Some evenings it gets a little slow at the library. There are always a few people checking out movies and using the internet, but we’re tired. We want to close early and go home.
Monday, Creative Librarian was at the desk when a woman came in. She was pacing the floor as though she were worried about something. When she finally approached the desk, she asked to use the phone.
We’re not supposed to let people use the phone. We have a pay phone in the lobby. We use our judgment when it comes to each individual case, though. Some people just can’t afford it, and we all know what a difference a phone call can make.
First, the woman called her therapist. Then she called the homeless shelter to let them know where she was and to arrange care for her young son. Then she called the police.
Creative Librarian couldn’t help overhearing – the woman was talking a little loudly. “No, I’ll sit here and wait for you. Yes, I’ll get in the car when you come to the front of the building. No, I won’t do anything except wait until you get here. Good-bye.”
Creative Librarian asked her, “Are you ok?”
“No,” the woman answered, still agitated, but under control, “I don’t think so.”
“Well,” said Creative Librarian, “would you mind sitting somewhere near the desk, so I can help you if I can?”
The woman smiled gently. “I’ll do that. I’ll just go over to those chairs.”
The woman sat, unable to keep still, and then approached the desk again. “I just wanted to let you know, I’m going outside to smoke this cigarette.”
Creative Librarian hesitated. “Ok….will you stand near the door? I want to know that you’re all right.”
The woman smiled again. “Yes,” she said. “I will.”
Very soon, a police car pulled up in front of the library. The woman got in.
“I was going to the river tonight,” the woman had told Creative Librarian, “and I can’t swim.” Creative Librarian heard her tell her therapist, “I want to kill myself.”
Creative Librarian and I agreed: it’s not so bad to stay open late. Not if it can save someone’s life.
And yes - you can use the phone.