One day in 1965, when I was a librarian at View Ridge School in Seattle ,a fourth-grade teacher approached me.She had a student who finished his work before all the othersand needed a challenge. “Could he help in the library?” she asked.I said, “Send him along.”
Soon a slight, sandy-haired boy in jeans and a T-shirt appeared.
I told him about the Dewey Decimal System for shelving books.He picked up the idea immediately.Then I showed him a stack of cards for long-overdue booksthat I was beginning to think had actually been returnedbut were miss-shelved with the wrong cards in them.He said, “Is it kind of a detective job?”I answered “yes”. And he became an unrelenting sleuth.
He had found three books with wrong cardsby the time his teacher opened the door and announced,“Time for recess!” He argued for finishing the job;she made the case for fresh air. She won.
The next morning, he arrived early.“I wanted to finish finding those books,” he said.At the end of the day, when he asked to be a librarian on a regular basis,it was easy to say yes. He worked untiringly.
After a few weeks I found a note on my desk,inviting me to dinner at the boy’s home.At the end of a pleasant evening, his mother announcedthat the family would be moving to the adjoining school district.Her son’s first concern, she said, was leaving the View Ridge library.“Who will find the lost books?” he asked.
When the time came, I said a reluctant good-bye.Though initially he had seemed an ordinary kid, his zeal had set him apart.
I missed him, but not for long.A few days later he popped in the door and joyfully announced,“The librarian over there doesn’t let boys work in the library.My mother got me transferred back to View Ridge.My dad will drop me off on his way to work.And if he can’t I’ll walk.”
I should have had an inkling such focused determination would take that young man wherever he wanted to go.What I could not have guessed, however,was that he would become a wizard of the Information Age:Bill Gates, tycoon of Microsoft and America’s richest man.