The Schmitt Community Library
 
One of my my personal treasures is this ancient book rescued from the last remnants of a special city library collection.  It’s a storygame from an old-timey pulp fiction series that was popular in the Metro through the eighties and nineties and again in the twenty-eighties and nineties.  The game setting is a kitchen sink world that combines elements of old Foundation Sixgun films, Aesarian Waterkeep theater, and classic Zaithen Starblade morality tales.  It’s even got a few nods to 20’s Metro Gangster Fiction.  It’s a love letter to everything pulp, called Starblades, and, while I absolutely love its art and story setting, it’s a pretty crummy game.  But it didn’t end up in my hands because anyone thought I would ever play it.

Inside the front cover is the real connection.  It’s that little glued-in manilla envelope, just big enough to hold the ancient, hand written and physically stamped card from the Schmitt Community Library.  A modern record of all the previous curious kids who picked this book up for a while, adding their own dents and rips to the pages, yellowing the edges under the Clover sun, and staining the hardback surface with soda.  Some would call it used.  I would call it loved.

I don’t know how long ago it was, I met a young Arcadian who was naturally at home anywhere in the Clover Quadrant.  He spent his time wandering from place to place making friends as easily as you might introduce yourself.  We fit into each other’s story easily enough - we both find new connections with people effortless, and treasure the authenticity we see in each other.

His travels took him through Dice Haven, where we first met, at a tiny convention for dreamers.  And later, after some adventures together, he took me to a gaming club at the Schmitt Community Library.  It was there I met a handful of colorful characters, some of whom I already knew in passing, but quickly found our bonds growing stronger.

The gaming club met at SCL because this tiny public space had, over many decades, developed into a sort of nexus for unexpectedly diverse and serendipitous communities.  The branch, I found out later, had started in the heart of the Troth Quadrant, but was moved after a short while to a location in the Borderlands of Clover.  For the time I spent there, calling it my Third Place, SCL was clearly a refuge in the Borderlands.

It was the natural outcome of spending time at SCL that one would find oneself doing more for the community than they ever expected they could.

I have never considered myself a good role-model.  I can’t teach you much about money, save how to lose it or give it away.  I can’t teach you how to be a leader or how to have influence, because I tend to follow heroes that most won’t believe in.  I can’t make you healthy or beautiful or smart.  All I’ve ever done with any reward is play with words, and dance with my stories, and puzzle over the unspoken things.

I would not, and this is my only good advice to give, leave me unattended with children or fools.  The responsibility does not impress me.  And the opportunity for trouble is just too tempting.  I am not a good role-model, nor a teacher, nor a good sitter.  I’m barely a half-step above trouble.

But in the short time I spent as member of the SCL community, I felt like more.  There was something about the time a person gave to that place, something about how you were drawn in, and given a chance to be more than just a role on a team.  You were part of a real force for change.

So I ended up being roped into playing a central part for this local s-f convention.  I would bring my stories and my crafts, my tricks and my jokes.  And we would put on this mini-con that felt so much larger than the space it was packed into.

SCL was located in a part of the Borderlands surrounded by the poorest people holding onto their lives in Clover.  It’s easy to give up, to move to a corporate controlled Quadrant, to leave the artsy part of the city and just go where the cost of living is cheaper and the company jobs are constantly taking people in.  But then you’re in Draeaga, LLC territory and… well.  Fuck Draega.

The families that would show up to this mini-con made my heart full.  It was a mix of pain, pride, joy and sorrow.  Seeing people that could not afford the bigger, pay-to-enter conventions, but who loved stuff like Starblades as much as I did.  They would find so much there.  Free prizes, give-away crafts, candy and then more candy.

Many of the characters in the Starblades fiction are space knights that build their own mystic weapons called a “Starblade,” hence the name of their order.  By the end of my time at SCL we had enough sponsors that I was running this booth where kids would build their own Starblade from movie-quality materials, just like jr. knights.  Which, for the record, I believe to be the only time I’ve been left alone with energetic children and the result was creative things being made and not something ending up broken or covered in gum.  Children, when their adults are not around, can be the most fun.  Provided you’re not picking up the check.

The people that made up the community of SCL found it easy, for whatever reason, to make the world a better place.  And while I did not start out that way, I am no exception.  I wonder, sometimes, how many people in that crowd started out with as much self-doubt as I did.

So the kids would show up.  And we would send them home with heads full of dreams, pockets full of candy, hands full of toys, and hearts full of joy.  It’s hard not to feel like a superhero at the end of a weekend like that.

I didn’t go to the first s-f mini-con that the new Schmitt library held the year after it was re-located.  I can’t recall any of my reasons, but I do wish I had gone.  I believe that was the first event that marked my drifting away from the community built by SCL.

