Finally, here's the start to Shinonome. Progress will be slow.
Hope you guys will enjoy the new series.
She's...... too young to be a woman, but lacks the naivety of a little girl.
<Romiemarigana's Expanding World>
Every Wednesday and Friday.
From the moment school ends till the bell at five-thirty. That's when I'm on duty.
There's not much to do, so I spend most of my time dazing behind the counter.
When approached by students, I just need to tip the bar-code at the bottom of the book towards the scanner, then repeat the action for the library card. It's a process which will automatically save the records of the student together with the ID of the borrowed book into the computer. An easy task taking no more than ten seconds of my time.
All that's left is to hand the book over to the student and inform him of the due date.
"The book is due next Friday."
[th uh] [boo k] [iz] [dyoo] [nekst] [frahy-dey]. All said in reflex without the need to be processed by my brain. Of course, I'll change the "frahy" to a "wenz-" if it's a Wednesday.
When finishing that process, I'd revert to spacing out again.
To be honest, I'm idling my time away.
However, that's the reason why I chose to be a library committee member in the first place, so I'm not complaining.
I suppressed my yawn when I noticed the gaze of a girl who was walking past the counter. I then directed my attention towards Shinonome Yuuko, who was sitting next to me.
Typically speaking, the borrowing and returning counter will each be manned by a member on duty. I am in charge of the borrowing, while Shinonome is in charge of returning. We've more or less settled into our roles without any prior discussion, but something came to my mind recently.
I whispered to Shinonome after making sure there was no one in the vicinity.
Shinonome, who was sitting upright and reading a paperback, replied without even looking at me.
"It's nothing much really. I just happened to notice...... that my workload at the borrowing counter is slightly larger than yours."
"Is that so?"
Shinonome's gaze remained fix onto her book. She did not even bother to look at me while speaking — it's like she's not the least bit interested in what I was saying. However, there's no way I could quit the conversation halfway since I was the one who initiated it, so I continued on with my words.
"I don't remember seeing Shinonome doing much for the past month or so."
I watched Shinonome flip the pages with her slender fingers while waiting for her reply.
Even so, her attention was glued to the book.
I suppose her love for books is the reason she joined the library committee in the first place.
I guess it's not wrong for anyone to say that I'm part of the minority who joined the committee despite lacking any interest in reading. However, Shinonome's love for books is far from normal.
That's because she's reading all the time.
And that's not an exaggeration.
She spends all of her time on duty reading except when someone approaches her. Even while heading home after her duty, she still reads as she walks. Being her classmate, it's not uncommon to see her reading a book hidden beneath her desk while taking notes in class.
With the way she is, it just feels like she's affected by some sort of disease where she'll die if she doesn't read, and is thus forced to burrow her nose in a book all the time.
"How about we swap then?"
I regained my senses due to Shinonome's reply.
"Huh? What do you mean by that?"
"Are you thinking about how unfair it is for you to be doing more work? I do not mind swapping our jobs."
Shinonome's eyes were still fixed on the book even as she was saying that.
"No, that's not what I had in mind."
I awkwardly rejected Shinonome's surprising offer.
"I may be doing more of the work, but it's not like I'm actually very busy or anything. I just find this to be a little intriguing."
Shinonome slid a bookmark between the pages and shut the book with a loud thud — I had no idea if it was because she was finally interested in our conversation, or because she was done with a chapter of the book. Either way, her eyes were finally looking in my direction.
"Intriguing? What do you mean by that?"
"You'll have to return the books you've borrowed, isn't that so? It's not like everyone's returning the books past their due dates, so why are there more people who're borrowing?"
Thinking that it might be just an illusion on my part, I did actually count the number of people borrowing and returning the books. It soon became evident that there are way more people who are borrowing than returning. There's a limit of three books per student, and they can only borrow the books for up to a maximum of one week. With the high traffic in the borrowing of books, wouldn't that mean that the library will soon run out of books to offer?
But that is not the case.
Based on my observation from the counter, there was no decrease in the number of students who are borrowing (though it's not a huge number to begin with). However, there's no shortage of books available, so it's not like there are any problems caused by the lack of book returns.
Shinonome stared at me silently for quite a while. She finally tilted her head a little, causing those soft strands of hair to jerk slightly.
"You have never borrowed a book before, have you, Minami-kun?"
"Nope...... I don't really read."
"That is the reason you fail to understand."
I know that — there was a hint of irritation in my reply, but it's not like I was angry or anything. The fact that I don't read is true, so it can't be helped.
"...... So I'll understand if I borrow a book?"
