MAD Librarian

MAD Librarian

by Michael Guillebeau

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Overview

MAD Librarian by Michael Guillebeau

When the city cuts off funding for her library, Serenity Hammer embezzles from a neglected city fund to keep her library alive. The fund turns out to be a huge secret fund channeling all corruption and political funds for the state. Now Serenity has the money to build the library of her dreams--if she can spend it fast and stay alive.

Half of all income will go to madlibrarian.org to provide small grants to librarians trying to do something innovative for their communities using their libraries.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780997205527
Publisher: Michael Guillebeau
Publication date: 11/16/2017
Pages: 410
Sales rank: 659,099
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Michael Guillebeau is the author of three published mystery novels. His short work has appeared in five anthologies and over twenty-five magazines, including three in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

little pricks

SERENITY TRIED.

She tried to be a model librarian: professional, polite and as gentle-spoken on the outside as she could possibly be.

Her library was America at its best. In its public spaces, the MAD — as the librarians called the Maddington Public Library, from the abbreviation stamped on its books — was the eminently normal center of an eminently normal small Southern city. No matter what else was going on in the city outside: failing schools, drugs in the street, too few good jobs, teen-aged boys wearing their pants too low and homeless men with no pants at all — the city fathers expected Head Librarian Serenity Hammer to keep the MAD a calm oasis of normalcy as proof that the city fathers themselves were actually doing their jobs. And, they expected her to do that whether they did anything themselves or even supplied the library with actual support.

Serenity tried to live up to that, too.

That was why on a hot August morning, she was locked alone in a children's reading room with a coffee cup of rum for fortitude, a rat named Faulkner for company, a copy of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird for guidance, and a highly illegal choice before her.

Serenity Hammer was a librarian. And Serenity was mad.

*
TWO DAYS BEFORE she wrestled with moral dilemma, Serenity threw open the library's glass doors on a hot Wednesday morning in August. She smiled as patrons flowed past on their way to her books.

She picked up a handful of books from the "to be shelved" cart and turned to the stacks. She ran her finger along the spine of one, inhaled the paper-and-ink smell, and smiled again.

Someone screamed, "Damned stupid computers." She put the books back on the cart.

Maybe later.

She then walked up to a worn-out older woman who was slapping a worn-out library computer like it had stole from her. Serenity took the woman's hands away from the computer and held them.

"I knowed this was a bad idea," the woman said. "I told my councilman I needed a job and he said they had to close the employment office and he told me to go to the library. But your damned computer just tells me what books you got here. Don't want a book; want a job."

The woman tried to pull her hands away but Serenity held on. The woman's jaw was still jutting out but her eyes were full of fear and shame.

Serenity put the woman's hands in her lap and pulled up a chair. "Then let's find you a job. What can you do?"

"Not a goddamned thing. Forty years looking after my husband and he died. Now I don't know what to do and they ain't nobody to ask that won't charge more money than I got and I just feel like everybody's letting me get torn to pieces."

"So, what have you been doing in those forty years?"

"Cooking and cleaning and raising kids and —"

"There. Know much about baking?"

"Well, of course. Who do you think made all them cupcakes the kids took to school?"

"Good." The woman slid over and Serenity brought up a web page.

"There's a bakery out on Segers Road. They specialize in making treats for people who have special dietary needs. They were in here yesterday looking for a book on hiring folks."

The woman shook her finger at the screen. "They better be careful. My husband Christopher was a diabetic. There's some stuff you got to know if you're cooking for diabetics."

Serenity touched her on the shoulder. "You're just what they need. But you'll need a resume." Serenity slid back and turned the keyboard to the woman. "You type, and I'll help you."

A few minutes later, a warm sheet of paper slid out of the printer, and Serenity handed it to the woman. "Take that to Stacey out at Liberated Specialty Foods, see if you can help each other."

The woman's tears were gone, "What would we do if the library wasn't here?"

Serenity said, "My library will always —"

A blue-haired woman grabbed her elbow.

"This thing ain't got nothing in it."

She shoved a book in Serenity's hands and Serenity smiled. The woman was the wife of the Church of Christ's choir director. She had joined the Romance Book Club so she could condemn immorality. Flipping through the pages, Serenity handed the book back and pointed to the middle of a page. "Here."

