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A Letter from Michael Andreasen, author of The Sea Beast Takes a Lover: Stories

In the end, the library hired Paul.

It was the right call on their part. I was only home from college for the summer, and they wanted a
long-term hire for the librarians assistant position. And while our friendship had been largely founded
on a shared appetite for books, Paul was easily taking down three or four to my one, a gap that, to this
day, despite my becoming a writer, Ive never managed to close.

Still, it was the only summer job that had seemed remotely bearable to me, and I was extremely jealous.
A month into an HR internship I was unsurprisingly hating, I asked Paul what his favorite part of working
at the library was, assuming it would be something that had initially attracted me to the position: the
quiet, the proximity to books and people who knew them well, the opportunity to eavesdrop, in that
way only librarians can, on what others were reading, what they were thinking, what worlds they were
secretly orbiting in those secluded carols. Instead, he said that he liked it when the high school kids
would get a little rowdy, their group study dates becoming more date than study, requiring him to walk
over and offer a calm but stern reminder:

Excuse me, hed say. This is a library.

No further explanation was needed, of course. The implication was already culturally encoded, nestled
deep in the lizard brain of human civilization. One does not treat a library like other spaces.

Looking back, this probably would have been my favorite part too, not because Paul and I were
particularly authoritarian (on the contrary, we were both the somewhat resentful products of a nun-
heavy primary education), but because, to two young men for whom there were never enough books,
this sentinel protection of silence and study represented a kind of moral duty. Maybe it was our shared
Catholic upbringing, all that time spent in churches when we were boys, structures similarly devoted to
the sanctity of texts, and to the idea that their contemplation connected the human mind to something
greater and grander than the self.

When it came time for me to choose a more permanent vocation, despite the early predictions of the
nuns, Catholicism never really stood a chance; Biblical exegesis might have had its rewards, but it
couldnt possibly compete with the sensory thrill of cracking open an ancient, musty paperback from the
wire-frame Sci-Fi carousel of the Millard Public Library. But I still get the same feeling in both spaces,
that hush of mind upon crossing the threshold, that whisper of air thick with the holiness of words.

And these buildings still need their seneschals, preservers of that same moral duty, defenders of the
sacred space between page and mind. Librarians answer a calling of the highest order, one that allows
us, in any city, in any country, to enter that space, soak in that silence, and feel the wash of that singular,
comforting thought:

This is a library.

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover 9781101986615 Dutton On Sale February 27, 2018