"If you borrow one...... you should understand if you put yourself in the shoes of someone who's borrowing books."
I gave her words some thought, but I could not quite grasp the point.
"I don't get it."
"Meaning to say, there are specific days where you will want to borrow a book."
I was finally heading somewhere with that clue from her.
"Ah, because it's the weekends...... huh?"
Shinonome nodded hard.
"Lots of people will borrow the books on Friday and read them over the weekends. They will then return the books on Monday."
Now that sounds like a typical cause to the phenomenon.
"But what about Wednesdays? I've done some counting, and there's quite a number of people who're borrowing on Wednesdays as well."
Shinonome answered my question without missing a beat.
"Probably because <Books Info> is published on Wednesdays."
<Books Info> is a publication that's sort of like a mini-newspaper. It's done by Shiina-san, the school's librarian. She'd pin it all over the bulletin boards around the school each week. The publication lists columns which talk about various books, as well as the recommended book of the week.
"Ah...... so they'll visit the library after reading that."
I'm feeling kind of apologetic towards Shiina-san, but I never thought there's anyone who'd actually read the publication. But for those who're looking to borrow some books from the library, <Books Info> does give you the reason to do just that.
"So that's how it is......"
Another student came up to me to get the book processed while I was mumbling to myself, so I stopped our conversation and returned back to the counter to proceed with the task which I was extremely familiar with — saying the standard phrases before sending off the student with my eyes.
After the student had left, it was Shinonome who actually resumed the conversation.
"May I ask you a question too?"
Looking at Shinonome, I thought to myself, 'That's quite rare of her.'
"What is Minami-kun's reason for joining the library committee?"
For a brief moment, I was wondering if she was actually going to lecture me, but I was relieved when I noticed there was no hint of admonishment in Shinonome's eyes. I am well aware of the fact that there are quite a few people who are very disapproving of me within the committee.
"...... Well, to put it bluntly, it's because I'm not interested in joining any clubs."
There's a weird rule in our school.
It's a rule where all students have to participate in a club activity. It's actually freaking troublesome for me, but I lack the motivation to stage a protest against the teachers as well. Therefore, my first aim upon entering the school was to search high and low for a club which is slack.
To be honest, I am really uninterested in sport-related clubs. Most of the clubs will be involved in daily practices where you'll have to sweat your heart out while enduring yells from teachers or seniors. Just spare me from that, really. I am not too keen on tiring myself either.
Putting that in mind, the only viable targets left are the humanities clubs.
Different from the sports clubs, the humanities clubs won't have situations where you'll get drenched in sweat. However, the club members are somehow passionately bonded together by some sort of camaraderie; something which I am not too good with either.
"For the movie buffs, let's get together and discuss movies! We'll show off our very own production during the school's festival!"
Stuff like that.
I am a pretty apathetic person, and there's nothing which I really want to do either. There's just no way I can do things like talking about movies. I am not keen on shoving a camcorder up my shoulder with one hand and walking around with it while recording the scenes. It feels like a pain in the ass to feed the frogs daily if I am to join a Biology Club.
Just as I was getting frustrated on what I should do, I happened to overhear a conversation about the library committee.
Joining the library committee is akin to joining a club, so there's no need to join another club if you do not want to.
Upon further investigation, I realized that all the committee members have to do is to man the counters on a two-day shift schedule and participate in a meeting which is held once a week. That's it.
That looks like the slackest job available out there, more so than any other club around.
When she was done listening to my rationale for joining the library committee, Shinonome remained expressionless — there're no visible signs of emotion on her face. Then again, it's not like I can guess what she's normally thinking about anyway, so it won't be surprising if she's actually berating me in her mind with words like, 'What sort of joke is that?'
From the view of book-lovers, it's pretty despicable of me to join the library committee despite my lack of interest in books. That's the reason I am shunned by many in the committee.
Shiina-san, the librarian, did ask me this question quite a few times in some of the meetings.
"Minami-kun, is there nothing you'd love to read, or is there any books you'd like to recommend?"
And my answer will always be, "Nope." The rest of the members will be listing out their favorite authors and books excitedly, while I'd be the only one who looks like I'm trying to distance myself away from the rest.
"...... Are you angry?"
I popped the question towards the silent Shinonome.
Shinonome shook her head slightly. I never expected her to put on a smile, even though it was just a slight smile.
"I am not angry."
She then followed up with,
"Because it is the same for me as well."
Ever since I heard that answer from the person whom I believe is someone who loves books more than anyone else, I began to pay more attention to the girl named Shinonome Yuuko.
That was during the first week of June, a period of time where some students were already changing into their summer attire.