I got a job at the public library this summer. It wasn’t because I was strapped for cash — my parents were one of the prime investors in developing Ichor Falls, and they were always willing to help me “fund the local economy,” it was because I needed to get out of the house; away from the oppressively humid fog that circled our aging property.
The library is one of the only eternally cool buildings in town due to being constructed into the side of a hill; a network of sloping subterranean chambers, spiraling deeply into the earth so that the entrance was actually the third floor while the older books were down on the first. The story goes that the building was put here when a potential iron mine would not yield its expected fruit and the furious landowners gave up the land for public use. That was close to 200 years ago.
I was hired to do the dully repetitive job of transforming the card catalog into a computer database, another cog in New Elysium’s convoluted plot to revitalize the town. The third and second floors were a simple enough task; one card at a time, cataloging texts from the start to the finish of the last century. When I came across a particularly illegible card I would consult the ailing librarian, a Mr. Pennsworth, but otherwise I had started building up a fairly impressive database of hypothetical volumes.
*ding ding* “The library will be closing in fifteen minutes.”
We call that the “nerd bell,” but it’s not derogatory. Or at least it’s only a little self-deprecating. Most students here don’t stay up until midnight… not to study, anyway. There isn’t much else to do in a small town, though, so the library stays open until 12:15 and every night, I end up reading here until the bell rings and the doors close. This common room is nice for relaxing, isn’t it? Haven’t seen you here before.
Oh, if you want to get real work done, not just chatting and reading novels, make sure you claim a spot in the building. People are creatures of habit, right, so it’s an unspoken custom here that students find spots and stick to them.
The first week of school I actually found this little study niche, framed by the government document section, that no one else uses. It isn’t near either of the computer labs, so the area doesn’t see much foot traffic, and I don’t have to worry about anyone crunching chips or listening to a Walkman set so loud the music bleeds out.
Sure, the heating vent right overhead can be a little noisy now that it’s winter, and the shelves close to both sides of this desk mean you have to squeeze by sideways to sit down, but it has a heavy, padded oak chair that’s really comfortable. I have no idea how long ago someone bothered to carry it down here, but it’s not going anywhere. (They probably stole it from the Provost’s office, anyway.)
There’s also a big oil painting of Edwin Cuthbert, from 1810, that dominates the wall right behind the chair. I guess that could be unsettling to people, since it’s about life-sized, or maybe a little larger than life. I used to think of old Cuthbert as my study partner, since he’s reading over my shoulder as I work.