If someone had told me when I was in high school that I would be a librarian, I would have told them they were crazy. The same holds true for my jobs as police officer and teacher. After receiving a scholarship to General Motors Institute as a senior, I had planned on being an electrical engineer. It's funny how life turns out, but I am very happy that I selected occupations that I enjoyed instead of choosing a job for the prestige or money.
When I became a librarian in 1990, I was a deputy sheriff working 45 hours a week on the 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift. My oldest boy was going to start college, and I needed a second job to help pay for his tuition, books, car, etc. The library hours were 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., so that worked out OK. After the police night shift, I could get 4 or 5 hours sleep, if I was lucky, before I started all over again. It was very hectic working 83 hours a week, but it paid for all four of my kids' college expenses.
I guess I was like a lot of people who think that all a librarian does is check out books. Boy, was I wrong! A librarian in a small town library does it all . . . bookkeeping, reports, budgets, book processing, and hundreds of other duties. I even did the cleaning and mowed the yard to earn extra money! But the job was also a nice change of pace from my often nerve-wrecking police job.
Through the years, a few incidents happened at the library that I'll never forget. There was the time that a 3-year old boy, whose mother left him with me while she ran a few errands, told me that he had to go to the restroom. Since I was busy and the restroom was downstairs, I informed him that I would accompany him down there shortly. After shelving the last of my books, however, I noticed he had headed out the front door. I looked out, and there he was . . . watering the sidewalk. And the boy was standing at the TOP of the FIFTEEN steps and could aim it all the way to the sidewalk in a high arching pattern . . . talk about strong bladder muscles . . . this kid was amazing!
One afternoon Mary Wilkins, long-time librarian at Linden, called and said she was coming over to visit and get acquainted. A few minutes later, there she was coming through the front door. However, she caught her toe on the door threshold. Mary did a complete 360 degree head over heels rollover somersault, stood up, brushed herself off, and walked up to the circulation desk liked nothing had ever happened, "Well, hello Butch, glad to meet you!" This lady was close to 80 years old, and had the vitality and enthusiasm of a teenager. What a grand entrance!
Late one night, while on police duty, the library alarm went off. I arrived shortly, and discovered that no one had broken into the building. Something else must have triggered the alarm. When I turned on the lights, a bat swooped down right past my face. It had evidently set off one of the motion alarms. Since I would prefer facing an armed psychopath more than I would a bat, I quickly left, locked the door, and prayed that the bat would be gone by the time I arrived for work that next morning. When I arrived for work at 11 a.m., I carefully surveyed the entire interior. No sign of the dreaded bat . . . until I went downstairs to empty the wastebasket. As I was bending down, I heard a squeaking sound, turned my head toward the window sill, and was face to face with a bat that looked like Dracula's pet . . . its wings outstretched and its fangs gleaming. That was it . . . I was out of there! The next day I found the bat . . . dead . . . in the same wastebasket . . . must have suffered a heart attack after confronting me.
The patron library cards were made of cardstock with a numbered metal tag. When someone checked out a book, their card was placed in a small machine that stamped their number on the book card. This handy machine broke during my second year, so I called to order a new one. However, since the machine cost over $1,000, the library board decided to use the old-fashioned book cards in which the patrons sign their name. Fine with me . . . saved money, and I could more easily see who had the loaned-out book. There were three ladies, all widows in their early eighties, who came in individually every two weeks or so and checked out books. They each had likely not missed going to church for 50 years. They usually always selected Harlequin romance books, kept in one spot out of the reach of children. One afternoon, I looked out the front door, and all three ladies were coming up the steps together. That had never happened. As they approached the desk, one lady inquired, "Butch, is anyone else in here?"
I became worried, "No, no one else is here. Is there a problem?"
"Well, we want to ask you a favor," they replied rather sheepishly . . . "We want to keep checking out the GOOD books, but when we bring them back, could you WHITE-OUT our names?"
I could barely keep a straight face, "Sure, that's no problem . . . I can do that for you ladies." All three smiled, chose a hot romance book, and left. They just did not want anyone else to know that they had read anything concerning love or sex. All three lived many more years, and I think that those books kept their merry hearts pumping away to the very end. I had to white-out their names each time, until all three ladies passed away . . . Ah yes, the life of a librarian.

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.