READ: The story of a girl raised by feral librarians

When the wonderful science fiction writer Ellen Klages (previously) tells a fantastic tale about a shuttered library where seven eternal librarians tend the shelves, it doesn't come out reminiscent of Borges's library, nor Pratchett's — rather, like all of Klages's work, it becomes a story about human affection and destiny.

The seven librarians stayed behind when their grand old library was shut down and replaced with a new, modern building across town, and there they dwelt and worked in the shelves, until a foundling was left upon their doorstep:

This is overdue. Quite a bit, I'm afraid. I apologize. We moved to Topeka when I was very small, and Mother accidentally packed it up with the linens. I have traveled a long way to return it, and I know the fine must be large, but I have no money. As it is a book of fairy tales, I thought payment of a first–born child would be acceptable. I always loved the library. I'm sure she'll be happy there.

With a child in the library, things will never be the same for the seven librarians.

Olive had been the children's librarian since before recorded time, or so it seemed. No one knew how old she was, but she vaguely remembered waving to President Coolidge. She still had all of her marbles, though every one of them was a bit odd and rolled asymmetrically.

She slept on a daybed behind a reference shelf that held My First Encyclopedia and The Wonder Book of Trees, among others. Across the room, the child's first "big–girl bed" was yellow, with decals of a fairy and a horse on the headboard, and a rocket ship at the foot, because they weren't sure about her preferences.

At the beginning of her career, Olive had been an ordinary–sized librarian, but by the time she began the child's lessons, she was not much taller than her toddling charge. Not from osteoporosis or dowager's hump or other old–lady maladies, but because she had tired of stooping over tiny chairs and bending to knee–high shelves. She had been a grown–up for so long that when the library closed she had decided it was time to grow down again, and was finding that much more comfortable.

She had a remarkably cozy lap for a woman her size.

In the House of the Seven Librarians
[Ellen Klages/Uncanny]

(via Metafilter)

(Image: The Leeds Library,
Michael D Beckwith, CC-BY