The choir director's wife bobbed her head up and down like a nervous bird, studying the page and popping up to make sure no one saw her. She raised her head one last time with her mouth open.

"Praise Jesus. This is terrible."

Anything to keep them coming in.

Serenity nodded and headed for her office door. A twenty-something woman with books clutched to her chest and a librarian's badge blocked her path.

Fine. She didn't want to face what was waiting behind that door anyway.

"Ms. Hammer, he's back."

"Who?"

Amanda Doom pulled one hand from under her books and slowly raised her index finger until it was straight up. "Do you want me to get security?"

Serenity looked over at the high school boy who had volunteered to wear the red "Security" tee shirt today.

"No."

"I can call the police."

"Take them a half-hour to get here," Serenity said. "Besides, he's cousin to the wife of the district attorney. We'll just wind up in a long discussion about his constitutional rights, again. No, we need to end this once and for all. We're a library. Our power is books."

She pulled out the biggest atlas she could carry. "Keep his attention so he won't see me coming."

Serenity weaved through the stacks until she heard two teen-aged girls giggling.

"Smaller than I thought it would be," said one. More giggles.

Serenity peeked through a gap in the books and saw the back of a 1940's style trench coat. She eased her way around behind him and stepped into his aisle.

Doom was standing in front of the man as requested, looking shocked, but now she smiled at Serenity and the surprise was gone. The trench coat spun toward her. Move fast. She opened the atlas and took one giant step forward. The opening of the trench coat rotated into view followed by the man's grinning face and his ... pride.

Serenity slammed the heavy book shut on the man with a vengeance. He jumped and screamed and she yanked the book away with a nasty jerk.

He fell back against the stacks and put his hands over himself. "My rights."

She held the book up in both hands like Moses handing down the commandments. "Freedom of the press trumps freedom of expression." Shook it at him. "By. The. Book."

She shoved him aside.

"Come back again, Cy, and I'm going for the unabridged dictionary." The teenaged girls giggled at "dictionary." She held the book out to Doom and the girl took it like she was accepting a dead rat.

"Shelve this, please." Serenity looked back at Cy and said, "I'm tired of wasting my big books on you little pricks."

CHAPTER 2

little cash

I NEED ARMOR.

Serenity looked at her office door and knew that the real battle lay inside, but she didn't have the heart to face it yet.

So, she called in support.

She picked up a book at random from the shelving cart, glanced at the spine (Paula Brackston's The Midnight Witch), and headed into the stacks.

Other people have horoscopes and morning prayers to predict their future. Librarians have books. Shelves and shelves of books. This was the tiny part of her day that she fought for. Moments with the smell and look and touch of thousands of books, walking among them, imagining a child reading a book and learning what it was like to be a man, an old woman reading another book and feeling the wonder of being a child again. Pride and Prejudice, Catcher in the Rye, The Jungle — books that had changed her life, and the world's. She took a deep breath and inhaled as much of the dust of paper and ink as she could and wished she could disappear into the two-dimensional world forever.

Carl Sagan said we are all made of stardust; she was made of book dust. And, like every day, she would take her omen for the day from the book dust. She slid The Midnight Witch into its home and looked at the next book on the right to see an omen of what the day would bring. The book was Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.

That can't be right.

She studied the shelf and found a reprieve. Someone had carelessly shelved Something Wicked This Way Comes ahead of The Illustrated Man. She swapped the books.

Better.

"An illuminating day ahead," she said to the books. Encouraged by the random promise of her books, she went into her office to face all the bills, paperwork and accounting books it took to keep her books alive one more day. She sat down at her desk, just her alone against the world.

Almost. Something scampered through the stack of books on her work table. She jumped and stared at a small, beady pair of rat eyes that were staring back at her. The rat waddled out from the pile, a tiny ball of fur afeared of neither God nor man. He stood up on his hind legs and studied her. They both stared, waiting for the other to run away. Neither ran.

"Hope you've got your library card," said Serenity, "'cause I sure as hell don't have money to pay an exterminator."

The rat didn't seem impressed. She studied him and tried to find some meaning here.

"Karma. I'm going to be kind to you and share my office, and the universe will be kind to my library." She looked back at the rat. "You can stay, but you'd better deliver."