The library had been selected for the municipal equivalent of a promotion, which included a ‘renovation’ that really just moved its site from the Borderlands of Clover to the corporate lands in the Acid Quadrant.  All the work our community had done became noteworthy to the elite in the city, and so it was decided that the branch would be given a larger facility.  Unfortunately that facility was in Draega corporate territory.

When I first heard the bad news about what happened to SCL almost immediately after opening the doors on its new location, I spent some time reconnecting with other people that I knew were part of its broader community.  I found out that there was a long period of time when Schmitt hosted a dancing class, one that annually sent its students to the Southern lands beyond the Far Wall of Aesaria, to tour the culture that originated the traditional dances they were teaching.  I learned that the Schmitt branch had been moved once before - it started out, a long time ago, in the Troth Quadrant, where it was first ‘promoted’ for it’s community work and given a larger archival space in the Borderlands.  I learned that the name of the library came from its founding librarian, Megann Schmitt, with two ns and two ts.

The Schmitt Community Library didn’t last long in Acid.  It’s a darker part of the city.  Most of the SCL community was built up over the years from the founders in Troth and the dreamers in Clover, but that community withered in the corporate district.  And the newer members were fewer, and the community did not knit together.  All this, of course, was on top of the way Acid handles all of its complications.  Corporate rule is cold and calculated.  It’s built from necessity, not from intention.  It’s guided by results, not inspiration.

I heard that the library flooded.  It was supposed to be repaired, but, as is so often the case in Acid, the money was never enough.  The building sat, empty, for a long time.  If you go there, I’m told, you can still see it, windows blocked up and the doors chained closed.

But in my memory that’s not the SCL.  In my memory the Schmitt Community Library is filled with people browsing the collections, meeting on the front steps, talking in whispers around the front counter.  They are all there to reconnect in the weird open rooms or around the flowers that surround the building.  In my memory the SCL never moved to Acid.

That Arcadian friend of mine, he told me that the books from the Schmitt branch have been redistributed throughout the city.  All the words it harbored are now in so many places.

The first to go was the large collection of donated gaming books our club had contributed.  They were negotiated to be part of a book-sale in the Dice Haven market, in response to the new location being flooded.  All the proceeds were supposed to repair the water damages.  But, as the Arcadian tells me, the money, no matter how much was raised, would not have been enough.  It’s just the way that Acid lies to you.  The bad rules and cold leadership prevented SCL from ever making a new community in that new Quadrant.  The Arcadian says we could have raised twice as much money as was asked, and it still wouldn’t have been enough.  I still don’t know what to think about that.

I look into what happened, every now and again, on my phone or surfing the Silvernet.  I find blog posts that piece bits of it together.  I know the large record collection that was started by the dancing class was shipped back to a private collection in a theater owned by one of the former students.  I know a lot of the costumes used from the s-f convention were passed out to the attendees at the final hosting of that event.  Public records say much of the nonfiction section was relocated to a library in Troth, in the same building where the Schmitt branch first started.  The rest of the fiction section - all the stories and myths and novels - were rebound as a single collection and moved into a new library in the Terminus Quadrant.  A branch that is half archive, half museum, dedicated to keeping any stories that might be thrown out after a library is closed, or an estate is dissolved.

I know nothing can last forever, even a legacy is going to grow and change over time.  I wonder sometimes what the real Megann Schmitt was like, and how she managed to spin so much good into his world with just the effort of starting an archive, and accidentally making such a safe place for so many.  I wonder what would have happened if the library had been brought back to the Borderlands, before the Acid Quadrant hollowed it out.  I wonder if I could make more wonder or goodness in this world by building a community of my own, or what community I might serve that has that same magic to give.

But mostly I just treasure the time I had as part of a group lucky enough to add their own time and laughter and gifts and tears to a community that the SCL gave life and refuge.  I keep the memories safe, and the feelings fresh.  I keep my gift, that old book sent to me from someone in the community after they found it at the fundraiser, and I look at the names on that library card and smile.  These are just a few of the hearts and minds that gained just a little bit from the beauty and the goodness that was the Schmitt Community Library.  And there is so much more than these notes.  This is just one little leaf blown from that tree.  It reminds me that there is so much good in the world we’ll never see, and never be able to properly thank.  That’s just the way it is and it’s beautiful.  Good is like the air we breath, we often forget how much it’s sustaining us.

If one little catalog of names can be proof of that much, then the city is forever safe from any evil that seeks it.  There is more good in the world than we can calculate.  Just like the Schmitt Community Library is more than a flooded building somewhere in the Acid Quadrant.  The SCL is a collection of wondrous and beautiful moments, faces, efforts, ideas and stories.  More than we can ever see.