I walked into the library after seventeen days traveling for work. My local library is very small. It has two parking spaces and is mostly geared towards the kids who live in the neighborhood. It’s just a small branch of the bigger town library, which is connected to most of southeastern Pennsylvania’s book collection and therefore able to get me almost anything I want. There are two librarians there today, one of the ones I am familiar with, with silver hair and a presence that always feels to me like one of the fairy godmothers from Sleeping Beauty. The other is new to me, a little gruffer. She perches on a stool as I come up to the desk and request the books being held for me.
“Oh, wow! I thought for sure this would have gone to the next person on the hold list by now,” I say, gesturing to a copy of The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin.
“We try to give people a little extra time to pick up books, especially if they have multiple,” the fairy librarian says.
“Awesome. I am actually surprised that people weren’t shouting for it though! This is a new release of the next book in a series that’s won a Hugo award for each of the preceding books.”
The public faces of these two guardians of our stories slide off coolly. The one perching has a gleam in her eye now, and a sardonic smile. The poker face of an expert trying to seem professional as their enthusiasm for the subject at hand is piqued.
“What genre?” she asks, her nonchalance a front for the intensity of her gaze.
“Like science fantasy, I guess.”
She twitches involuntarily. “That’s a great genre.”
My silver-haired friend has stopped scanning my books, her hands gravitating inevitably towards the cover of the book in question. She flips back the cover. “Is The Obelisk Gate the first one?” she asks, pointing to the praise for previous works.
“No, it starts with The Fifth Season,” I clarify. She turns automatically back to the computer.
“Well, I’ll have to reserve it for my husband.”
The hawk-eyed one turns to her sharply.
“It’s a pretty dark series,” I warn, not wanting to find out that any husbands of fairies are made uncomfortable by my preferences.
Hawk librarian stands up. “Even better,” she says, crossing to crowd behind the computer. “Reserve it for me, too.”
They scan my card and focus on the magic box that will bring them new stories, wishing me a good day but in abstraction. I am a messenger this time, not a patron, and my tidings are news that must be dealt with immediately.
“No, put me in first, I read faster than him,” I hear as I leave with my prizes.
I hope they settled things without magic. I’m sure the books would be fine, but the other patrons might have been a little surprised to see a fairy battle.
And can I just say that I freaking love book people. How great, that we all dive into worlds previously unknown to us, and resurface to recommend them to other travelers? How marvelous that so many of us will never visit the same worlds as each other, and yet we still feel an affinity for those who go diving heart first into new territory? How wonderful, that there are storytellers, who give us homes when we wander. What a marvel, to have librarians who guard and guide and explore the worlds we love best.