Well, Not Technically Wrong

I was rather pleased with being able to get a simple but effective display up in one of my libraries marking LGBT+ History Month. I was even more pleased at the positive feedback from staff and public. Even more so that it has inspired at least one more colleague to start their own.

Today I was informed by a member of staff that we had received congratulations and thanks from a member of the public for our support of the NHS.

With a waved hand towards the display.

Not pictured, any NHS logo

My colleague resorted to the tried and tested nod and smile technique. We do indeed support the NHS. The multiple LGBT+ History Month signs and logos might as well have been invisible.

Life’s too short to be anything other than amused, but I may have quietly rolled my eyes at the confirmation that people just don’t read signs.

All Ending In Tiers

I couldn’t resist the joke.

Within ten minutes of the announcement of Surrey going in to Tier 3 restrictions I had people coming in wanting to grab as many books as possible. They were afraid we were about to close our doors.

Thankfully I was in a position to be able to tell them that while they were very welcome to carry as many books as they could, we would be remaining open so they could relax. Our existing precautions and spaces, along with the fact we don’t serve food or drink meant we don’t need to alter the service we provide.

There was much relief, and slightly less worry as a result.

I have one more day of work and then I’m off until after Christmas. I feel I’ve earned the break.

Jawdrop Moment

I was shelving books the other day, and was approached by a customer, book in hand. Nothing unusual there, it’s part and parcel of my daily work routine.

The customer wanted to know if we had the latest book by the author they had just finished reading – which was a bit of a problem because they held in their hand The Quarry – the last book written by Iain Banks before his death in 2013.

I gently broke it to them that this wouldn’t be possible – barring an upcoming non fiction work due out next year based on his notes and drawings around his Culture series of books. I thought that perhaps this was what they meant when they asked after his next book

And this is where the conversation wandered sideways a little: I was berated for keeping the books of a dead man on the shelves if there weren’t going to be any more books by them.

I’d love to say that I had the presence of mind to sassily spread my arms to encompass the many, many works by dead people on our shelves, but they turned on their heel and walked out, leaving the book on top of the desk beside us before I could gather my wits.

I love working with the public, and sometimes it is precisely because of the surreal conversations I have with them.

Oh, The Usual Chaos

We’ve been able to reopen the libraries for browsing by the public, so its nice to see that most of the requests this morning have been to use the photocopier. Given that yesterday we started the consultation phase for a new restructure, that may only be a moderately salty comment.

I read through the documentation, rushed through the seven stages of grief and then got on with the day because I’ve always found there’s two things that help put things in perspective: being actually very busy with customers and their enquiries, and the sudden and unexpected death of a colleague’s relative.

Compared to that, my minor grumps are very small beans indeed.

Decking The Halls

Yes, I know it’s not yet (quite) December, but its been a horrible year so letting people start to get creative in their decorations is an important morale booster.

At the libraries this week this has led to innovative thought on how to use scrap materials to brighten the place up. We want to welcome people in as we leave lockdown.

So I’ve been both encouraging people to come up with ideas, and leading the charge – and yes, I may be a bit proud of what is starting to take a hold in our little cluster of libraries this week.

Here’s a couple of examples as we get started…

Fiction Fragment: Quiet Please

Few places are as simultaneously comforting and intimidating at once as a good library – or indeed an evil one, come to think of it. The shelves of books are an immovable presence radiating both the call of old friends, and the uncertain promise of new people met at a rather sedate party. Either way you’re not entirely certain as to what will happen next.

The bustle of libraries, full of children, has been firmly quenched in these covid lockdown days, and more’s the pity. Instead we have a return to the deep silence that has always underpinned these places. Despite the faint traffic noise that sometimes murmurs and hisses in the background there is now a quiet and stillness that some find unnerving.

Those who remark on it sometimes say that the silence is expectant, and it makes them want to fill that awful void in an otherwise frenetic soundscape. I think that tells us as much about how uncomfortable they are with their thoughts in the quiet as any statement by the librarians; even if that statement is a simple “Shhhhhh!”

An Apprentice Appears

It sounds like the title to some High Fantasy Detective novel, but in this case its actually a work post. We’ve taken on some young apprentices at the library as part of a structured course; and today I met the one assigned to our neck of the woods (mostly because where they were due to be working is currently having its floor dug up, but that’s another story)

I don’t say this lightly, but so far I’m impressed. They’ve had previous retail and customer service experience and it shows. For their sins they’ve got to work with me again tomorrow, so there will be some interesting dynamics at play, with a very young set of people and varying degrees of motivation.

What’s the worst that could happen?

They Seek Him Here…

Do you ever get those gut feeling days where getting out of bed doesn’t appeal? That was me this morning, and while it wasn’t horrific in any sense it was busy.

It was also filled with Sod’s Law moments: like having to reset the fuses for the lights when i walked in to work, or having to change libraries to support someone when bank staff didn’t turn up for work, or a colleague telling me she was having such a stressful day that her period had started as soon as I walked through the door – with her eyes doing the flickering dance of someone whose brain is catching up with the words just after they’ve left their mouth and is considering digging a deep hole in the floor.

So we got on with the day, as the only sensible way to move on from the moment, because there was a lot to do.

So, as an antidote to that, here’s the film clip I recorded for Libraries Week on Saturday:

Libraries Week Preparations

Next week we’re celebrating libraries, and I got put in the spot to film a quick 60-90 second spot about amazing things in the library.

So I scribbled some notes, and recorded something this afternoon on the phone, as you do. I might share that at some point next week, but here’s the text of my notes:

Got time for a quick story? I pretty much grew up in my local library. I spent nearly every day in there, reading everything I could: Secret Seven, Famous Five, the Hardy Boys, Tintinhull, Asterix… not to mention all the Dr Who novels.

Life and my career took me elsewhere, but not as effectively as the stories I devoured…

And then I came back to work in a library. I was surrounded by books – old friends and new – but this time I’ve discovered the real treasure: the people who work and browse here.

There’s nothing like the buzz of a library full of excited children singing, or doing crafts, or just chattering with their friends.

Even better is the sense of being part of the community – whether on visits to schools and play groups, being spotted by children in the local supermarket, or talking to familiar faces who just want to say hello and know they’ll be missed if they’re not there.

There’s still lots of Dr Who novels though. I do like those.

A Long Week

Well, what a week that’s been, and there’s still more to go. We’ve had libraries reopening, the wait for an MRI still ongoing for Lady M, aches and pains, and life going on.

I can tell the Lady M is starting to feel a little more comfortable as she’s making noises about logging in to work again. I still see her getting very drained very quickly so we’ll see what her management say about some limited hours. Hopefully it will stop her brain exploding a while.

The library reopening has so far gone smoothly enough, with the public largely pleased to see us, even with the limited service available. It’s all new, and a bit odd, but its working. I’m back in on Friday and I know the time will just fly by.

And myr s has an amazing new haircut, having had their first experience of a barber’s shop. They also got a new job confirmed today that I think they’ll really enjoy, so a great day all round on their front.

I’ve even heard from the Charleesi, who is decidedly not resting on her laurels but is trying some freelance writing while the job hunt continues. She’s a grafter with a lot of talent and determination so there’s little doubt there’s success to follow.

And me? I’m exhausted, but there’s nothing new there. I’m worried for Lady M, and missing myr s something fierce, but we’ll get there in the end.