She flopped down at her desk and picked up a half-empty cup of cold coffee from the top of a stack of paperwork. Then she reached into the left-side drawer and pulled out an almost-full bottle of Myers's rum that she had taken off a gaggle of teenagers who were drinking in the stacks. She looked at the clock. Ten a.m.

When she acquired the rum, her rule had been one taste at the end of the day. Then she decided to put her drinking in God's hands and only drink after he had handed her the first crazy crisis of the day. Cy and his itty-bitty problem qualified.

Who am I to defy the Almighty?

She gulped the cold coffee to get rid of it, made a face, poured the rum, had the first taste, and made a better face. Then she thought about it and poured a little in a bottle cap and put it as close to the rat as she could without scaring him and his good karma away.

She put the bottle back and studied the stacks of books, unpaid invoices, and paperwork that overflowed her office. She fired up her ancient computer and brought up the library's accounting program. She had enough cash on hand to maybe buy a free Jehovah's Witness handout, and no more money coming in anytime soon. She swiveled to the stack of bills and picked up the top one. It was from the library's internet provider. Overdue. She picked up the phone and dialed.

"Janice?" she said. "Tell me you've got some good karma for me there."

There was a long, awkward pause. "I hope this is about lunch, Serenity. I'd love to do lunch with you. But if this is about the library's bill, I can't do anything about that. Today is turn off day for the library. Four o'clock, and you know it."

Serenity studied the rat, and the broken shelf on the wall behind him. "Janice, we're the library, for Christ's sake. We can make do without a lot, but we can't function without internet. The day we lose our internet is the day we close our doors."

"And internet providers can't function without money. Serenity, don't do this to me. Look, why don't you put out a collection jar, ask for donations?"

"If you'll accept whatever I collect today as partial payment, I'll bring the money to you personally."

Janice paused. "No, sorry. I just looked at the account. You owe a lot more than any collection or donor can come up with. And my boss is insisting on full payment this time." She sighed. "Serenity, you know I support the library, but I've got a boss, just like you do. I've got to give him something. Now."

"C'mon, Janice. You know that's not fair, we're the library. I know for a fact that you let TLA Aerospace slide a lot longer."

"Yeah. And while TLA didn't have enough money to pay their bills, they still found money to contribute to every local politician — and get a tax credit for it to boot. And their president plays golf with my boss. They got connections. You don't."

Serenity looked at a set of dog-eared blueprints pinned to the wall, starting to yellow. "Yeah. Been told."

There was silence, then Janice said, "Have you tried short skirts and push-up bras?"

"Only on Joe. How long have we got, really?"

Long silence. "Don't do this to me. Four o'clock. My boss will be knocking on my door at four-fifteen for confirmation that I've cut you off."

Serenity took a deep breath. "But he would rather have money. What if I could promise you that the bill will be paid in full by Friday?" There was a long pause. "I'd laugh at anybody else who said that, Serenity. But you and Joe are the only people left in town famous for being absolutely honest. If I guarantee my boss that payment is coming, then my ass is on the line. And yours. If you don't come through, I'll be in trouble and nobody will let the library slide on anything ever again––and the library always needs to slide on almost everything. You are absolutely, positively sure you can do this?" Serenity looked at the screen and saw the string of zeroes that represented her projected income. Then she looked at the rat, who was exploring his rum. He looked up at her and she took his head bob as encouragement. Maybe karma really could work by Friday. She downed the rest of the rum.

"I absolutely, positively promise."

She didn't feel illuminated.

CHAPTER 3

little women

TWO SKINNY WOMEN DRIFTED into Serenity's office, just as they did every day at eleven o'clock.

Doom — nobody called her Amanda with a last name like that — was a model-thin young black woman with coffee-and-cream skin, and a taste for tight superhero t-shirts and tighter jeans. Joy Quexnt — nobody called her Quexnt with a last name like that — was as old as Doom was young, and skinny even compared to Doom. She peeled off a white oxford shirt. The Grateful Dead tank top underneath showed her skeletal white arms covered with blue tattoos.

"Remember," Serenity said. "Keep the shirt on out on the floor. Our city council doesn't like tattoos."

Joy gave her a terse nod. Doom tried to sit on the edge of a crooked wooden chair that was in the corner by the door. The chair cracked and settled half way down and Doom jumped and balanced half on the chair and half in the air. Joy ignored this and slumped into the one functional visitor's chair and studied a fresh patch of blue ink on one of her skinny arms.

