Yes, I actually said that yesterday. I am starting to sound more and more like one of those stereotypical old-maid librarians every day. This is not something they have taught me at library school - I think it just comes naturally.
The scenario: I'm coming back to my office, which is located in the basement of a branch of the Toronto Public Library, from a coffee break. Two kids are fooling around on the wheelchair ramp outside the library. Nothing unusual there - they love to run up and down the ramp and coast their bikes and skateboards down it. I remember doing the same thing when I was kid, at the Chalet Park Lane in Greenfield Park, except that particular ramp went up at right angles in order to discourage that kind of behaviour (I used to do it anyway).
Anyway. The kids seem to be arguing over the contents of a clear plastic bag, the kind you put fruit in at the grocery store, that's lying on the ground at the bottom of the ramp. One kid is standing over the bag. The other kid is on his bike at the top of the ramp. I look at the bag, and something small and brown is moving around inside of it. What the...
I march over. "What's going on here? What's in the bag?"
"It's a bird," the kid closest to me offers. His friend, on the bike at the top of the ramp, has disappeared.
It's a tiny sparrow - the smallest sparrow I have ever seen. I reach into the bag and lift it out. It's so small it fits in the hollow of the palm of my hand. It's completely feathered, just small. A baby yet. "It's a baby sparrow," I say (yes, there's always a time for an ornithology lesson). "Why is it in a plastic bag?"
"We didn't want to touch it," says the kid.
"It's not true that touching a baby bird means that its parents won't take it back," I tell the kid. "It will die if you keep it in the plastic bag. Where did you find it?"
"On High Park Avenue."
"*Where* on High Park Avenue?"
"In the street."
High Park Avenue is four blocks away. I have to get back to work, I can't walk up and down High Park Avenue with a sparrow, trying to figure out where these kids found it. So I say, "Well, you were right to take it out of the street. But the next time you find a baby bird in the street, you should put it under the nearest tree, out of the sun, so its parents can find it. What were you planning to do with it?"
"We're taking it to the library."
I can just imagine the harried librarians upstairs in the busy library pointing to the door when this kid comes in with a baby sparrow in a plastic bag and saying: "Out!" So to save the kid the trouble of going in there, I tell him right there, at the bottom of the ramp, that "Sparrows do not belong at the library."
"Look," I say, "I have an office downstairs. I can take the sparrow. I will look after this for you, OK?"
So I brought the sparrow to the basement, to the historical society office and archive where I work. And I put it in a basket and put the basket under my desk, where it is cool and dark. I called the Toronto Wildlife Centre. They said, "Don't feed him or give him water. Bring him in!" Problem is, they're up at Keele and Sheppard, and I don't I have a car. Phil has a car, but he's at work.
So I work. For four hours, I research and enter lot and plan numbers and 1906 City Directory information into a database with a hungry, loud fledgling sparrow in a basket under my desk. CHEEP! CHEEP! CHEEP! "Shhh," I say, "you're going to get us all in trouble!" I have probably broken every rule about animals and the library, all for a sparrow so small it fits in the hollow of the palm of my hand.
Phil comes. He is skeptical about the sparrow's chances of survival, and about all this fuss, this driving up Keele in rush hour, in 30C heat with no A/C, for a tiny sparrow who can hardly stand up, who still has baby down on its back under its wings. "No, he'll be fine," I said. "Look, he's a fighter! He's been cheeping for four hours without stopping." The sparrow reminds me of Baby Leo, now 8 months old, who, at 6 months, screamed for an hour and a half, without stopping, while in my care. And Leo is doing fine.
So we drive up to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. The sparrow cheeps the whole way, in a basket on my lap. The kind Wildlife Centre people take him for me, have me fill out a form. The woman helping me says to her colleague, "Erin, this is the sparrow in the plastic bag case." Erin looks up at me and says, "Oh, the SuperLibrarian! Thank you so much for stopping those kids!"
Just doin' my job.