Who Comes Through Your Library?


My beloved Budge and I were on the way to supper tonight and we passed Mary walking down the side of the road. All of you have seen Mary or one of her sisters or cousins or brothers. Mary is probably not her real name, but the locals at the stores all call her Mary . . . Meth-head Mary.

Mary is anorexically thin. She has bleach blond hair that is inevitably tousled, but surprisingly clean most of the time. As a matter of fact, Mary seldom looks disgustingly dirty or greasy as some of her ilk manage to do. She wears shorts and t-shirts or halter-tops nine months out of the year. It has to be ungodly cold . . . down to around forty here in the South . . . to force Mary into long pants. In the three years since she showed up, I’ve never once seen it cold or wet enough for her to wear shoes or long sleeves.

Lest you think I am being stereotypical or “judging a book by its cover,” please let me assure you I’m not. I’ve been around enough drug addicts . . . and even had some hard spells myself, I’m ashamed to say . . . to know the look. On the two occasions I’ve managed to start a conversation with her, she couldn’t focus her eyes. She cannot stand still. If she’s not moving, she’s moving. Nervous energy and the hunger for the next fix eats her constantly. However, it’s the gait that gives the gig away completely. None of her four limbs are ever in the same plane at the same time. She looks like the broken marionette of a sadistic puppeteer as she walks. Always walking. I’ve seen her at spots from a hundred yards to ten miles from our neighborhood.

So what in the name of Dr. S. R. Ranganathan is Mary the Meth-head doing in a blog ostensibly about libraries? Specifically school libraries.


See, I’m willing to bet a tandem axle dumptruck load of Mickey Mantle #511 1952 Topps rookie cards that Mary never put down on an interest survey back in middle school “I want to be a meth head when I grow up.” I’m willing to double that truckload of Americana to cover my bet that she never wrote in “prostitute” or “small time thief” or even “wanderer” when she filled out one of those career assessments we are so proud of in our schools today.

Students don’t get up in the morning and say, “Gee, I think I’ll become a crack addict today.”

It sneaks up on them. It comes in the form of escapism or pain killer or thrill ride. Then, it’s too late or even if it’s not too late, sometimes they don’t know where to turn to. We can help stop it.

I’m not talking about a well stocked 362.29 section on our shelves either, but that helps. No, I’m talking about noticing who’s in your library. The “weird” loner girl who always comes in at lunch and doodles in the one of the study carrels? Need a way to get away for awhile, Mary. The prom queen type who is super popular but sometimes has rank breath because of the vomiting from her bulimia? Hey, Mary, beauty has a price. Mary. The star volleyball player who gets kidded too often because at her age being an athlete or a tomboy “probably” means she’s “one of those”? Have to improve your performance any way you can, Mary. The saludatorian who is oh-so-close to getting that number one spot and all the money in scholarships that go with it? Have to stay up late to study, Mary.

It can easily be boys as well, but I have Mary, not Mike, in my neighborhood so that’s what I’m writing about and it’s my blog.

Look around your library. Look around your halls. Quit Twittering long enough to eat your sandwich out in the stacks with a kid or two who will nearly faint that an adult would take an interest in them but will never admit it because it’d be tres uncool. Don’t worry so much about Web 2.0 that you ignore Student ’08. They are people who need our attention as much as they need our knowledge. Plus, once they know you’ll listen to them, they’ll be a lot more likely to listen to you.

Look at them; think about Mary.

One response »

  1. Shannon,
    Thank you for capturing the lost hopes and dreams of the Mikes and Marys of the world in this post. My library “regulars” are usually a friendly bunch who command most of my attention, but today I am going to look for the M&M’s in my library.

    And I’m going to post this comment on my bb at work:

    Don’t worry so much about Web 2.0 that you ignore Student ‘08.

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