Our workplace is called the Retrospective Bibliography Department of the National Library. More specifically, our two small rooms are unofficially known as the Jewish division. These present a mystery to the rest of the library: text goes in the opposite direction there, the letters are all scrawls and scribbles, and time flows at quite a different speed. As the rest of the library sees it, in the time it took the rest of the world to get through two millennia, the people who wrote the books in this division managed to whizz through five and a half. Which means that whoever gets employed there is viewed as an oracle: a smidgen loony, but in possession of secret wisdom and privy to knowledge everyone else lacks. This makes for some interesting phone calls, the latest of which came today while I was oraculously and wisely peering at my books on necromancy, also known as Google Reader.
– Hello, – said the lady on the other side in a businesslike manner, – Could you do me a little favour? I have what I think is a date here, could you translate it? It’s M-D-C-C…
– Wait, what? – I asked.
– It’s this date, it says ahn-noh in front of it, which maybe is Latin? Anyway, the date is MDCCC and then a Roman six at the end, like V-I, you know? Can you tell me what year this is?
– It’s the year 1806.
She thanked me quickly and hung up. She never said who she was or where she was calling from, but in all probability the call originated in our very building. The woman was likely to be a real live employee of the Lithuanian National Library, not mopping the floors or managing the keys, but working with real live books (inasmuch as books can be live). Now answer me this: is this the kind of institution you’d like to redirect two percent of your income to, given the opportunity by the charitable IRS and asked nicely in a circulated memo? Not that I need to end every post on a rant, but I think my two percent will go towards feeding the poor or free makeovers for ugly swans this year.