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Branch Library

The apartment was advertised as a studio. As I move my boxes and bookcases in, they start to form walls. It’s being balkanized into small rooms, nooks, crannies. I wasn’t aware I owned this much stuff. After three hours, I think I can see the back of the moving van.

When I come back for the next load, I can’t.

I begin to suspect I don’t actually own this much stuff.

The boxes are not identical, but they’re a similar parade of Florida Oranges, cheap vodka, and jumbo eggs. I open one. The books inside are mustier than anything I remember owning. I pull the one on the top of the pile. The text isn’t English. I’m not even sure what language it is.

I pick up the box and carry it inside anyway.

-

I try to get out the next day and look for job openings. I get distracted by unpacking books instead. The day after, I open my door to find someone waiting in front of it.

“I’m looking for a book,” is all he says.

I let him in. They’re not mine, after all. Maybe one of them is his.

He browses for several minutes before asking where the philosophy section is.

“I can’t help you,” I answer honestly. A look of frustration cuts across his face, and is quickly replaced by sadness. He hurries away before it occurs to me that my words could be taken as “won’t” instead of “can’t”.

I sigh and tell myself that if he doesn’t want to listen, it’s his own fault. Instead of worrying, I go back to unpacking boxes. I finished unpacking clothes and kitchen stuff yesterday. The bookshelves around my futon are lined with books that I’m mostly sure were mine before I moved. It’s slightly more reassuring that way. As I unpack a series of religious texts - Bibles, Qur’ans, Torahs, Bhagavad Gitas, and a string of things I don’t remember from World Religion 001 - I decide to try an experiment. I stack the books on the floor. I walk out of sight.

When I turn back, they’re resting neatly on a bookshelf. That makes this somewhat simpler, though I can’t help wishing they could unpack as well as shelve themselves. At least it’ll save me the trouble of putting enough pressboard bookshelves together to hold them all. At this point, there isn’t enough floor space to lay down the pieces of one anyway.

Out of curiousity, I stack the context of several boxes on the foor and walk away. They’re neatly spread across two bookshelves when I return. I unpack a single book. It, too, gets shelved.

I suppose I’d better not forget about books I’m in the middle of reading. I might never find them again.

I turn a corner in the process of unpacking and come upon the young man again. He looks very lost.

“This system doesn’t make any sense! How are they organized?” he demanded.

I shrugged, thinking of them shelving themselves. “However they want to be, I think.”

-

The library, I discovered, had a will of its own. It’s more than just mysteriously-appearing books.

One afternoon as I tried to walk from the kitchen to the bathroom, I found myself momentarily distracted by a book title I saw in the corner of my vision. When I blinked and looked again I realized it was not at all what I’d thought it was. It was _A Wizard’s Guide to a Midlife Crisis,_ by Diane Duane.

I picked it up, browsed a few pages and set it back down, intending to get it after I was done in the bathroom.

When I looked up I realized I’d gotten quite lost in my own apartment. This wasn’t the first time I’d gotten lost since the books had moved in, but something felt strange. As I turned corners, the shelves seemed to change from Ikea pressboard to solid oak, and the light shifted, and the ceiling got higher. Soon it was clear I was not in my apartment at all.

“Hello?” I called, as loudly as I dared. It was a library, after all.

“You must be the new branch librarian,” a cool but friendly voice said behind me.

I jumped and turned. The man looked about somewhere in early middle age, with brown hair in a nest of messy, loose curls and smallish, squarish glasses. His eyes were grey with a hint of brown, his nose was wide, his jaw tapered. I blushed a little.

He took my hand and shook it. “I’m still rather new to the Librarian job, but it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

I forced myself to smile back, still not sure what to make of everything. “Nice to meet you. This is all extremely new to me.”

“Do you want the grand tour?” he asked, and I nodded.

When we started, I didn’t realize just how grand the tour was going to be. We walked past rows and rows of library stacks, each full of books. Small rooms here and there had a variety of uses he told me about, rattling them off. Study room, map room, microfiche room, scroll room, dorm rooms, clean rooms...

And then we reached the staircase, and I realized the floor I’d arrived on was actually one of the upper floors. I stepped onto the stairs, ready to explore the

Library.
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