The Small-Town Librarian Who Has to Keep Reordering 50 Shades of Grey

Photo: JasnaXX/Getty Images

Librarian Assistant
Falmouth, Kentucky

I got a degree in textile clothing and merchandising, from the University of Kentucky. Then I had a son, and didn’t want to work 60 to 80 hours a week — no, thank you.

I got an eight-to-five gig and went back to school. I taught special ed, got burned out, and, well — let’s just say I lost my job. It was hard to find work. I volunteered at the Pendleton County Public Library in the fall of 2010. The next thing you know, I got hired when a part-time opening came up the next year. Now I’m full time. We get paid every two weeks, and I deposit $740 and some loose change. That’s about $12 an hour. It’s about half what I used to make. It took a lot of changing and adapting to adjust to that. I do sideline jobs — historical research, I do that, from time to time. I get calls for people to help them, and they’re willing to pay. And up until December, I have worked a second job as well, at Walmart, as a clerk in the clothing department.

My family’s been in Pendleton County since 1790. There’s really not much here. We have a few fast-food places, a couple of dollar stores, a grocery store, and that’s really it. Most people go to Lexington or Georgetown for work. Toyota has a plant at Georgetown. The Greater Cincinnati airport has a lot of opportunities, too.

We have two rivers that come into the town, the main Licking and the south fork of the Licking, and the point is right here in Falmouth. Much of the town’s land is on the floodplain. In 1977, we lost 200 homes after a flood. There were people rescued from the tops of the roofs, from cars that were taking on water, and what have you.

The library was downtown, and after the flood, moved out of town. That was the new building that we moved into four years ago. It took us that long to get there. It’s just a three-mile walk out of town.

It’s a small library. I think we have ten people right now working there, most are part time. We all wear different hats. I check people in and out; I give out new cards. I have ladies who are shut-in and elderly, and I find books for them to read. I help people with computer problems or printer problems. People bring in their Kindle readers, and I show them how to download books.

I am also the genealogy person. Two or three years after I started there, in the old library, genealogy materials had not been cataloged. There were the family books and the local history books. And they were just lumped together in no certain order. People didn’t know how to find things on the shelf, like maps and such.

We have a lot of microfilm. We have a person here who did a lot of research and donated it — the Barton Papers. We have close to 200 rolls of microfilm, of his work, in addition to the usual stuff you find in libraries: census and death records, and what have you.

People would come in and they didn’t know where to begin. So I could see that we weren’t helping those customers like we probably should, because a lot of them came from miles and miles around, they’re not just local people. We get people from California all the way to New York coming back to look at the Barton Papers.

I have ladies who like to read. Some of them are shut-in. They’re not well. And I take books and put them on our bookmobile, which takes books to them. And then I have people who call and say, “Can you pick a couple of books to read, I have no clue what I want to read.” So I go and pick out a couple of books for them.

We’re all women. I think the job probably appeals more to women than it does to men. You have to be a little bit social. You’re talking to people all day long. I don’t see people coming in off the street and telling men their problems. Women are able to kind of go with the flow and talk a little more. We have people from all age groups and all walks of life. They come in and tell us their problems.

It’s a safe place for kids to come after school. You know, it’s a small town. The population’s about 2,400 people — and that may include stray cats [laughs]. One of my jokes about the place. So there’s not a lot here to do, and there’s not a lot of places for them to hang out. A lot of them come to the library. They come to programs. They get on the computer. They meet their friends, whatever.

I’m very attached to my genealogy people. That’s my favorite part of the job. It’s satisfying. My work reinforces the history I’ve known and grown up knowing, because my family has a very strong oral history. One of my family lines was among the first settlers here, so I find a lot of people I’m related to, if I talk to them long enough. It happens all the time. I had two this week.

One gentleman, he asked for directions to a cemetery. I said, “Well, I grew up in that neighborhood, who are you researching? Because everyone who’s buried there is kin to me somehow, so you gotta be kin to me.”

And he said Henry was the name that he was researching. And I said, “Oh, well, I had a grandmother that was a Henry. So how are you related to her?” And I gave him the name of Delilah Henry Asbury. And he said, “Oh, I descend from her brother.” So we had a nice little conversation, and I found out that he’s researching, actually, an aunt of his — the brother’s daughter — because she served in the Civil War as a soldier. And that’s something that I didn’t know.

She was in the Confederate Army. She apparently disguised herself as a man and enlisted. So I did some querying on Google myself when I came home, and there were 150 women confirmed who served in the Civil War. I believe they were all in the Confederacy. She was burning bridges in Nashville, Tennessee, when they caught her. She was found out when she was taken as a prisoner of war. I’m hoping she turns out to be my relative [laughs].

Anything James Patterson writes is checked out a lot. People like true crime. Those books in general get checked out a lot. The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, we ordered multiple copies of that. We just keep ordering, as it gets worn out and battered.

I think I do an okay job. I don’t find it to be as stressful as working in retail. I don’t have any problems with my colleagues. Sometimes, we get a lot of people at the desk at one time, and you’re trying to service them, with good customer service, but still get them out quickly — you don’t want them to have to stand there and wait forever, and I guess if you wanted to let it be stressful, it could be.

When I retire, I have lots of plans. It’s a minimum that I have to work six more years to draw a retirement from the state of Kentucky for the library. I can work longer if I want. I am kind of thinking that I don’t want to — today, I don’t want to; tomorrow, it may be a different story. I’m indecisive, in making up my mind. I will probably work somewhere, doing something, until I’m 67. My family lives to be really, really old, I’m learning with this genealogy business, and I’m counting on getting all those good genes. ‘Cause there’s a whole lot to do between now and the time I’m 100.

Kentucky has gone Republican, over the last few years. The county went Trump. I think it all, in the end, came down to guns and Bible. This is Bible Belt country. I think abortion was a big issue for a lot of people. And a lot of people have this idea that the Democrats are gonna take their guns away, even though that’s really not going to happen. It can’t constitutionally happen.

You can carry concealed in Kentucky, and, yes, you can bring it into the library. I’m sure there are ladies who have them in their purses, and men who have them strapped onto the ankle or whatever.

I try not to think about those ladies. And I try really hard not to make them mad.

The Librarian Who Has to Keep Reordering 50 Shades of Grey