Olive Hawkins had been privately counting down the days for over month to, what turned out to be an unfortunately bright, Tuesday in August. She had forgotten to turn on the stove to boil the pot for tea that morning and put cat litter in Mr Darcy’s feeding bowl. Her efforts to walk a little slower to work seemed to have the opposite effect as she arrived promptly outside the library at eight-fifty, just as she done for nearly thirty years.
It was a largely unassuming building, somewhat squashed in between the small towns’ only pub and the sandwich shop that Sadie Owens had taken over when her mother took ill. If someone did not know it was a library, why they could just walk right by without ever knowing the splendour within. Although, in recent years, that splendour had been vastly abridged. Unending rows of books towering as high as the ceilings had once filled the rooms with an air of magnificence. Now many of her much loved stories were banished to the basement storage, or sold off. She herself had packed away books into boxes, to make way for such things as CD’s and Video tapes.
“Todays the day, Ms Hawkins!” Martin the Manager had said cheerily as he past her desk that morning. She had given a reluctant smile, but couldn’t bring herself to form a reply. There was nothing to do but get on with the day. Every morning she would walk up and down the aisles, replacing the books that had been returned the previous afternoon. It wasn’t a task that should normally take very long, but on this Tuesday, Olive took special care of each of the books. She placed each one gently in its correct position on the shelf and took a second to reflect on the journey that that particular book had just taken an unsuspecting reader.
During the course of the morning, many familiar faces made their way through the library. Olive had helped an increasingly frailer Mrs Palmer over to the crime section and recommended one of the few Agatha Christies novels the older lady had yet to read. When young Helen Porter came in asking for something to keep her ten year old son occupied whilst he was off sick from school, she gave the last copy a new story of another ten year old boy who went to a school for wizards, that would keep him entertained, she told the tired looking mother. She smiled and waved as she watched Mr Gilbert leave looking please with her suggestion of a book of First World War aircrafts.
It had been easy to forget what she knew the day had yet to bring. When lunch arrived, Olive took her lunch box out at her desk and unwrapped the sandwich she had made the previous evening.
“It’s just going to make things so much easier.” Olive heard the Martin the Mangers voice drift through from the small reading room. As the library remained open over lunch, she always elected to remain at her desk. The rest of the staff however took to the reading room to enjoy the comfortable sofas and water cooler. The door was always left open, so Olive usually picked up the jist of their conversations.
“I mean, no more searching through all those paper cards,” Martin continued. “And no more practically memorizing where every book in this bloody place is. Just type it in and point them in the right direction.”
When Martin had taken over as branch manager two years ago, she just knew it was going to be the end. He had all these ideas, plans to make the library run better, make everything easier. The world was becoming such an easy place to live, god forbid anyone done any hard work.
The oversized clock on the wall ticked by loudly, taunting her. Lunch was over far too quickly, and Martin the Manager bounded out the reading room with the giddiness of a little boy.
“Oh, Mrs Dawkins, they’ll be here so soon!”
And so they were.
A little after half past two, a beefy man with hair much to long for a chap of his age, presented himself with a clipboard in front of Olives’ desk.
“I have a delivery here of four-“
“Yes, yes, I know.” She cut him off and hastily got up from her desk. She was going to go and find Martin, let him deal with his delivery, but unsurprisingly Martin the Manager was already barrelling down one of the aisles towards them. To her dismay, he had apparently bailed mid-conversation with a confused looking Mr Peters. Instead of sitting back at her desk, Olive went to help the elderly gentleman choose between two Clive Cussler books she knew he had already read. She was still in prime position however, when four very large boxes were wheeled in through the narrow door way and watched as Martin the Manager pointed and babbled excitedly to the delivery men.
For the next hour or so, Olive watched on from behind shelves and surreptitiously peering over the tops of books. She caught snippets of conversations but understood very little.
“Dial-up connection in a matter of minutes.”
“Brand new Intel Processor-“
It was all too quick. By half past four the men were packing away their tools and grinning at their afternoons accomplishments. Martin the Manager was thanking them enthusiastically and walking them to the door.
“Come and see Mrs. Hawkins, you just have try this out.”
Having actively avoided the scene for the past few hours, Olive now had no choice but to face the future.
“We’ll get a sign put up here,” Martin the Manager pointed to the wall, “It’ll say Technology Centre. Won’t that be charming?”
“Yes, charming.” Olive nodded.
“Sit down, sit down. Have a go! Those tech men were showing me around the software.”
Olive had no choice but to take the chair that he was gesturing to. Tentatively, she lifted a finger and pressed down on a letter H, and watched in amazement as it appeared on the screen in front of her. She pressed a K and that popped up as well. She had to admit, it was rather neat.
“Just watch this.” Martin leaned over her and began pressing keys. She watched on the screen as an author’s name was spelled out. “Now, hit that button there.” He was indicating a larger button that had ENTER printed on it. She pressed it and watched the screen change.
“See? There’s a list of all the books this author has written that we have in stock. Isn’t that clever?”
Yes, Olive smiled, it was very clever.