A few years ago, a friend told me how her daughter, then 5 or 6, liked to play librarian. Wow. I was amazed. When I was the same age, I liked to play librarian. Alas, I was always alone.

Although I could always harass my friends into playing school, putting on “theatrical productions” and shopping at my pretend store, none of them showed the faintest interest in organizing books.

Maybe this was because I had written my name in all of my parents’ books (without their knowledge) and certainly would not let my friends write theirs.

But it was more likely that they just thought moving books around and pretending to take them out was a stupid way to spend time. That’s OK. We can’t all get rhapsodic about the Dewey Decimal System — or, as is now the fashion, ways to get rid of it. The smell of a new book does not cause everyone to swoon. Who despairs when a patron leaves a wad of gum stuck between the pages of a bestseller that 30 people are waiting to read, and rejoices when a book is returned after being 246 days overdue?

Librarians, of course. I should know. I grew up to be one.

So I was thrilled to hear that Miss L. (as we shall call her) also liked to play librarian. It was a legitimate game after all. I could crush and toss my conviction that I had been a strange child. Someone else in the universe liked to play librarian. Hurrah!

Then I got to work to make a Library Box for Miss L.

Every librarian needs the tools of the trade. While I wasn’t about to outfit her with scissors sharp enough to cut through plastic book covers (and fingers), tape thick and sticky enough to repair broken spines (and, perhaps, remain permanently attached to hair) and glue strong enough to hold loose pages in place (and with a smell that could topple over a small child), I did feel some of the more benign supplies we use would make her library experience more enjoyable.

Luckily, having closed up two libraries in my career, and gone from the card catalog to the “online public access catalog,” I had a selection of used and useless items that I couldn’t bear to throw away. Perhaps this is another librarian trait. I love old, typed catalog cards for books such as “The Ludlow Girls Go to the Seashore,” and have a small collection of them.

Chief among these dubious treasures was a cardboard box that had once held part of the “shelf list.” This was the collection, noted on catalog cards, and placed in the order the books appeared on the shelves, from the 000s to the 900s. In the olden days, the shelf list enabled the librarian to do inventory by matching the card to the book. Or was it the other way around?

Now I would repurpose it as a Library Box. It was in sad shape, but I rescued it with generous applications of colorful duct tape. Then I filled it with items such as old cards, outdated stampers and yellowed date due pockets. I was pleased to find them a good home, and I knew they would be well used. My heart was glad. Another librarian in the making!

A few days ago, my friend called me to say that one of Miss L.’s friends had seen the Library Box and wanted one of her own. Could I help?

Of course. Once, that is, I got over my excitement that there were two children in the world who wanted to play librarian.

I’m not looking to recruit elementary-age students to the field. But I often spend the better part of the day devising ways to keep young people reading right through high school. I search for high-interest books to buy, dream up programs and displays, and, most importantly, help individual students find the right book — the one that will help them realize what a joy it is to read.

How fantastic was it that these two youngsters loved books so much they wanted to organize them and take care of them?

Miss L. has even taken her librarian skills to her second-grade classroom. I use character rubber duckies to illustrate the Dewey Decimal System to middle-school students. For example, a baseball player duck represents the 700s, which include sports. One of the items in the box was a bookmark showing the ducks and their classifications. This inspired Miss L. to assemble her own collection of ducks, and present the Dewey Duckies to her class. I wish I had been there to see it.

She does take her work seriously. Recently, I was working in her school library when Miss L.’s class came in. I was helping to check out books, but didn’t have the sheet of student bar codes the elementary-school librarians scan to open a student’s account.

No problem — I could just type in Miss L.’s name and bring up her record. She watched suspiciously as I did this, and then hesitated as I handed back her book. “You’re supposed to use the sheet,” she said, pointing to the elementary librarian at the other computer terminal.

I explained that I didn’t use bar code sheets in the middle and high school library, so what I had done instead was perfectly fine. But I had to admire her dedication to the rules. After all, librarians, of all people, have to go by the book.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].

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