Annie’s Gift

The librarian at the desk looked up from checking out books. “Here comes the tuna fish lady,” she whispered to the new librarian who was just learning the routines of the smallest branch library in the city. Both librarians’ gave Annie a smile and a nod as she shuffled her way towards the newspapers and magazine section. “I don’t know how she makes it up those stairs. She comes everyday and sits in the periodical section, then walks home.”
The new librarian turned to glance in Annie’s direction, “What’s her name?”

“I don’t know, but we call her the tuna fish lady because she smells like that’s all she eats. Poor thing. Before she leaves she’ll come over to say goodbye. Try not to laugh. She says the same thing every day. She must be pretty lonely.”

“This is a tough neighborhood for her to walk in alone,” said the new librarian.

“We figure she rents a room in one of those big old Victorian houses that are so dilapidated now.”

Sure enough, after Annie had read all the daily newspapers she came to the check out desk with a tsk tsk shake of her head. “When I die,” she said wiggling her arthritic finger at the two women behind the desk, “you’re going to have a new library and it will have no stairs.”

“Let me get the door for you,” said the new librarian. “Can I help you down the stairs?”

“Why thank you dear,” said Annie.

One April day in 1952, Annie didn’t show up for her daily visit at the branch library. After a month the main library was notified that it was named as one of many beneficiaries of a will. The list of charitable organizations was long and the last one read, “And the remainder will go to the Springfield City Library to build a new branch in the Winchester Square section of the city.”

No one assumed that the remaining funds would amount to anything substantial enough to build a new library. In fact when all the other named beneficiaries had received the amount Annie had allocated for them, there was more than enough to build a new library. There was enough to fill the bookshelves, pay for some staff, and acquire the latest technology.

Annie had made only two requirements for the gift of a new library her estate would create, first that there would be no stairs and second that it would not be named for her.

(Story told to me when I was a new librarian at the Springfield City Library in 1972.)