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Friday, 18 April 2008

Why I Can't Go To the Library Anymore

By Nancy Leitz

When my brother, Bob, (the former pope) came home from the Navy in 1945, he met a very nice young lady from a large Irish family in Philadelphia. Her name was Teresa Glacken but everyone called her Tessie.

I've written quite a bit about Tessie because she was such a character so I am just going to tell you one story that will let you know a little about her because it is so typical of the many things she has done that make her so interesting and so much fun.

We were friends from the first moment we met. She was 19 and I was 17. She was the youngest of eight children and played the part of the spoiled brat all of her life. Anything she wanted to do or say, she did - and that's what made her so special.

She would say the most outrageous things and take everyone by surprise. She was the very first person I ever heard actually SAY the F word and I almost fainted. That was when I was about 19 and I never heard her say that word again. She had used it only once, but she got the desired reaction so it wasn't necessary to say it ever again. She was good-natured and generous and would do anything for anyone and everybody was crazy about her.

The incident that I'm going to write about happened in the mid-1980's. She and Bob were living in West Palm Beach and Tessie, being a great reader, had established herself at the WPB Library.

I suppose they didn't know that years before she had checked out Knock on Any Door from the Lit brothers Department Store Library in Philadelphia and still had not returned the book after 48 years. She said she kept missing all the amnesty days they announced over the years, so she had sent them the money for it. Frankly, I don't know about that! I do know she still had the book proudly displayed on her shelf and she told everyone who noticed it the story and the "date card" showing when it was due back. 5/12/1947.

So, Roy and I rented a small apartment near them for a month one winter and Tessie said the first thing I had to do was go to the library near our apartment and borrow a book.

We drove to the small building in the woods with a dirt parking lot and went in. I began to browse the books and Tessie approached the librarian who they must have gotten from central casting because she was tall and thin and had a skirt to the floor and little glasses and her hair pulled back in a bun.

I heard her say, "No, I'm sorry, but you may not borrow any books unless you are a resident of this county."

Tessie countered with, "But we are responsible people. We would take very good care of your books and return them promptly when due."

The librarian was not impressed so Tessie brought out her big guns. "I know some extremely important people in Palm Beach. (She MAY have known the animal control guy, but there's no guarantee.)

They sparred back and forth for a few more minutes, then Tessie offered to leave a $20.00 deposit for each book. Still, the librarian could not be moved. By this time, Tessie was so frustrated she was gasping for air. I walked over to her and pointed to a table full of books for sale for 50 cents each. She scoffed at the very idea of buying a book in the FREE library. She was pacing back and forth in front of the large print mysteries trying to figure out her next move in this battle of wits she was having with the Librarian.

Then suddenly, she turned and faced the woman and a large tear ran down her cheek. The librarian was captivated and finally said, "All right, I will lend each of you one book. For one week!" Tessie had won and we each selected a book and left the library.

We went to her car and she unlocked it and got in to drive home. Halfway there, I looked in the back seat for the books and they weren't there! "Tessie", I screamed, "Where are the books?"

She brought the car to a screeching halt and said, "Holy Smokes, I put them on the roof while I unlocked the car."

Tessie put the little Mustang into a u-turn that would have put Steve McQueen to shame and screamed back to the library. We arrived just in time to see the librarian outside in the parking area picking up the books and dusting the dirt off of them. She barely glanced at us as she put her precious books under her arm and went back inside.

Have you ever done anything so stupid and uncaring that no apology or explanation was enough? We were mortified and had no idea what to do to make it up to the librarian who had put her faith in a couple of numbskulls.

I told Tessie to wait in the car and I went in and faced the woman. The best I could do was say "I'm very sorry" as I handed her back the two temporary library cards. I knew then that they were worthless...

[If you would like to contribute to The Elder Storytelling Place, the guidelines are here. We would all be pleased to read your stories.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Nancy I hope the self imposed 'ban'was for only one Library.

Loved the story.

At least they weren't overdue. No matter what your intentions; sometimes it's just not in the cards.

