Excerpt from The Explorers Guild Essential Handbook: Librarian’s Edition

Rebecca Buchanan

Excerpt from The Explorers Guild Essential Handbook: Librarian’s Edition

[Subsection I: 1-9 “Appropriate Attire and Supplies”]

 

Apprentice librarians should take
note and begin gathering all of
the required materials now.
Junior librarians should have their
bags out-fitted already and should
be prepared to present them upon
request for inspection by any
senior librarian. Of foremost
importance is your walking staff. It
 
should be of sturdy hardwood with a
good grip. Oak and ash are most common.
A branch of the Story Tree, freely
offered, is best, though exceedingly
rare (newly-leafed books will find comfort
in its presence, while fully-blossomed
books will know you for what you are: a
librarian). Do not despair if
the Story Tree does not bestow a
 
branch upon you; your oak or ash staff
will still serve you well. Next, your bag. Silk,
cotton, leather, or dragon scale is
best. It must be flame-resistant and
waterproof, with pockets of varied
sizes and infinite depths. Name your
bag. Do not reuse a name, for if
you do so you will carry the weight
of that name’s story, as well. Third, glue
 
(pH neutral), bookbinder’s needles,
thread (unbleached linen or long-staple
cotton), pencils (number two), a quill
(goose or swan), a sharpener, a small
clever knife, and an ever-full pot
of ink. Name the quill. Do not name the
clever knife. Repair any damage
to a text promptly; a lone fading
letter could transform a lightless world
 
to a nightless world, a cracked cover
could allow an alien horde to
run amok, and a broken spine could
mean the loss of whole literary
civilizations. Fourth, sturdy but
comfortable boots, thick socks, and spare
laces. These are indispensable
for ascending lofty ivory
towers, scaling the slopes of burning
 
mountains, and scouting the wilds of
lost libraries. Formal evening
wear and dancing shoes are a must when
attending midnight balls. Neither is
required for moonlit revels in
ancient forests. Fifth, binoculars,
crucial when surveying the vast tracts
of both poppy-polluted fields and
worm-infested deserts alike. Sixth,
 
a net for trapping lost and feral
books. Some lost tomes want only to be
remembered and will return, content,
when you call them by title; others,
willfully forgotten, are bitter
and full of rage. Beware savage books,
the utterly untamable texts.
They bite. Treat the wound promptly or you
will become trapped within its wild,
 
lunatic pages. Seventh, a rope,
essential for a hasty descent
from lofty ivory towers and
down the slopes of burning mountains, and
for locking lost libraries until
they can be properly cataloged.
Eighth, an umbrella; flame-resistant
is good; named is better; gifted by
 
a retiring librarian
is best. Beware, though: umbrellas hold
strong opinions on everything. Ninth
and last, catalog cards. You are a
librarian. Banned or beloved, all
books are yours to find, catalog, and
protect from ignorance, neglect, and
fear. Take up your staff and your bag. Go.
Your cards will not remain blank for long.

 ______________

Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. She has been previously published or has work forthcoming in Abyss & Apex, Corvid Queen, Eye to the Telescope, Gingerbread House, Silver Blade, and Star*Line, among others.

Backstory: “Excerpt from The Explorers Guild” began as a simple list: what tools are necessary for a librarian to do their job? It didn’t take long for the poem to assume a speculative, fantastical bent as I began to imagine what sort of landscapes these librarians would have to traverse to salvage and collect books. As I did that, though, a second poem began to worm its way into the narrative. The poem keeps getting longer and more convoluted. It took multiple re-writes (and feedback from beta readers) to finally get the second poem teased back out again, and for the whole, original poem to appear; an arduous, but rewarding process.

Editor’s Notes: Note the symmetry of nine: a 9-word title, enneasyllabic lines, nonnet verses, and nine stanzas, in addition to the reference to nine in the poem.

Image credit: Books everywhere abstract (libreshot), woman leaping with umbrella (GetDrawings), and butterfly net (wikia)

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