Saturday, September 1, 2012

Some Assembly Required

Their behavior was suspicious.

Even for them.

Cheri and Karyn, senior librarians who normally spend the day secreted away in their offices behind the circulation desk working on acquisitions and library business, were conspicuously underfoot. Every few minutes, one or the other would linger near the circ desk and ask "Has the mail come yet?" only to disappear into the back again when we told them no.

Obviously they were waiting for a package, but a package of what? As far as we knew, no new books were forthcoming that matched both of their tastes. Was it a book about a controversial topic? Had they used library funds to buy something for themselves? Were they using the library as a front for smuggling contraband? The theories went on and on.

Then the UPS van pulled up. “This is it!" said Karyn.

"Oh!” squealed Cheri. “She's here! She’s here!"

“Who?” Benjamin and I asked.

“But why are there so many boxes?” Cheri asked.

“She must be in pieces,” said Karyn.

“Back up the trolley,” I said, thinking, My God, it’s like Se7en all over again… “Who’s in pieces?”

“The mannequin,” said Karyn.

I looked at Cheri, who beamed at me.

"You full on bought a mannequin?" I asked.

"Yup," said Cheri, nodding enthusiastically.

I couldn’t decide if it was crazy or brilliant, so I hugged Cheri the way I hug my mom. "I just love you so much right now," I said.


It’s not that unusual. I’d read blogs and articles about libraries using mannequins as marketing tools, dressing them up for events and such. It almost made perfect sense. Almost.

At the circ desk, Benjamin and I did our best to continue working despite the maniacal laughter from the back. “I think this goes here,” we heard, and “What are you doing? That’s backwards!” We cast sidelong glances at one another, shook our heads, and tried to ignore them.

They made it very difficult.

"What's in this box? Ooh! It's her wig!"

"How luxurious!" Cheri said.

They exclaimed over the cut and color, then requested our opinions as they both tried it on. They looked equally ridiculous in it.

Later, while typing in the data for a new library card, I could feel someone standing behind me. “Yes?” I said, turning to see Karyn.

"Can I offer you a hand?" she said, slyly pulling the mannequin hand out of her pocket.

I laughed until I had to put my head down on the desk.

Benjamin, who was helping a patron check out a tall stack of picture books, didn’t even turn around. Shrugging, Karyn placed the hand on Benjamin's shoulder and left it precariously balanced there. Benjamin spared her only one long-suffering sigh and continued checking out as though nothing was amiss.

After Karyn grew bored and carried the hand away, Benjamin sat muttering to himself. "So, Benjamin, what's it like working at the library?” he asked. “Well, my supervisor just threw a severed mannequin hand at me. Why'd she do that? I don't know. I can tell you the current exchange rate in Greece but I can't tell you what the librarians are thinking when they act the way they do."

I can’t tell you either.


After Cathy, the other senior librarian, whose office is in the children’s section, joined them later, we could hear them all cackling in the director’s office.

On the pretense of getting something off the printer, I checked on them. "What are you doing?"

"Setting up the mannequin," they said innocently.

"In Carol's office?" I asked, though I had visual confirmation that this was so.

"Yes," they said with straight faces.

“Right inside the door where it will surprise her when she comes in?"


I left them to it.

“She needs a fine literary name!” said one.

“Nancy Drew!” said another.

“I liked Trixie Belden better.”

“We should call her Trixie!”

"It's like if the three stooges were ladies," I told Benjamin. "Or like a Lucy and Ethel skit but with three of them."

Benjamin only nodded, possibly still muttering to himself.

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