Friday, January 20, 2006

The Mental Librarian

She roams the stacks at night in the old college library. Every night, the same sounds are noted by the janitor: heavy shoes shuffling on worn floors, followed by a book sliding onto a metal shelf. Shuffle. Book. Shuffle. Book.

Sometimes, students see her in a window as they pass through the commons. She seems to be pushing something – a book cart? Rarely, a student sees her just after the library opens. It’s always someone studious, as if the woman’s appearance is a gift to a fellow booklover.

She’s known on campus as the Mental Librarian, and she’s appeared so many times that few doubt her existence. Out loud, at least.

When the sightings began, the library director called the police, who took statements from the six people who had seen her. The descriptions differed wildly except for two features on which everyone agreed: the Mental Librarian had glasses and wore her hair in a bun.

Since that description fit nearly all the librarians working there, the police dropped their investigation and they haven’t paid much attention since. Now and then a freshman sees the Mental Librarian and calls the campus police. The officer sends a squad car, but by then the Mental Librarian, like Elvis, has left the building.

The most complete account of the Mental Librarian comes from two students who, twenty years ago, spent the night on separate floors of the library as part of a fraternity hazing. At various times during the night, both heard the sounds so familiar to the janitor. One of the men saw a shadowy figure with spectacles and a bun approach a door with a sign reading “DO NOT OPEN – ALARM WILL SOUND.” She opened and shut the door three times in succession. Then she laughed and walked away. The other student heard the three alarms. Neither man ever entered the library again.

Over time, speculation over the Mental Librarian’s identity has become a favorite topic at freshman mixers. Many believe she is the ghost of Mrs. Beatrice Laticia Crumbottom, the former head librarian. Mrs. Crumbottom was brutally murdered in the second-floor stairwell by a student whom she “shushed” one too many times. But the murder occurred many years before the Mental Librarian first appeared.

Then there are those who think she’s quite human, and quite alive. These students (mostly majors in Medieval Studies) believe the librarians themselves are behind the specter. When it’s pointed out that the Mental Librarian has been around for forty years, and the oldest librarian has been there for only twenty-two, they posit that reference librarians are part of an ancient society whose members pass treasured information from one generation to the next. But for what purpose?

And the librarians, what do they have to say? If they know the truth about the Mental Librarian, they’re not saying. The Order requires them, after all, to guard their patrons’ secrets.


  1. eerie........

    sidenote: I received an e-mail from Authorhouse confirming shipment of my book to the University Library. Thanks a million.... :)

  2. You are on to a premise for a B-horror movie here--

    I am reminded of the student that Prof. Kingsfield in the Paper Chase drove crazy, so he screams in the dorm at 9 every Sunday night.

  3. I can hear the howling of the vampire book shelvers all the way from Translate-avania!

    That's a great and somewhat spooky library story. I bet she has a ruler tucked into that bun and could whack anyone who gets too close...