Monday, March 24, 2008

The Great Library caper

Another flash-back blog. From prior blogs, you remember that our high school basketball team is so good, we are heading for the state championship. Rewind, maybe a month before that. My sister and her friends are all seniors, I’m a lowly sophomore. I’m mostly into band and swim team. Girls in bathing suits, even the one piece ones, never played a part in my decision to join swim team. Next question!!! My friends are into destroying property, cruising, you know, normal stuff. My sister’s friends are much more mature. They hang out in the school newspaper office, the yearbook office and the library. The school should have been so proud. Remember the 1970’s? I didn’t think you did. I think they encouraged us to smoke at school! The school had two outside courtyards. One was designated as “smoking”. If they had taken an aerial photograph between classes, the rising smoke would have obscured the shot. The teachers joined the smokers in lighting up. The janitor probably thought it was great. One less courtyard to mow as the discarded butts was two inches deep. Shoot, in Virginia, I’m surprised by late summer, the courtyard wasn’t three feet high in sprouted tobacco plants.
Back to the library. For some infraction, my sister and her tribe are persona-non-grata at the library. They were probably sleeping on the sofa, playing footsie, whispering or something. They decide to start The Great Library Caper. Here’s their plan to wreck havoc with the librarian. They start checking out a book. Every time they go to the library, they check out a book. It doesn’t matter what the book is, just check it out. Stop by before school, during lunch, at break time, after school. Get four or five books a day. One of the culprits probably works at the library, as we are informed that they have no way to keep up with how many books you have out. There is no policy that says you can only have out X number at a time. Stash the books in your locker. Take a few home, what ever it takes to keep them from being noticed. My sister shares the scheme with me. It sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t remember if she asked me to have my friends help with the caper, of if I asked her for the OK to check out a few books. So, my 15 closest friends and I start checking out books. Pretty soon, there are probably 100 kids checking out books. Since it is just a few at a time, the librarian isn’t too suspicious. I’m not sure what other people checked out, but I went in on a mission. I decided to pretend I had to write a paper about air craft. Specifically, World War I aircraft. I used to build scale wood replicas of WWI planes, so I didn’t even have to fake the interest. All the WWI aircraft books, fit on one neat shelf at the library. I decided that it would look better in the bottom of my locker. I began by checking out about five of the books at once. Then returning to get “another for the paper”. In a week, I had about 40 books stacked up in my locker and the library had a totally empty shelf. Others heard of this tactic and followed suit. I vaguely remember someone checking out all the books on whales. Someone else checking out all the books on electromagnetism. This went on for a few weeks as the library looked thinner and thinner in the book shelf department.
At this point, I was still unsure of just what point we were making. It occurs to me, that if I DID have to write a paper, there was no way to find the books, as they were probably checked out. It was amusing to stroll through the library and note the empty and almost empty shelves. I’m sure the librarian was not amused.

With so many books checked out, the teachers and administrators are beginning to wonder what is going on. Inquiries are rumored. My photographer friend, as one of the top five rebels in the school, is one of the first to be called in for interrogation. He doesn’t crack under the pressure. He always knew all the schemes, even those he wasn’t partaking of. Panic does start to set in. We all must now be carrying most of our text books, as there is little room left in lockers. There is a rumor that a teacher had noticed an open locker and all the books. We start using all those great stealth moves we’d learned watching movies about World War II POW camp tactics. Secret hand signals for “coast is clear, open the locker”. Knowing nods as books are ferried to places other than lockers. Some of the World War I aircraft books are ferried into the drum storage room, which I had legitimate access to.
I decide to ask my sister for the next steps in the PLAN. She fills me in, so I can fill in all my friends. The trap is now set. The librarian won’t know what hit her, except it was a lot of books. On the Friday before the state basketball game, we are to start dumping off the books. All of them. New meaning to the term “mass dump”. You can slide them through the mail slot at the library door. Turn them in directly at the desk. Under the main library desk, is another book slot. There are two or three mail boxes out in the building, which are drop off points. I think on the Thursday before the bombs-away date, my photographer friend went and took pictures of the very empty shelves in the library. All under the guise of “Gee, what is going on? this might be a story. First I’ve heard about this”. Even though I’m sure the librarian was fully aware that he had already been interrogated by the high command. On the appointed Friday, the books start pouring back in. By first break, there are four or five stacks of books, three feet high, inside the library at the drop off point by the door. By lunch, the book drop boxes have overflowed and books are stacked up beside them. By the last class, my photographer friend returns to the library to shoot one last picture. You can’t get within 4 feet of the main library desk. The librarian has this deer-in-the-headlights look about her. The library helpers have all bailed out to head for the buses and the state B-Ball game. We are not sure if the librarian can even get out from behind the stacks of books, except maybe with rock climbing gear. Wait, there is a book about that somewhere!
By the next week, there is an announcement made and signs posted all over the school. There is now a limit of no more than five books to be checked out by any person without a written reason from a teacher. The rumor has it that over one-third of the library had been checked out. All of it returned in one six hour time period. I think it took several weeks to file all those books.
I don’t think they ever figured out who started it, or why.

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