Very funny story.


I knew I would love your story, if only by the title alone.
I was banned from my high school library because I could not control my laughter. Friends would quietly, of course, say funny things, and I would lose it. (oh the good old days) Mr. Minkle would not accept my apologies, try as I might. So for the remainder of my school years, I was forced to travel by bus to use the library downtown.
I’m a big fan of public libraries. Now when I stroll between the aisles in search of a book and hear people talking above a whisper, and hear someone’s cell phone ring, (despite the "no cell phone use" signs), I can’t even begin to imagine what poor Mr. Minkle would do.

Very funny story, Nancy. I loved it. I think Tessie owed you an apology for submitting you to such an embarrassing experience.

Darlene: I think Tessie did apologize in her own "Spoiled brat" way. You know, looking down at her feet and pretending she isn't smiling.

Claire Jean: I enjoyed reading about poor Mr. Minkle. Don't you always wish you could somehow meet up with your old teachers and converse with them on an equal basis? He would probably have you in stitches with some of his stories about the school library.

Remember the Seinfeld episode when George had the "Tropic of Cancer" from his school library? He had borrowed it in the 7th grade and now he was almost 40 years old and he still had that book. They had to send Mr. Bookman,the library detective,around.

I wonder what Mr. Dinkle would think of that...

Rich: You are right! That was the only thing Tessie and I had going for us in this whole unfortunate incident. The books weren't overdue!

Grannymar: Yes, there are other libraries that I can go to, but every time I see that little library when I am in Florida, I really wish I could go in.

Do you think it's safe now after all these years?

Oh Nancy, I can imagine how hard it was for you to walk into that library to apologize....shows what kind of character you had. With all of Tessie's dramatics it was just too late to say anything else...even if it was an honest mistake.

Loved this story....

Hi Nancy,
The library is such a special place for me. Ours was closed for awhile last year. I cried when it closed and cried again when it opened. I can imagine your chagrin when you turned in those cards!


Nancy, I am a seasonal resident of Palm Beach County and am happy to report there is now a first-class country library system that I'm sure would be more tolerant of your sister-in-law. And thanks for a great story.

Joy: How right you are. Tessie could really chew up the scenery when she wanted to.That's why I didn't want her to go in and apologize. She might have made it worse than it was with her dramatic apology.

Sharry: I am so happy that your library reopened. I would be lost without mine and can understand why you cried when yours closed.Since the Tessie episode, I always make it a rule to go into any library by myself.

Hi Mort,

Yes, this was the Tequesta Library many years ago. Now both Palm Beach and Martin counties have wonderful library systems. First Class.

They are still arguing about whether or not to tear down the West Palm Beach Library on Flagler. I will miss it if they do, but the view will be spectacular without that big building.

Thanks to all who read and commented on my story.

Nancy, I am proud of you for going back in the library. I am not sure I could have.....LOL. What a great story!

Thanks, Judy. It wasn't easy but it was the right thing to do.

You would have gone in,too! I know you.

A library in the woods, with a long thin librarian in a full length skirt... it sounds like something out of the Gothic era. Great story. I love Claire Jean's Mr. Minkle.

At age 64&6/12th I stroll down "memory lane" quite a bit and I remember my Mommy taking me to the library at age 4 and Miss Lahane, the librarian. Although I am a slow reader having to read every word, I so love to read and keep a notebook of "all" the books I have read. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were my favorite as I progressed. The library is a wonderful place and I see my grandchildren experiencing that now and it delights me.


You are so right. When I first saw that librarian all I could think was:

"It was a dark and stormy night at Greystone Manor".....


If you liked Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights you would have LOVED this librarian. She was a page out of either book.

Don't you love it the first time you take one of your grandchildren to the library? Just the look on their faces when they see all those BOOKS!

And when they find out that they can borrow a few to take home and read they are library fans for life...


This was such a great story because it had such an unexpected twist. What a huge helping of humble pie. Sounds like something that would have happened to me and my sister. Loved it!

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