One of the libraries I manage is right in the heart of its community’s high street, and so when an opportunity arises to be part of a wider event we’re very pleased to be able to help however we can. Last night was a Christmas Fair, and following the success of an impromptu involvement this year, staff volunteered to be more engaged and make a bigger contribution.
To that end we agreed to host Santa’s Grotto in the children’s library, and had a number of characters available for people to take photos with. We ran a crafts table, ran a lucky dip, had computers available for STEM software activities, and also just kept the library systems up and running for anyone who just fancied using the library.
It went incredibly well, and I’ve been making sure to let the managers of the various staff involved know just how valued and valuable the volunteers’ time and efforts were.
It was a late evening, and everyone is back to work again this morning with various degrees of tired shellshocked impressions in their faces, but also with a huge morale boost for just being able to do something fun as part of the wider local community.
If anyone reading this knows me well enough that they’re in line for a Christmas present, please don’t read too much into the choices of wrapping paper this year – I’m basically using up all the scrap ends of rolls that I had knocking around in the cupboard when I grabbed all the decorations at the weekend.
Last year I used brown paper extensively as a recyclable alternative – but I’ve found so many odds and ends that I would end up throwing away anyway that I might as well out them to use before you throw them away. When I’ve used those up, I’ll get more brown paper. So, if your present is wrapped in rainbow glossy colours, or swirls of hearts, then you can at least know that yours was one of the first I wrapped this year.
The more cynical among you may wonder if this is just an extended decluttering exercise – and you’d be right. At least it’ll look pretty.
Well, I’ve put up the Christmas tree anyway. I’ve delved into one of our seemingly dimensionally variable cupboards and retrieved the components of our tree and the boxes of decorations. Lady M is always excited for this time of year, so her face has been beaming with glee since she heard me open the doors.
It’s our first Christmas since buying the flat, which feels kind of strange to be writing. Nice, but odd after so many years of renting. You’d think it was an immediate cue to go bananas with the decorating, but the tree suffices. Well, mostly. There may be one or two little things on the shelves…
…when the idea of being a tolerant and adult human being is stretched too far; and I have to make a conscious decision not to step over the edge. I’m angry, exhausted, and unsettled from having to support my staff as they dealt with a mother slapping her twelve year old daughter around in the library in front of her other two newborns in a pushchair.
We’ve written up incident reports and are reporting under safeguarding, and all the proper people are in the process of being informed and called in – and I know I made the right calls in how to handle it.
The look in the daughter’s eyes as she told me she was okay made we want to get violent in turn. But that would just make me the large brute of a man beating her mother up and that’s not right either. Viscerally satisfying as an outlet for my horror, and no doubt momentarily cathartic, but in no way acceptable.
It’s horrible, and frustrating, but there you go. I have a bottle of wine open, and in this instance I think it’s needed.
It was so out of place that it somehow blended into being totally unremarkable. Among the general clutter of folded chairs and awning material, small tables and gardening tools it stood proud against the house wall. It was five foot in height, of which half was essentially a rough-hewn if polished stand, and then a life-like wood carving of an eagle in repose that emerged from the log that formed the whole piece.
It gazed serenely across the sloping lawn toward the treeline, past the grazing sheep. Every feather was detailed finely enough that you might almost expect the breeze to ruffle them on its way up from the valley. Only the wood’s natural colours and grains shone through, and yet they matched what you might expect an eagle’s brown plumage to be so well that when it turned its head to look at me there was no shock beyond an instinctive sense of wonder.
The living carving regarded me with an unblinking stare, seemingly more curious than alarmed. Nonetheless I decided against getting any nearer than I already was either to it or to the door handle and lock next to it.
All in all, it was the most beautiful and subtle magical alarm I’d ever seen, and all I needed to work out now was if its owner and its creator were the same person. All without getting my hand bitten off, for preference. Perhaps there was another way in.
I was in a meeting this morning with other managers, specifically the other managers for our cluster of libraries, and I generally think I was able to steer the conversations away from agreeing anything too daft.
Indeed, in general when staff were mentioned it was to praise their achievements and highlight good practice. It was one of those positive meetings where we were able to catch up, make sure we were all doing things the same way, and mitigate some of the sillier upper management suggestions.
Then I got hit with being told that I would be interviewing prospective weekend library assistants on Saturday – somewhat the opposite of what I’d been previously told. I may have growled a bit before capitulating – mostly buouyed by the thought that I’ve already set up a drinks evening for that night in which I can recover.
This motif of changing plans then became writ large across the day, which is how I ended up getting home late after supervising an engineer whose installations of new public kiosks had gone a little awry.
It’s fine. I’m tucked up in bed with the whole thing to myself. Lady M is out on a team drinks night so won’t be home tonight, and lady s is at home sweating and swearing over her new cosplay project.
I regularly (ish) use a tag on my Instagram account – http://www.instagram.com/ludd72 – labelled #librarylife to mark book covers that I’ve photo’d, or displays, or even things peripherally connected to the concept of the library like pins or signage. I also use it for things in my home life that also fit the bill, like pictures of my book shelves.
What it rarely captures are the satisfying moments of working in a library where I make a connection, introduce someone to a new author, work with charities, or just make a shy child smile. Stopping to talk to someone who makes visiting us a part of their daily or weekly routine can put a warm glow in my chest. So can helping someone track down the best organisation to help them with an enquiry.
I love working in libraries. I may sigh sometimes at things that happen, or the way someone chooses to interact with me or my staff, but there’s a core of helping people that is immensely satisfying.
I see a wide cross-section of local life, and generally feel part of the local community – I feel very lucky to be able to work the way that I do. The added bonus is that it is a reasonably active job, mostly on my feet all day, so I even get a bit of exercise into the bargain.
Why am I saying all this? I suppose mostly to put an equalising spin on those posts where I make veiled grumblings or talk about the more outlandish incidents that occur. They’re all part of the fun of working, but so are the gentle things too.