Solitaire Storytelling: I Will Fill This Library Myself If I Have To

I’m the town’s new librarian, which also means I’m its only librarian. It’s a small town out in the middle of nowhere, known as little more than a good place to stop for a break when traveling back roads between the larger cities. Nice views, decent diner, ‘quaint’ town center. I moved here to get away and get some privacy for my own writing, and the fact that I’m an author is probably why I was offered the job in the first place. I accepted the offer because, well, a town without a library just isn’t right. I’m not sure what was in this space before I got it, but it should do. There are two sets of shelves built into the walls behind a small counter, and a small round table with two old wooden chairs between the counter and the windowfront. The town let me grab whatever space I needed, but support for actually filling the shelves doesn’t seem to be a thing. That’s alright.  I will fill this library myself if I have to.

Gaze Into The Distance is a book of poetry inspired by traveling around the world and spending time, well, gazing into the distance across new landscapes. I wrote it myself. Only one person shows any interest in it, a trucker who alternates between picking up and returning the book on their next pass through town, but it’s the library’s first entry and one of my older works anyway.

The Despair, The Heart, and The Mind is another of mine, a very introspective character study sort of book about someone who represents their troubles, cares, and knowledge as people living in their head. Two people take an interest in it, which is an improvement, but it’s… different to have them sitting at the table and chairs in the front there and having a friendly argument over the character’s choices.

Strangers on the Battlefield is a romance novel I made a trade for in order to add it to the library’s collection. A lot of duels, a lot of fancily-described capes, rapiers and rapier wit – the enemies-to-lovers dynamic is very present. It’s had seven different readers so far, and town rumor is that at least three of them have a bit of enemies-to-lovers going on themselves.

A Mech and Their Pilot is one I bought outright, another romance about – you guessed it – a giant sentient robot and their pilot. Much more pining and sacrifice in this one. Maybe that’s why there’s only a bit of overlap between its nine readers and the readership for Strangers on the Battlefield.

A Seemingly Unassailable Enemy was donated to the library, which is a great show of support. It’s a pretty hard-hitting autobiography about the author struggling to keep their head above water during a tough time, but four people have read it so far. It can get lonely and hardscrabble out here, so hopefully it helps. 

You, The Fire, and The Metal is a self-help book about learning the art of blacksmithing. I bought it for the library on a hunch, and sure enough five people have given the book a look.

That all five are also Strangers on the Battlefield readers was more or less in line with the hunch, but still a bit concerning.

The Bones of Arunë was another donation. It’s something of an acquired taste of an adventure story, a kind of science fantasy cyberpunk noir cocktail, but personally I find it fascinating. Two people in town agree with me, and we’ve actually done a bit of book clubbing for it since.

The Harbinger of Autumn is what I got out of a trade from another librarian whose venue is a van that happened to pass through town. My fellow Arunë book clubbers grabbed a third friend and started in on it when I didn’t have the time to join in myself, and from what I’ve overheard it’s about a magic world on the edge of a decline.

A Kiss From A Rose is the only romance-centric effort I ever made as a writer. The hero has to climb this tower to reach their one true love, but some different perspectives I put in make the reader wonder if the true love is the most dangerous thing in the tower. I’ve had ten people take it out to read, and most of them said they did so on the recommendation of a friend.

Seashells and Magic Goo is special, as it’s the first book I’ve written since moving here, and currently the only copy that hasn’t been sent off to my agent is sitting in my library. I sort of wrote it for my library. It’s a kind of wacky romp, a dramedy I guess, about an arcane craftsman trying to get increasingly strange ingredients to help people with. The eponymous shells and goo are what they need to build a golem to defend a small fishing village, for instance. Practically the whole town has asked after it, which really warms my heart. 

I Will Fill This Library Myself If I Have To by Courtney Mejía-Murphy is a game about building a library from scratch and creating the catalogue of books within it. You begin by making some notes about the town and the library itself – what the town is known for, its inhabitants, its library history, and why you got the job in the first place. What kind of library gets built is up to the player. You could picture it as a traditional library, some shelves at a train station, one of those little birdhouse affairs, or anything else.

To actually play and start collecting books you need a standard deck of cards minus jokers, writing implements, and at least one real-life book of your choice. All I had in my bag or on my laptop when I started playing was roleplaying game books, and I found that kind of a neat theme to stick to once I got home. See, when adding a book to the library in the game you grab your chosen book in real life, flip to a random page, and pick a word or phrase to be the title of the new book. The books behind the books above are, in order: Back Again From The Broken Land, Last Sentinels, I Have The High Ground (you’ll hear more about this one around here soon), Live. Love. Die. Remember., A Stern Chase Is A Long Chase (coughselfpromocough), Sacred Forge, A Requiem for Horizon Prophecy Online: The Final Four, The Magical Year of a Teenage Witch, A Kiss From A Rose, and The Tears of a Machine SC.

Once you’ve picked out the title, you draw a card from the deck. The card’s suit will tell you how the book was added to the library’s collection: you either wrote it yourself, received a donation, traded for it, or bought it outright. The card’s value will tell you how many people show interest in the book. You record that information, along with any further details about the book that you want: genre, author, contents, and so on. You can stock the shelves however you like – I feel like our librarian up above would put all of their own books on the top shelves where they are a bit harder to reach, and keep the rest on display at the front counter for easy access.

That’s it! It’s very much a game that you can pick up and play in short bursts, and it can overall be as short or as long as you’d like. I personally found having more than just the one book at hand very helpful, as it gave me a lot of variety to pull from. Not just in what kind of words I could get for title inspiration, either. I tried to pull a little bit of what the source book was about into what the library book was about, sometimes quite obviously and sometimes pretty abstract. I just found that fun to do, honestly.

I think you could get an interesting result if you change the frame of reference. I kept this librarian in a very real-world setting, but what if you were playing a librarian in a fantasy world? A cyberpunk one? A post-apocalyptic one? There’s nothing in the game that says you can’t. I think the contents of your library would take on a very distinct flavor as a result. This is also where you could, as is often the case with solo games, use IWFTLMIIHT for some world-building in another game. Thinking about it just now to come up with an example, you could have an Apocalypse World 2e Maestro D’ running a library and using this game to stock the shelves.

If you too feel like declaring “I Will Fill This Library Myself If I Have To”, you can usually stock your own library’s shelves with a copy for $3, and as of this writing there’s a 50% off sale for the next two weeks or so.

So: what will you fill your library with?

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