The engineer and the librarian

27.11.2020 23:01

An engineer walks into a library and steps to the reference desk. "Good morning, sir. How may I help you today?" asks the friendly librarian. "I'm an engineer. I'm looking for some references on the types of bridge constructions. Could you find something for me please?" he says. "Of course sir, I know exactly what you are looking for. It will be just a moment."

True to his word, the librarian quickly returns with a stack of books. "Will you be taking these to the study room or checking them out sir?" The engineer picks the top book from the stack in surprise and shows it to the librarian. "This is a children's picture book. Don't you think I'm a bit too old for this?" The librarian isn't thrown off by the question. "It has large letters and is very easy to read. Even many middle-aged readers find large print books more pleasant to read" he answers. "That's very considerate of you, but thankfully my vision is fine so far." says the engineer. "I'm not sure you understand what I'm looking for. How does this even relate to bridges?" The librarian takes the book and opens it. There's a drawing of a family of ducks crossing a bridge over a stream. "See, it's right here on the first page? The topic you were looking for. Is there anything else you need?"

The engineer is confused for a moment, but decides to drop the matter. He puts the picture book aside and takes the next one from the stack. It's a pocket dictionary. "I'm not sure how this one will help me either." asks the engineer. The helpful librarian has an answer at hand "Compared to the other books I found this one easily fits in your pocket. You can carry it around and read it on the go. I find many people like to read on the bus for instance." He opens the dictionary and shows it to the engineer. "You will find the definition of bridge under "B" right here."

"Ah, I think I see where the problem is. I'm more interested in books that have more content specifically about bridges. Format isn't that important." says the engineer. "I understand, sir. I'm sure the next book I found for you is the right one." answers the librarian and hands him another book from his stack. The glossy hardback cover promises a suspenseful crime novel. "This looks like fiction". "Indeed it is sir. This is one of our most popular books and from a best selling author. I'm sure you'll enjoy reading it." the ever friendly librarian replies. "Well, yes. But I want to learn about bridges you see, not read murder mysteries." says the engineer. The librarian looks at him in confusion "I'm not seeing the problem here sir. Most of the story revolves around a murder on the Brooklyn bridge. That is the topic you asked me for, isn't it? Most people that check out this book are happy with it".

The engineer rubs his forehead in frustration. "Maybe you're right. I wasn't clear enough that I was looking for non-fiction" he says to the librarian. "Is that a newspaper you are holding now?" "Indeed it is sir. It's from our selection of periodicals. Compared to these other texts that were all published at least several months ago this one is very fresh, just printed and delivered to us this morning. There's a news article on a local bridge renovation project on the third page I'm sure you'll find informative. It's always good to keep up-to-date on the topic of interest, don't you think?"

"Not really what I was looking for." says the engineer. "It's so unfortunate that you removed the dedicated engineering section you had here" he adds and points to the now empty desk down the hall way. The librarian looks at him and explains. "Not at all sir. We find that most people who visit our library find it less confusing if all kinds of literature are available from one desk." The engineer thinks about it for a second. "Did you bring any books from the engineering section in that stack?". The librarian smiles back. "Sorry sir, we are a modern library and no longer shelve books based on classification." He hands him another book. "However I believe this one is indeed on an engineering topic". The engineer sighs after taking one look and hands it back "This is a book on ship building. I'm interested in bridges." The librarian remains undeterred "Ah yes, but I'm sure you'll find this book useful if you take a second look. If you want to cross a body of water, a ship will do it as well as a bridge."

They go through the rest of the stack of books without any success. The engineer stresses that he is only interested in bridges and asks the librarian to fetch him another stack of books. And another. Ever more random books get picked up by the librarian and they get no closer to the topic the engineer was interested in. At last, the engineer gives up. He thanks the librarian for his help, but silently vows not go visit this library again. He tries his luck in the other library in town. The second librarian is a bit less friendly and less forthcoming with his explanations of why he thinks the books he found were something the engineer would like. He also turns out to be no more capable of finding a useful book on the topic than his colleague. Running out of options, the engineer returns home, disappointed that he has not found any literature to help him work on his problem.

Later that week he borrows a book from a friend of a friend. The book has a worn out cover and the paper is yellow at the edges. It has been published 50 years ago. The print is small and sometimes uneven. Back-and-white figures look like they have been drawn by hand. The text is dry and sometimes hard to understand. But on page 218 it has a chapter that helps him solve the problem he has been working on.

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I love this very relatable sad story and its accompanying picture. Would love to read more of your stories.