The Library Policeman

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"The Library Policeman"
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror, novella
Published in Four Past Midnight
Publisher Viking
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Publication date September 1990

"The Library Policeman" is a novella by author Stephen King. It is the third story in his 1990 collection Four Past Midnight.

It tells of Sam Peebles and his battle against an age-old fear.

Plot summary[edit]

Sam Peebles is asked to give a speech to the Rotary Club. An office assistant (Naomi Higgins) directs him to the public library to check out two books that might help with speechwriting. In doing so he meets Ardelia Lortz, the librarian. He converses with her about the bad selections she has put in the children's library, such as scary posters of flinching and screaming children, music such as Ozzy Osbourne and Guns 'n' Roses, and books like Flowers in the Attic and Peyton Place. He checks out two books with the warning that they must be returned or he should beware of the Library Policeman.

Naomi eventually informs us that Ardelia Lortz is not living and is not spoken of any more. Through a series of events we are introduced to Dave "Dirty Dave" Duncan, a former lover of Ardelia's. Sam finds that Ardelia is not a person but a being which feeds on fear, and that Duncan was a sometimes unwilling companion/conspirator in helping her feed from the fear of children. He also finds that Ardelia had "died" in 1960 after killing two children and a local deputy sheriff, John Power. She is now back, and Duncan believes she seeks revenge and a new host.

The Library Policeman turns out to be a recreation by Ardelia of a man Peebles had run into as a child at his local library, who had raped and threatened him. The Library Policeman, however, is not just a recreation but also an embodiment of Ardelia, who sought access to Sam as her new host.

Dave dies defending Sam and Naomi from Ardelia. Sam and Naomi eventually manage to defeat the Library Policeman/Ardelia, only to discover at the end that Ardelia has already attached to Naomi. Sam removes Ardelia from Naomi's neck and destroys her under the wheels of a passing train.

Textual notes[edit]

In Sam's final dream about his rape, the following Latin inscription appears above the door to the library: "Fuimus, non sumus". This appears to be part of a larger quotation: "Non fuimus, non sumus, atque numquam obliti erimus." The source of this cannot be found, but the translation appears to be: "We are not, we have never been, and we will never be forgotten." Perhaps this a reference to the distortions of memory upon which this entire story is based.

References to King's other works[edit]

It (1986)

  • The "Deadlights" creature (the titular "It") is a creature much like Ardelia, who feeds on fear and only reveals its true form when it is feeding.

Misery (1987)

  • Naomi likes novels by Paul Sheldon, who was a character in this novel.

Needful Things (1991)

  • In the novel's end, the villain Leland Gaunt has moved on to Junction City, having taken up shop in Sam's old office. It is mentioned that Sam and Naomi have since married and moved away.


See also[edit]