When I think of the traditional librarian, the kind of lady that walked around with a ruler in her hand and eye glasses at the tip of her nose, I think of Esther Rodriguez. She was that kind of librarian.
My dear friend Mrs. Rodriguez passed away this week. She was everything that I thought of in an educator of yesteryear. She had passion and a temper. She had purpose and a reason for being who she was. And for those that really knew her, she has a great smile and a love for life.
When I was a freshman at Douglas High School, I was lucky enough to get a job as a student worker for the library. I love libraries, especially the old ones. I love the smell of old books, and the cracking sound of new books when they haven’t been opened all the way.
I love the creak of old wooden floors, and the thousands of little cards you run your fingers across when trying to find a title in the card catalog. I like to make my way through the sections of the library, with books stacked up taller than I could reach. I like to find the book and think about what I’m about to learn.
I like it when the librarian goes to the last page, takes out the card, and stamps it with a return date. I like signing the little card, letting her know that I’m the guy that’s going to read it and take care of it for the next two weeks.
At least I used to like those things when we used to have to do them in libraries. Now we open a computer screen, click, and have our books.
Mrs. Rodriguez was a dominating force in our library lives. She was tall and thin, and she always wore those long denim skirts. On many occasions I do remember her walking around with a ruler in hand, and when she really wanted to tell you something, she looked down at you, with a pair of prescription glasses that barely hung on to the end of her pointy nose. It could be intimidating.
A friend reminded me that she kicked him out of the library his freshman year, but that he deserved it. Another friend told me that he used to tell him to get a life — a library life!
Thanks to Mrs. Rodriguez, I did have that library life. She inspired me to want to go into library sciences which I initially majored in before finding other passions.
At the end of the 1990s, the library world was changing and she was getting ready to retire. I remember when we both learned of email and we helped each other sign-in to our Hotmail accounts. We didn’t know what we were doing but we were learning together. It was a new world of information.
Mrs. Rodriguez could talk your ear off. Once she got going, she didn’t stop. I think it’s because she found joy in big and small things. When I was in college, I helped her clean out her storage unit. She had one of everything and I always wondered why she collected so much. Later, I would visit her section of the Marketplace where she was selling her little treasures. There was a story behind every item.
What I would give again to open those long, narrow drawers of the card catalog and run my fingers through each card, trying to find the title requested by a patron.
I would have to remember the Dewey Decimal System, but fortunately I still do. I remember it and so many other wonderful lessons thanks to Mrs. Rodriguez.