The Phantom Librarian

“Someone’s been moving books around,” Dave said with a puzzled look. He went on to explain that a set of books he’d moved to the new non-fiction shelf had been put back in the old place. Then he continued, the children’s books he’d stood up for easy access had been closed and turned down.  “Why would someone do that,” he wondered.

I was equally puzzled and joked that we had a phantom librarian. What to do? I offered a solution. He could put up a sign on the library door that the library committee, though there hadn’t ever been one, was having a meeting, inviting anyone interested to come. This might flesh out the culprit.  We both said it was nice that someone wanted to help and that this way the person could have an assignment instead of undoing the work of others.

Last year, Dave had taken over managing the library in our building. First thing he did was clear out some of the old and tattered books. Pat who’d managed the library before him would never have done that. She’d kept absolutely everything and kept it in very specific order. Which was why she fired me as a volunteer. But that’s another story. Once Dave took over, I offered him my services to maintain the magazine table. We laughed about my dismissal and he accepted my offer with no unrealistic expectations.

The second thing he did was move the romance novels out of the library but into other book shelves throughout the building; he was nice enough to put up a sign so romance readers could find them.  Actually, he’d originally wanted to just get rid of them. That was until I convinced him we had many residents who really liked romance and mysteries.

But before we could call a library committee meeting, the mystery was solved. You know the urban myth that hair dressers know everything. Not so much a myth. I visit the in-house beauty shop once a month and always chatted with Myleen about what’s new in the building. And she always knows.  All it took was my comment about our dilemma of the books. Myleen grinned and spilled the beans.

Myleen takes her towels down to the laundry room very early in the morning which takes her past the library. She often sees the same resident in the library. Once she stopped to say hello and was regaled with a story of how much this resident was doing to keep the library in good shape.  According to Myleen, she made it sound like this was her job.

It was with great pleasure, the next time I saw Dave, to report that I knew who the phantom librarian was. Sad thing was that this resident has huge memory issues and our problem would not be solved with reason and cooperation.

Once I knew who it was, it seemed so obvious. Why hadn’t I guessed. This resident has been a problem since she moved in last year. She incessantly knocks on her neighbors’ doors, frantically asking if they have seen or heard the noises and people that only she hears and sees. She’s thrown something at our maintenance man when he came to fix an imaginary out of order item. She’s also accused him of stealing. He’s quite beside himself since she retells this story to anyone who will listen.

I have it from a reliable source (rumors run wild here) that she would turn off all the circuit breakers in her apartment and then call the health department to report that the landlord refused to turn on her air conditioning. When most planned social events happen in the dining room, she’ll stand at the entrance and look lost until some kind soul invites her in.

Some believe that her inadequate memory and poor me attitude is for show. I got nervous when a few weeks ago she began to call me by my name. If her memory is so bad why does she always know who I am. And does this mean one of these days she’ll be knocking on my door. And if her memory is so bad why does she constantly repeat the imaginary theft story.

I feel really bad for this woman. But not so bad that I engage with her. I know someday I may be like her and be as lonely as she seems to be. She’s a lesson in patience and understanding. Empathy too.

Back to the library issue. AlI I told Dave was that she had memory problems so we’d have to work around that. The other news was that her family was looking for another place, a higher level of care. Which she certainly needs. Rumor tells me her family has the money but are dragging their feet. So, we continue to make the best of things. Just last week, I found a pile of magazines in the waste basket. I pulled them out and put them back on the magazine table. It’s all we can do, I thought, while shaking my head in dismay.






1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Susan Hyde Alford
    Oct 13, 2018 @ 16:25:28

    Have patience with the demented – you may be one of them soon enough.



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