What if Hunter S. Thompson had chosen librarianship instead of journalism . . .
We were on the reference desk in a branch on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should take the next phone call . . . . ” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the library was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the desk, which was lurching about five feet up and down. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
Then it was quiet again. My colleague had taken his shirt off and was pouring coffee on his chest, to facilitate the thinking process. “What the hell are you yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the flourescents with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. “Never mind,” I said. “It’s your turn to take the chat sessions.” I hit file-close and aimed the cursor toward the edge of the display. No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
It was almost noon, and we still had more than six hours to go. They would be tough hours. Very soon, I knew, we would both be completely twisted. But there was no going back, and no time to rest. We would have to ride it out.
The scene: A Monday morning early in the year 196 BC, in the collection development area of the Library of Alexandria. The department chief, PERSAEUS, is seated in his cubicle, where he is indexing the latest scrolls acquired from Pergamum. His assistant, a young scholar, ARISTARCHUS, is standing nearby, examining the contents of a cart.
ARISTARCHUS: Wow, I see you've put Aristophanes' "The Banqueters" and "The Babylonians" on the weeding cart here. Do we really want to get rid of those?
PERSAEUS: Have you seen how many scrolls we've got stuffed into the Drama Section? Besides, these aren't his best stuff, and they never check out anymore.
ARISTARCHUS: Sure, but, you know, this IS Aristophanes . . .
PERSAEUS: I've been given directions from the representative of King Ptolemy himself -- Money is tight and the royal treasury isn't going to support warehousing material that isn't used. We need to move in the direction of popular reading and higher use.
ARISTARCHUS: So it's numbers driven?
PERSAEUS: You got it, kid.
ARISTARCHUS (aside): Sorry, Aristophanes!
PERSAEUS: It looks like no one's asked for either of these plays in years. Besides, if we ever get someone here who really wants them, we can always get them on loan from Pergamum.
ARISTARCHUS: A buddy of mine works there. They weeded them last year.
ARISTARCHUS: So what becomes of our copies?
PERSAEUS: We have a contract with the Public Baths. They buy our discards and use them to heat the water over there. Quite a bit of energy in a standard scroll, you know.
ARISTARCHUS: Not sure I would let our patrons know that.
PERSAEUS: That's why we send the wagon in the middle of the night.
ARISTARCHUS: What if someone asks about not having these plays anymore?
PERSAEUS (winking): We could say there had been a fire . . .