"This place is a dump," she said. "Broke chairs, broke toilets, a headless tin man in the playground from where kids were throwing rocks at him. And slow Wi-Fi." Her tattoo seemed to pass some test and she dropped her arm into her lap, right next to her other white-skinned blue-tattooed snake of an arm.

Serenity watched Doom's chair to see if it was done adjusting itself. Satisfied that it was as stable as anything else in the room, she sat relaxed in her chair and sipped her Myers's. "What it is, is the best we can do with what we've got. This city needs us and our books, whether it knows it or not. Until the city figures that out, we've got to keep the public areas working as best we can. That includes rotating the brokendown furniture from the public spaces into the offices and being careful how we sit."

The rat scampered out from his home in the books, took a long leap onto Serenity's desk, climbed up on her coffee cup, and took an even longer whiz there. All three of the humans stared at the desk, as horrified as the rat was unconcerned.

The big, brown-and-gray-and-dirt colored Alabama Roof Rat (Rattus Alexandrinus Geoffroy — you could find his picture in 598.097, Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America, on Shelf 37) stared back at them and seemed to grin.

Doom snatched a book from the nearest stack and hurled herself straight up in the air, the book poised over her head like a sword of vengeance from the graphic novels she lived for. She screamed at the top of her arc then crashed down to smash the rat and the cup. Brown liquid, rat pee, and pottery shards exploded like a small mushroom cloud and settled all over the messy stacks of papers, cards, books, CDs, pink message forms, invoices, yellow post-its and leftover food on Serenity's desk. In the end, the rat lay motionless on his back with his feet sticking up in the air.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Mad Librarian"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Michael Guillebeau.
Excerpted by permission of Madison Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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MAD Librarian 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
dibbylodd More than 1 year ago
What an amazing book! All lovers of books and libraries should check this out. This is a totally believable (well, almost) story of a super dedicated librarian taking on "city hall" (and drug lords!) for the sake of her town and her vision of what a library can and should be. Too bad she's married to a very kind, but law abiding police officer.
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
Serenity is determined to keep her library afloat. She goes about this is in unconventional ways. With vodka in her cup and the help of the library's mascot....a rat...yes a rat, she proceeds to do a lot more than she ever dreamed possible.
Quirky and with wonderful play on words, the author takes the reader on a trip through small town politics with many southern treasures. I enjoyed the setting and all the odd characters. I live in a small southern town and I think half the characters in this book live down the road from me. I could relate to all the politics and the great lengths Serenity must go through to get the library of her dreams.
The story does bog down in the middle. But because of the funny phrases, quips and adorable characters, it is an enjoyable read to the end! 
I received this novel from the author for a honest review.
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
Serenity is determined to keep her library afloat. She goes about this is in unconventional ways. With vodka in her cup and the help of the library's mascot....a rat...yes a rat, she proceeds to do a lot more than she ever dreamed possible.
Quirky and with wonderful play on words, the author takes the reader on a trip through small town politics with many southern treasures. I enjoyed the setting and all the odd characters. I live in a small southern town and I think half the characters in this book live down the road from me. I could relate to all the politics and the great lengths Serenity must go through to get the library of her dreams.
The story does bog down in the middle. But because of the funny phrases, quips and adorable characters, it is an enjoyable read to the end! 
I received this novel from the author for a honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MAD Librarian is a madcap adventure of a book where the librarians have all the answers. This book started a little slow for me, but picked up and kept me guessing what they could come up with next at the MAD library. I was given this book in exchange for a review.
dragonKath More than 1 year ago
The Best Books are Robbers. They steal the time I should use on shoveling dust off furniture and my family, and force me to read page after page, chapter after chapter as fast as possible and in a closet where no one can find me to interrupt. MAD Librarian is one of the best of those Robber Books. I was captured by the unique and eccentric group of heroes: Serenity- librarian on a mission, Doom, Joy, Joe, and the mysterious Faulkner (just a rat?). They fight villains that I thought I had figured out for the existence of the city library as the city center serving not just readers but working mothers needing free daycare, job hunters, the homeless, and so much more. BUT I read on. I didn't have it right. I read on, and another twist! Big Dreams come with BIG ENEMIES!