I Was the Library Ghost

Elisa Shoenberger


Elisa Shoenberger has been building a library since she was 13. She loves writing about all aspects of books from author interviews, antiquarian books, archives, and everything in between. She also writes regularly for Murder & Mayhem and Library Journal. She's also written articles for Huffington Post, Boston Globe, WIRED, Slate, and many other publications. When she's not writing about reading, she's reading and adventuring to find cool new art. She also plays alto saxophone and occasionally stiltwalks. Find out more on her website or follow her on Twitter @vogontroubadour.

Occasionally, my friends and I joke about being ghosts. What places would we haunt? Unsurprisingly as a Rioter, the answer is simple: the library. However, as I say this, I remember that I was in fact a living library ghost. I haunted my middle school library.

Like most middle schoolers, I was a bit lost. I wasn’t sure who I was or who I wanted to be. On top of that, there were bullies, friend troubles, and terrifying teachers. Middle school isn’t exactly the best time for most people.

But there was our school library. It wasn’t huge, but it had stacks filled with books of all subjects. There were several tables and chairs for reading and contemplation. And endless quiet. Even for a middle/upper school.

I probably went there everyday. Usually, I would be checking out yet another book to devour and read under the covers at night when I was supposed to be reading. But sometimes I just liked to wander the stacks and see what treasures the shelves held.

I got to know the librarians, who were marvelous. They were some of the most thoughtful of all my teachers at my school. They told me library secrets that only impressed me with how considerate of students that went there. (I could tell you but that would ruin their secret). We’d talk about books and I was always eager to take their suggestions.

They called me the library ghost. They first decided to teach me how to check out my own books. All I had to do was find myself in the system, scan them, and then put stickers to turn off the sensors. I was so proud of this ability. I could even check out books for my friends!

My First Job

But then the librarians had an interesting offer for me. Would I be interested in working there? The pay wasn’t great, basically minimum wage. They needed someone to shelve the books. After a brief consultation with my parents, we decided that I could work no more than a few hours a week. So I signed on.

It was perfect first job for me.  I got to set my own hours depending on my schedule. I was a quick study for the shelving since I could process the numbers and letters quickly and able to shelve the books. Most importantly, I would get to handle books from all the sections of the library, getting to know the Dewey decimal system even better.

It was a quiet and contemplative time for me. Every day, I pushed a big metal cart that was filled with books of all shapes and sizes up and down the library. I learned how the numbers corresponded with subjects and how  the art books were oversized and on a different level. Also I learned that fiction was shelved so differently in the Dewey decimal system than the rest of the subjects.

I only worked in the library for my 6th year. Things got too busy with schoolwork and the sports teams I was on. So it just petered out. But I’ll never forget those days roaming through the library, hungrily exploring the books.

Post-Middle School

My connection with the library never ended, however. I still took time to talk with the librarians about reading and life in general. At the end of my senior year, they created an award for me, which is still one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.

I still think fondly of my middle and upper school library. It’s been in awhile since I’ve visited which means it’s time to go back.

I just hope that some other lost student has find a home there, drifting through the stacks, eager to grasp all the books.

And yeah, I’d totally consider haunting that library should I get the chance as a real ghost.

Want more about Libraries? Check out this post about 50 of Our Favorite Library Quotations or this Love Letter to the library hold system!  Also check this amazing article about fierce librarians in fiction.