Thursday, April 18, 2013

Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library

"Jo-Beth shouted into the phone. 'We're prisoners! We're prisoners in the library!'" 
                                                                           --Eth Clifford, Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library

No, I'm not currently a prisoner in the library, but by chance I saw this book while there the other day. And I had to laugh at both the title and my situation.

For I was at the library for an extended period that afternoon and unable to leave at will. Hubby and I were about to head out on a short overnight road trip, but he had a tutoring session scheduled at the library first. So rather than him having to come back and get me before hitting the road, I chose to spend his 2 1/2 hour tutoring time with him, howbeit discreetly on the other side from where he and his student worked. I certainly had enough to keep me busy, a folder of writing material at hand as well as a list of books and authors I wanted to check out.

I did a little reading. I did a little writing. I scanned the shelves for the books on my list. And then, after exhausting the list, I casually wandered the children's stacks just looking for a title to jump out at me. Jump out it did--Eth Clifford's Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library (Houghton Mifflin 1979). Ironic? I thought so.

Maybe you've heard of Clifford and her work? She has a long list of children's books to her credit. As for Prisoner, the flyleaf reads, in part:

"Although Mary Rose and Jo-Beth hardly ever agreed on anything, they both thought that night would never end. So much had happened! First their car ran out of gas in an unfamiliar city. Then, after their father left in search of a gas station, they trudged through the snow until they found a curious old library that housed the most extraordinary objects: wooden children dressed in old-fashioned clothes, a terrible flying creature that rushed at them in the dark, and (they would later learn) a cellar full of animals.

"But worst of all, they were locked in..."

Sort of like me, but not really--it's a much better story than mine! With a happy ending, all about the promise of saving an old library otherwise destined for demise. Mixed in with middle-grade sisters, bumps in the dark, a talking mynah bird, just enough spookiness. An old book but still a good read.

And to think I found it when locked...I mean, when enjoying an afternoon in the library!

Where better to be if you had to be locked in somewhere, right? How about you, where would you want to be if you found yourself stuck somewhere? And any new-found favorites and/or authors on the library shelves (or e-readers) for you lately?


  1. I agree Kenda, a library would be the best place to be locked up in. And ofcourse there should be lots of food too.

  2. You're right, Rachna--there would have to be food! Thanks :-)

  3. A great place to be stranded! But chocolate would be necessary...

  4. And maybe a good cup of tea, Barbara? Hmmm, sounds like we're planning a party not a lock-in :-)

  5. Well, from a former librarian, the library was like my second living room. People would come visit me all the time, and that was great. Now that they have to drive 25 miles to see me, well ... it hasn't happened.

    But in addition to physical bodies, yes, books feel like company, and that is why it was always a bittersweet thing for me when I needed to weed the collection (which was constantly). I would choose a section and then sit with the books, pull them off the shelf, read the back cover and think about what great books they were and how sad I was to have to send them away to make room for the newer books clamoring for the shelf space.

    The books were weeded on the basis of how often/seldom they were checked out over a 3-year period, as well as the condition they were in. The book you mentioned wouldn't have been on our shelves. I tried to keep the age of the collection at 15 years or less, unless the book was a classic and/or from a famous author with an oeuvre. Although, when I left, I was even beginning to cut into those author collections as well.

    Thank goodness for the emergence of e-books. Our library district would never have the $$ for a new building project, although it was needed, but I could foresee putting larger and larger amounts of money into our e-book and digital audiobook collections in the coming years. That was not without its problems, but it did contribute to congested shelf-space solutions.

  6. Cathy, I really enjoyed reading your note, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. To have to phase out books that still seem so good would be sad. But like you say, ebooks can still breathe life in them if someone rescues them. But reading your story gives us more insight into what goes on in libraries and how shelves are stacked/weeded out. Thanks again. Appreciate hearing from you :-)