July 19, 2019
Cover art: Brooke Albrecht
Genre: Contemporary romance
I rushed up the slippery steps of Lancaster’s old library to greet the portly man awaiting me. “I’m sorry I’m late!” I held a hand out. “Christopher Hughes. It’s a pleasure.”
“Logan Fields,” the man said, shaking with an unnecessarily firm grip. “I’m on the town’s Board of Selectmen. I’m in charge of overseeing our library crisis. Come on inside.” He turned around, used an old skeleton key to unlock the front door, and led the way into the dim interior.
I had recently moved to the charming town of Lancaster, New Hampshire. No more than ten years ago, they’d outgrown the title of village—everyone was very proud, I was told. I’d spent most of my life in suburbs in the more populated, southern portion of the state. And while it was nice and convenient, I’d always dreamed of living in a small community where folks all knew one another and there was a real sense of closeness.
I’d certainly found it here.
But not a job.
That was a rather elusive beast.
But such was the way of life in these tiny blips on the map. There were not a lot of job openings on a consistent basis, and so far my options were part-time clerk at the gas station, part-time bagger at the grocery store, or nada. Although I had a college degree, studies in nineteenth-century literature didn’t get you far in a town that required more practical services. I’d been ready to become a bagger too, if it meant paying the rent on time. But then I heard about this.
Lancaster was in a panic after their librarian—a nice old lady who I swear must have been older than the building itself—passed away, and they needed someone to take over.
Ding, ding, ding! Christopher Hughes, come on down. You’ve won a cozy little position in an antique library! How do you feel?
I can afford dinner now—I feel great!
Logan Fields flicked on an old light switch as I shut out the winter day behind us. “Here she is. Pretty old place, isn’t it?”
It was indeed. The library was small, nothing like I was used to. It was maybe the size of the downstairs of a large house. The woodwork was dark and rich, there were high ceilings, and gorgeous old moldings. I turned, whistling quietly as I took it all in. There was a desk for checkout closer to the wall—with no computer, I noted. An alcove stood just beyond that, completely stuffed with books. To the right of the main area was a closed door, and to the left was the study room—a long table with chairs situated in the middle. Bank lamps with green shades sat positioned on the tabletop, and some old leather-bound books and maps made the space look especially cozy.
“This is wonderful,” I said.
Logan nodded. “Our public library has been open for over a hundred and fifty years. It’s been here through thick and thin, and provided for people when they otherwise couldn’t afford to learn.” He turned to look down at me. “You must understand, a lot of folks up here—they don’t have big-paying jobs like in the cities. They live paycheck to paycheck. My kids all came here, growing up.” He looked pained. “This place means a lot to us all.”
My hands were sweaty in my coat pockets. It felt like I needed to say something, assure him I was capable of the job, if he wanted to hire me, but I kept quiet.
Logan cleared his throat and patted his belly absently. “Anyway. Our old librarian passed on, as you know, and we need help. The state is looking to pull the funding from this facility.”
“W-what?” I blurted. “Why?”
“Money. It’s always about money. Why give a dinky little town like ours resources when they can better pump it into cities where they get more bang for their buck?” Logan huffed. “We need this place spruced up. Show them how vital this library is to the community. If we can show them how much use this place gets….”
“Do you not have that sort of information on file?”
Logan gave me a sheepish expression. “To be honest, the job doesn’t pay much, and Beatrice held the position for eons. She didn’t know how to use computers. So all that information is written by hand in her ledgers.”
Logan hurried to a nearby shelf, chose a book at random, and brought it back to me. “See, we don’t have any sort of bar code system for checkout.” He opened to the front page, where there was an old-fashioned library card in the pocket glued to the cover, with handwritten names and dates going as far back as 1947.
“Holy shit,” I whispered.
Logan snorted. “Right.” He shut the book and stared at me again. “What I’m asking of you might not be possible. I’ve got no budget for new books or supplies, and I’ve nothing to offer you in terms of support. Your job may very well be short-lived… but we need help. Plus, you’ve got that English degree—”
I waved my hands. “I don’t have a degree in library science. I mean, I had a part-time job at my college library, but my degree is in literature. Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley—”
“That’s no matter. None of the librarians in neighboring towns have an MLS either. We’re very small. We don’t necessarily need that sort of credential.”
I looked around. The building was silent but alive. Over a hundred years of people passing through the arched doorway, of learning and studying. I felt a deep force tugging me to the available position, despite the lack of job security. It was strange. And not smart.
“I’ll do it,” I answered.
“You will?” Logan asked.
“Thank you,” Logan said, grabbing both my hands in a vise lock and shaking hard. “Look. This room here”—he pointed at the closed door—“Beatrice shut it down after it came into disrepair, and she stuffed all those books into other places or the storeroom upstairs, beside the kitchenette.” He reached into his wallet and fussed about for a moment before drawing out a business card. “This is the number to our local handyman. This guy always gives me a break on cost, and he’ll fix that room up in a jiffy.”
“Sure. I’ll call him today,” I said, taking the card.