Thanks Mr. King

As a teenager I was working the summer in a branch location of the municipal library. This building was old and the wooden floors screeched and creaked every time we took a step. The interior of the library was one big room with a high ceiling and beautiful stained oak shelves and furnishings around the perimeter. 

This day there was no one there but me; I don’t remember where my co-worker was. It was a nice hot day outside; not unusual for the library to be deserted and perfectly quiet in that residential neighborhood. 

I was sitting on the high stool behind the massive checkout counter reading Danse Macabre by Stephen King. It had been staring at me from the New Books shelf directly across from the counter. In the book Stephen King described scary books and movies, and one of his recommendations for suspense was the novel A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin. 

It occurred to me that I was sitting in a large room full of books. I climbed down from the stool, went to the card catalog, pulled out a drawer and found a card listing the book. We had it in paperback. I went to one of the spinning squeaky metal paperback racks and found it — a beat up copy with vintage 1960s design on the cover. 

How popular was this copy? At that time all our books had the circulation card in the pocket glued to the first page. The card was stamped with all the due dates for when it had been borrowed. It hadn’t been checked out in 7 years. 

I acted in my capacity as a municipal employee. Any book that had not been checked out in 5 years was eligible to be withdrawn from the collection to make room for newer books. 

Back to the checkout counter: Sit on the high stool, reach to my far right for the ink pad and the little rack of rubber stamps saying REFERENCE, NEW BOOK, CHILDREN, here’s the one I want: WITHDRAWN. Stamp on the ink pad, stamp on the book’s first page, press that stamp onto the page good, no one wanted it. 

I started reading A Kiss Before Dying right then. Took it home, kept it with me at the supper table, read it after supper, I finished it that night or the next morning. I wasn’t disappointed; Stephen King was right.  Then I picked up Danse Macabre where I left off.

Postscript: You can’t go home again. I revisited that beloved building decades later and the beautiful interior had been replaced by smooth drywall painted teal with purple trim, the preferred look of that year.