One of the joys of working in a library is seeing the local community ambling along to do their best in these strange times. I see families of all ages, people needing to print packing labels, job hunters, students, and people who really just need someone to talk to for a couple of moments while they’re out of the house.
Yes, there are occasions that are challenging, and the variability of days working with the public is a double-edged sword, but on balance I’m proud of making little differences here and there, trundling along.
I’ve carried on with doing risk assessments with my staff the last couple of days. If there’s been one common observation it has been the look of relief on people’s faces as I’ve let them into the building.
Many of them haven’t been far from their houses during lockdown – for a couple it was one of their first forays out of their house – but each of them visibly relaxed their shoulders and smiled as they re-entered the library and saw colleagues.
I don’t know about anything else, but those moments alone have made the effort of the last few days worth it.
Taking time for myself seems to have been the right decision yesterday as I was able to focus much better today. Its been another day of data cleansing, and catching up on emails, but also of rearranging some furniture in the flat.
I’ve wanted to open up the corner of our main living area that has a mass accumulation of cables, phone points, and general tech for a while as its been quite cramped. A lot of the tidying I’ve done the last few days was aimed at clearing the sofas off so I could shift one up closer to the piano and swap a low coffee table round to be against the wall on the other side.
This has meant being able to shelve and present our recipe books in a more usable way, and mean that I don’t have to perform a delicate dance round and between sofa ends to answer the phone. It does now mean that I’ve now got more stuff back on the sofas but its all odds and ends I’m in the middle of rationalising, discarding, or relocating anyway, so its all Just As Planned. Honest.
Hopefully the ability to focus will remain as I attack the next tranche of data, but even more importantly I’ve got to video some more clips in cosplay for another couple of projects. More on this… later…
We’ve been able to enable access to some work systems using Citrix recently, so now have a useful tool for calming the mind and feeling that I’m doing something useful at the same time: data cleansing.
Specifically we’re going through records to find where a remark has been left on an account and not removed in a timely manner. For the most part this is an oversight and is actually relatively rare, so I’m either removing the outdated remark or marking an entry on the shared report as checked and moving on.
Not only am I currently averaging a library a day at the moment, but I’m finding it a good way to occupy the spider-monkeys in my brain as they look for breaks in patterns and flag what needs further investigation – and as there’s no real deadline to work to I can move at a steady pace and coordinate with my peers who are also involved in doing it.
So that’s today’s path to inner calm: repetitive data work. Later I shall be doing something creative to let the spider-monkeys off the leash.
Well, hello pandemic – we’ve been expecting you. Of course, being British and therefore fundamentally fatalistic I’m looking forward to getting it and not even noticing, or complaining that I get it while I’m booked off on leave already.
The most immediate impact in our household has been that Red Dragon 6, a Hannibal convention due to take place in a couple of weekends’ time, has just been postponed. The costumes will therefore stay in storage and we’ll find something to do, even if it’s just the three of us curled up on the sofa, possibly with the cub in attendance too.
I’m still not quite sure why everyone is panic-buying toilet rolls or why people are even buying antibacterial bottles and sprays and ignoring the soap.
In the meantime let’s all keep calm and carry on. If nothing else it has been very confusing for a Hungarian colleague of mine who thinks we’re not taking things seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The thing is: I work with the public – people of all ages and backgrounds – so I’ll almost certainly come into contact with it if I haven’t already. I’m also diabetic and am being treated for my blood pressure, so I’ll just keep being hygienic, touching my own face as little as possible, and limiting the possibility of my passing anything on to anyone else if I cough or sneeze – the same as I do with coughs, colds, the flu, or any other seasonal illness that does the rounds.
And my depression also chips in here, that if I get it and die, eh…
That said, I’m not too worried about not blogging on the day about it as so many schools have decided to do things on the Friday before the weekend rather than have dress-down days. Only this morning I had a number of Harry Potters appear for Rhymetime, making me wish I’d brought in one of my replica wands with which to join in the fun and practice some spells with them.
Yesterday was the day itself though, and as libraries we did our best to fit it in with our general mission of getting interesting books in front of variously interested people of all ages. I was unable to convince any of the staff working with me to actually dress up as anything, so I was left to fly the flag and adopt most of my Harley Quinn cosplay while still remaining professional and unscary to the majority of our customers. In other words: no weapons, no facepaint, no fake tattoos, or blood (fake, or otherwise).
In practice this meant a white shirt, the red and black waistcoat made by Lady M, and the old red and black nail varnish. This was fine, and bemused a number of elderly customers who didn’t dare ask what was going on. My staff are used to it, so all was well. We just didn’t get any children older than two and a half in all day. You might think therefore that this was a waste of time, but I say any excuse to wear cosplay at work and be paid for it is no bad thing. Then again, I am famous for having no shame over these things.
I couldn’t be bothered to remove the nail varnish last night, so I’m still wearing it today, along with my more general casually smart library manager attire. So far I’ve had ten people admire and compliment my nails while I’ve been serving them. I’ll take that.
What do you mean it’s only Wednesday? An awful lot seems to have somehow got crammed in already and yet we’re still not yet quite done with Hump Day?
Today we had flakily working systems and people on both sides of the desk being grumpy – which I suppose is still better than yesterday’s experience of nothing working at all.
Closer to home we had the car in the garage for a service that lasted three days and I’m pretty sure must have involved the sacrifice of a junior engineer from all the mess left over.
It’s going to be one of those weeks, isn’t it? And yet there’s been some good stuff. It hasn’t been universally horrible. I got featured again today by Over40Cosplay on Instagram and Facebook, and I took a photo on the way home that I quite like:
I’ve also had a quiet evening of watching Mock The Week from four years ago and enjoying the relative innocence of those times, so I suppose that’s been a good remedy for a week where everything has just felt far more complicated than it has otherwise needed to be.
In other news I’ve pretty much got everything sorted for Valentine’s Day. It’s generally an expensive, or at least complex, set of weeks these days as we navigate VDay, then my birthday, then my anniversary with Lady M, and then my collaring anniversary with myr s. Schedules being what they are I won’t get to catch up with myr s this month, but I do get to cherish Lady M. Next month will just be a complex dance of us all taking weekends in turn and arranging general catch-ups where we can.
At least we’ve finally got round to setting up a shared Google Calendar and now we just have to get into the habit of using and consulting it. These are skills and practices that I had not considered before polyamory. It’s just as well I manage timetables and rotas on a daily basis..!
So we’re quite lucky in that the worst of the high winds seem to have passed us by – but it is still strong enough out there to be slapping at my beard as it gusts. Unlike some friends we’ve not had electrical disruption locally, and having no garden we’ve not had to chase after any lawn furniture or escaping trampolines.
We’ve got off lightly really. Even so, my first thought when none of our computer systems fired up this morning I did wonder if it could somehow be blamed on the weather.
Even so life goes on. In total defiance of the weather, a local school duly sent a class of young children round to see us, wrapped head to toe in thick jackets and warm hats and hoods. Cue one session if the history of libraries, how to treat your books, how to use the library, and a game where we arranged the children in alphabetical order – as you do.
Considering we had no working systems to demonstrate it all went rather well. Now to batten down the hatches before the next storm arrives. It must be winter or something.
We’re trying something new as part of our links with the local schools and the arts community. