By Tori Tucker
I’ve been working at the public library for six years now, as a page. A page’s job in a library mostly consists of shelving books, but sometimes we have other responsibilities as well, such as withdrawing books or putting books into the catalogue system. This task requires the use of a computer that has a librarian’s access to the entire library catalogue, as well as the use of a special printer that prints spine labels on special sticker paper that is very expensive.
In my six years working at the library I have done this once. I swore after the first time I was tasked with printing spine labels that I would never do it again, and here is why:
When printing spine labels you have the choice of printing one at a time by selecting a single spine label and pressing the “Print” button; a tedious process, or you can print as many as you wish by selecting each spine label and pressing the “Print All” button, thus printing off as many as you have selected; a process that is slightly less tedious that the former.
Thus, the first and only time I ever printed spine labels I made the mistake of pressing the “Print All” button. Now, my boss had failed to warn me, when she had explained the printing process to me, that if you press “Print All” before selecting the spine labels that require printing, the computer will assume that you want to print the entire contents of the catalog on the highly expensive sticker paper.
You see, when I hit “Print All”, and the printer began sputtering away, not only did it print spine labels for the entire library catalog; oh no, it printed the title, author, ISBN, book description, the date the book was entered into the system, every name of every person to check out every book, author bios, and for some reason the coffee order list for the librarians that worked at the circulation desk in the 1990’s.
To my horror the printer shot out page after page of glossy sticker paper, covered in black ink descriptions for each and every book ever entered in the library catalog system. Panicked, I pressed the big red button on the printer, what I could only assume was the cancel button, but not only did the printer not stop, but it began incessantly beeping very loudly, alerting the entire adjoined room, which happened to be the children’s section, of my mishap.
The children, hearing the beeping began running frantically for the emergency exit door, assuming that the beeping could only be the library’s fire alarm, and knowing what was required of them at school took this expertise and applied it to the real world. As each child pushed their way out of the emergency exit, the actual fire alarm began to blare overhead, and the children’s parents rushed out as well, hoisting child carriers, blankets, books, bottles and more over their shoulders and hurried out into the back garden.
As for the librarians, they couldn’t bare to see the thousands of humble books go up in flames, and so the ladies from the circulation desk rushed forth with waggons and began clearing the shelves, toppling biographies, maps, fiction and non into the waggons, others wielding carts with squeaky wheels, all adding to the calamity of the beeping of the printer and the whirling of the fire alarm.
Meanwhile there I was, still in the office with the printer, desperately pressing button after button trying to get the papers to stop– tears streamed down my face at the thought of what my parents would say after I lost the first job I’d ever had after only a few short weeks. After thoroughly depressing myself with this thought I gave up and slumped down onto the floor, allowing my head to flop back under the table where the printer was, the many papers with the first half of catalog and the coffee list from the 90’s printed on them cushioning my fall. That’s when it caught my eye. Of course! The plug!
Scuttling forward across the many expensive glossy sticker pages, I pulled it out of the wall, effectively silencing the printer. As I looked out into the children’s room I took in all the chaos that my mistake had caused and began to panic all over again. I couldn’t let my boss see the horrible mistake I had made. Thinking fast, I gathered up the papers in my arms and tossed them onto a cart like the librarians were using to gather the books and skillfully covered the many glossy pages in as many withdrawn books as I could find so as to camouflage the sticker pages. This done, I hurried out into the library and made for the elevator.
Of course with what everyone else assumed was a fire well underway, no one would be near the elevator, so I quickly got in and pressed the button that would take me to the top floor. Once there I quickly checked around. No one seemed to be upstairs. It looked like the librarians had gone to the top floor first and cleared their way down. Loose pages hung from empty shelves. Computers were overturned and I knew this would be the perfect place to put my plan into action. Flipping the cart over and letting the papers fall, I pushed the glossy sticker pages into a pile on top of one of the toppled computers where its screen had smashed. From there I ran to the top floor help desk and reached into the top drawer where I knew Barbara kept her cigarettes and lighter.
Taking the lighter I rushed back to the computers and clicked the lighter once, twice, three times and on the third click the flame was ignited. I lowered it slowly to the glossy papers nestled against the broken computers and watched as my grand mistake went up in the flames of what everyone else would think was an electrical fire.
Then it was my turn to get out of there. Hurrying to the stairs, I was about to descend, when something caught my eye. On the special display stand a librarian had overlooked our most treasured item, our first edition, 1828, Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Thinking fast I reversed my tracks and made a beeline for the giant book, slamming it shut and taking it up in both arms before waddling my way back to the staircase and went down, two steps at a time.
When I reached the bottom I found the library quite empty. Books had been stripped from their shelves and there wasn’t a person in sight, and so dictionary in hand, I exited the building, smoke pouring out behind me as I threw open the old oak door where I was greeted by great applause from all the librarians and fellow pages. I had saved the library’s most treasured artifact at the risk of my own life, and so on that very day the mayor was called and I was awarded the city medal of honor for brave deeds and library work.
Now, in my sixth year as an honored library page and employee, I still recount my brave escape from the library to the new pages as I explain to them how to print spine labels on the expensive glossy sticker sheets and remind them to only ever use the “Print” button.