWriTers says:

    She came back a few times, but eventually bought her own computer.

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