BOSTON. As the plenary session of the American Association of Librarians annual convention wound down here yesterday afternoon, the long faces some attendees wore were not the result of dog-eared pages or overdue books.
Boston Convention and Exhibition Center
“What happened is so sad,” said Priscilla Hindmarsh, head librarian for the Milwaukee Public School System. “I would file it under ‘Tragedies, Senseless’,” she says, pulling a tissue from her purse to wipe away a tear.
Hindmarsh is referring to an altercation between adherents of the two principal library cataloging systems in use today, the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress Classification, that broke out at a cocktail hour and dinner dance Saturday night.
“We were having a great time, cracking jokes about how the Library of Congress nerds group ‘recreation’ with ‘geography’ and ‘anthropology’, when one of the ‘Congress’ boys started eyeing one of our chicks,” says Lowell Hirshorn of the Boonslick Regional Library in central Missouri. The literary lothario, Duane Holcomb, a reference librarian at the General Services Administration in Washington, made a move on Madeline Bousa, an early reading specialist for the Spokane Public Schools, and sparks flew.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would be found under ‘S-Agriculture’ in the Library of Congress Classification.”
“We knew it would end in tragedy,” says Hirshorn, and he and some of his Dewey Decimal colleagues tried to intervene, but Bousa was smitten and took to the dance floor for a evening of excitement with Holcomb. The night ended with a spirited rendition of The Village People’s “YMCA” that saw the two lovers holding hands to form the most difficult letter, “M”. “That was the last straw,” says Ed Smythe, a story hour leader at the Snooky Lanson Branch of the Atlanta, Georgia, Public Library System.
The Village People
As the two lovers were leaving the convention center, jealous colleagues of Bousa gathered in the shadows near the taxi stand, then attacked Holcomb with 4″ x 6″ file cards, inflicting paper cuts that caused him to bleed to death. They then dragged his corpse to Copley Square where they stuffed it in a book return slot at the Boston Public Library’s main branch. “It was really barbaric,” says Ed Herlihy, head of collection enforcement for the library. “If you drop a book in the slot on Saturday night you can rack up big fines because it won’t be checked in ’til Monday morning.”
Police say they have a few leads, but are reaching out to potential witnesses to try and crack the case. “We have a composite sketch of the perps,” says Boston Police Sergeant James Hampy. “They’re a group of middle-aged white males with round shoulders and a tendency to shush people who talk too loud in public.”