The Centerville Library Crisis

In this off the wall one-act, playwright Jordan Barber sets the scene of an eccentric/insane library staff hoping to increase readership.

A one act about a small town library faced with an impending crisis: no one reads. The play observes a board meeting, where we eventually learn, to our horror, that the board members themselves do not know why people come to the library, nor do they care.

Bob, board head: Oblivious but likable.
Shirley, board member: Old. Completely disillusioned with society and libraries.
Bob N, board member: Wilford Brimley-esque. Generally constipated manner.
Melinda, board member: Overeager little girl. On board to improve resume.

BOB and the board members walk into a cramped room with an old, mahogany table with four chairs. They do not swivel. There is a casual air and idle chat as BOB begins to speak.

BOB: Okay folks let’s get this started. So… (looking at a wrinkled piece of paper) … meeting number 125. The topic is… “how to generate more interest in the library.” Didn’t we talk about this last time?

SHIRLEY: Yes, this has been a—-

BOB: -—Melinda can you check where those cookies are? We had some for the meeting. Give us the cookie lowdown.

[MELINDA exits]

BOB: –Anyway, what were you saying, Shirley?

SHIRLEY: It’s been a continuing discussion.

BOB: Oh, okay.

BOB N: How long is this meeting planned for? I’ve got a couple of things I need to take care of pretty soon. Maybe in 20 minutes. Busy schedule.

[Melinda returns with a box of cookies. They appear store bought.]

BOB: Greeaat.

[BOB takes a cookie.]

BOB: Great. No one else wants one?

[BOB N. looks at the cookies with an intensive longing, but remains firmly planted in his seat, with his hands in his lap.]

BOB: Okay, so our readership has been down sorta. Maybe over the past year or so, less people have been checking out books.

MELINDA: Even with Harry Potter and stuff?

[SHIRLEY gives a look of disgust.]

SHIRLEY: It’s really a long process of decline. People have got the internet, the television, all that. What does the public library have left to offer? I mean, you don’t even have to leave your house for those things.

BOB: That’s true, but there’s not much we can do about that.

MELINDA: Haha, we should do a home delivery system! Like home grocer, except with books!


[BOB N. gives a strained grin, and shifts uncomfortably.]

BOB: When was the last time we had a reading drive?

SHIRLEY: Those are such a hassle, Bob. We can’t do them too often. Besides, the last one was an embarrassment.

BOB: Yeah who coordinated that last one? What was it, “Read for Pokémon?” That attracted a weird crowd.

MELINDA: Eww… except for Pikachu. He’s kinda okay.

SHIRLEY: I still don’t know what a Pokémon is.

BOB N: You know, I had this one idea when I was coming in here.

[SHIRLEY’s eyes glaze over, and BOB grabs another cookie.]

BOB N: I had it in my head just as I came in here. It’s on the cusp, you know? On the cusp. Gimme a sec to push it out. Umm…hmm…

[BOB holds his cookie aloft. The room is held rapt.]

BOB N: Nope. Not comin’ out. I lost it.

BOB: Okay well good effort there Bob. Keep pushin’. Y’know maybe we should think of small things first, and then they’ll eventually turn into a big readership. Like this person will come to the library because of this small thing. And this person would come because of this other small thing.

MELINDA: That sounds like a lot of things.

BOB: Well, we can start small. Like having a big bowl—-

BOB N: -—bowel?

BOB: A big bowl of cookies. On the circulation desk or something.

SHIRLEY: I don’t know if that connects to reading. And it’d make the books all crummy.

BOB: We’ll I’d come to the library for cookies, right Bob? Do you want a cookie Bob?

BOB N: Y’know…

[His eyes wander back to the plastic box of cookies. They quiver with silent longing.]

BOB N: Y’know… I’m not much for those kind. I like the other kind better.

[BOB N. sinks back in his chair, completely defeated.]

BOB: Okie dokie. Well, I’ll make sure to get those kind for next time.

MELINDA: We should just buy books that people want to read. Like, books on television shows and stuff.

SHIRLEY: We we’ve got that one section—-

MELINDA: -—Oh-ma’gawd! Oh-ma’gawd did you guys watch Flava’ of Love? Ahaha! That was such a good show! There was this one girl, her name was New York but I don’t know why but anyway she was always really mean to other girls. And so one time her and this other girl were fighting it out over their man but then the girl gave New York a little shove so then she shoved back—-

SHIRLEY: -—there are monks in Burma—-

MELINDA: -—and then New York had shoved back, I mean after she shoved back she snapped her fingers all sassy—-

[MELINDA inhales.]

SHIRLEY: —-they’re being persecuted—-

MELINDA: All fingers sassy, I mean she snapped her fingers snappy and was like, was like “I’M the HBIC!!!”

SHIRLEY: I don’t know if this will improve—-

MELINDA: THE HEAD BITCH IN CHARGE! Haha! That’s what “HBIC” stands for. It stands for the “head bitch in charge.”

[A pregnant pause. BOB N. shifts back and forth in his chair. The silence appears to last forever.]

BOB: Do you usually abbreviate “in”?


Jordan Barber is proud that the internet allows him to criticize, admonish, and irritate people from his own living room. And though this immense power only comes to the few, he promises to wield his hammer of judgment with a standoffish, thoughtful outlook.