Not too strangely, based on my personal association with books and the part they have played in my life, I must tell you that my first job after high school was as a typist-clerk in Lansing, at our state library, now known as Library of Michigan. I went to work there after the time of the infamous fire in the Lewis Cass Building that originally housed the library. We were at that time, housed in a warehouse on Saginaw Street, kitty-corner across from Central Fire Station. At the time of my hire, employees were still working on saving all the books they could from the fire damage.
I suspect the library’s eventual name change was due, in part, because we were frequently confused with Michigan State College's library. Yeah, it was still called MSC, or by those superior-minded U of M fans, "Cow College." Frankly, I didn't view that disparaging nickname as insulting; I happened to be very fond of most things agricultural, loved cows and all the foods associated with them, and lived quite near the beautiful, sprawling MSC campus. I even owned a white wool blazer with the green Michigan State College patch on the pocket. Some of my work went to MSC but it was under someone else’s name; I later attended LCC but never MSC. I often cruised the shelves in State’s library on Saturdays, though; who could resist a college library after all?
This afternoon, I recalled a bit of my history from the time I worked at the state library. It involved the very nice gentleman who was in charge of Reader Services during my employment, known to me as simply Mr. Scannell. One day as he walked through the Order Section, he inquired whether anyone would be able to take care of his family’s cat while they went on an extended vacation. Being both book lover and animal lover, and having accommodating roommates, I volunteered, and thus became the cat-keeper while he traveled. The cat’s name was Quinten, and it was a very long-haired, good-sized kitty who was the perfect houseguest.
Last year, by pure serendipity, I discovered Mr. Scannell’s obituary and was very surprised to see how closely our paths had crossed for years after I left the state library to become a nurse. He attended university and lived in areas of New England where I, too, had lived later. Of course, his life was most likely much more complicated than mine, and his professional reputation was a testament to the sort of man that I thought he was.
I’m now writing a new novel set in Boston in that decade when I met Mr. Scannell. I’d like to think that he would have approved the paths I chose after leaving the library. I’ve smiled a lot while putting together this post, thinking too about Quinten, the cat that one of my roommates and I used to take for walks down our street, West Michigan Avenue, where what was once our apartment is now under the parking lot of the beautiful Library of Michigan and Historical Museum.