“I never know what’s going on,” said Charlie Brown: Or, LIBRARIANSHIP FOR THE WALKING DEAD

[In which Your Beleaguered Instructor engages his library staff and discovers an April Fool….]

Today we took down the April books and posters out of the three hallway display cabinets. Later on, the 37 books will need to be checked in and re-shelved.

In the center cabinet, we secured a lovely 3-foot poster that I found online, with the Hirschfeld caricatures of WC Fields, Groucho Marx, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin.  No one taking the time to glance toward this side of the hallway could possibly miss seeing this poster and the images of the comedians depicted on it.

Keep in mind: this display has been in the cabinets for a full five weeks. The three display windows are large, taking up three-quarters of a 20-foot hallway wall. As a library clerk, to have visited the library five days a week for five consecutive weeks, AND to have missed seeing this large poster as the centerpiece of this very colorful display, you’d need to be aggressively brain-dead oblivious to your surroundings. Also consider that there is nothing but brick wall on the opposite side of the hallway; in other words, nothing there to distract your attention from the colorful, easy-to-see books and posters in this 15-foot display.

Back in my Lending Library office, I happen to unfurl the Comedians poster. My ILL clerk ‘Narc,’ while sitting at his work desk, sees this unfurled poster, and his eyes light up. “Hey!” he smiles, “WC Fields!”

Understand further: Narc is a comedian aficionado. He follows comedians. He reads about comedians. He talks about comedians. He even alerts me when a comedian dies, because he collects their obituaries out of the daily newspaper. And he has a well-developed sense of humor which he unabashedly displays during the work day. He has, however, built, from the ground up, a reputation for not being aware of his surroundings; at times, aggressively unaware. You might even categorize it as brain-dead oblivious.


I say again: the library display is fifteen feet long, behind clear Plexiglas, quite colorful, sporting a three-foot poster of comedians, and has been displayed for 35 consecutive days for all to see.

Understand something else: Although this man’s eyesight is a step above total blindness, he has been blessed with corrective lenses, the strength and thickness of which permits him to discern the black heads on the face of the Man In The Moon. In a fog. Through city lights. At night. In a pelting rain.

Imagine my disbelief and confusion when I realize that during those 35 days, this man managed never to turn his head once to the left while walking down the hallway and into the Lending Library, nor did he turn his head to the right while walking down that 30-foot hallway on his way out of the building. Not once. He may as well have been a myopic plow-horse with blinders on.

I say to him: “Do you mean you didn’t see this poster in the display case?”

“What display case?”

“The display case that’s had this poster in it for the last five weeks.”



“I never think to look there.”

“What do you look at when you’re walking down the hallway?”

“My feet.”

“What’s so fascinating about your feet?”

“I just don’t look around, that’s all. Jeesh, what did I do, commit a crime? You can’t send me to jail, I’m already there!”

I am frightened by this man. I am frightened for this man. I would pray for him, but God Himself probably would reject the entreaty as a damnable waste of His time.

I do not know this. It’s just a feeling I have.