A Conversation for Pilgrims' Inn

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paulh, the apocalypse is coming, it's just late

The Pilgrims' Inn, Nov. 30: Chapter 30: Denouement

One morning, Ozymandius woke up to discover that the unthinkable had happened. The oracle was totally unresponsive. Jack Sprat and his wife were nowhere to be found. This was the end of the Pilgrims' Inn as a going concern. The only question was, where was the Inn located now, since it no longer had an agent capable of moving it.

Ozymandius cautiously opened the door and saw that the Inn was sitting on a vacant lot across the street from the Caledonia Grove Trailer Park. This wasn't the worst outcome possible, as Ozymandius had a mobile home in the Park, and could get home with no trouble at all. The biggest challenge would be to figure out what to do with the Inn itself. Who owned the vacant lot?

Ozymandius sat down at his computer and did an online search. This turned out to be easier said than done, as city records were often contradictory and full of errors. After two days of searching, he discovered that the lot was owned by the city itself, and had once been the site of a branch library.

Then, acting on a hunch, he searched the Internet for missing library buildings, and had an "aha" moment on his 42nd search. A small library building in a town in New Hampshire had simply disappeared without a trace just before the Pilgrims' Inn began its travels through time and space. This was not a great loss, as the place had become vacant once a newer and more modern library had been built. In any event, that missing library looked just like the Inn. And now the building was on the site where a branch library used to be located before it was torn down for being too small, too outmoded, and, well, unloved.

But since that time, the Little Library movement had arisen and been embraced in the country and maybe other countries as well. These little libraries were about the size of a doll's house, and held two or three shelves of books. They were unsupervised, and free to all. They operated on the honor system. When someone took a book to read, they put another book in its place.

A plan began forming in Ozymandius's mind. He went online and checked out the used book sales at libraries in the area. He visited charity shops that sold donated books. He strung an extension cord from his trailer into the building and repaired the oracle so that it could at least be a functioning computer for people who wanted to do searches. Ozymandius had WiFi in his trailer, which was close enough to be in range for the oracle. Lastly, he put up a sign on the front door explaining that this was one of the Little Libraries, giving his phone number and email address in case anyone wanted help choosing books.

Lastly, he phoned the local newspaper and explained what he had done. Suddenly curious residents began showing up in the building. Even the local library system began to warm up to the concept that Ozymandius was pushing. The city's budget was tight, as usual. Finding staff and books and computers for a library branch in Ozymandius's area was not going to be possible, so volunteer efforts run on shoestrings were the only way outreach was going to happen. The Central library even offered some titles that were overstocked -- best sellers were always bought in large quantities when they were new.

Ozymandius was a year-round resident, and he could see the library from his trailer. And, best of all, when he went into the building to help people find books or search online, he saw the ghosts of all the characters who had stayed in the building when it was an Inn. In the winter months, people would not want to stay in the unheated building, but that didn't prevent them from borrowing books to take to their homes or workplaces.

Jack Sprat and his wife peeked cautiously out from one of the rooms. "We aren't an inn anymore," Ozymandius had to tell them. "The building has become a library." He held up a copy of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. "You're mentioned in this book."

Ozymandius took an appraising look at the library's walls and decided that they were too bare. What sort of pictures should he put up? Some libraries liked to put up pictures of Melville Dewey, who invented the popular Dewey Decimal System. But this library was mostly fiction, which didn't require
complex ways of arranging books by subject.

Then he thought of the people who had helped start libraries in the United States, where this library was located. Benjamin Franklin came to mind. Franklin had started the country's first subscription library, and had also started the library of the University of Pennsylvania. A portrait of Franklin went up on the wall. Next to it was a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, who offered his personal library as a replacement for the Library of Congress, which the British burned during the War of 1812. The offer was accepted, though a second fire destroyed two-thirds of the collection in 1851. (Jefferson was said to have started a second personal library, which was sold after his death to satisfy creditors.)

Ah, if only Jefferson could see his likeness hanging on the wall of this building, where he had stayed as a guest so many years ago!

THE END


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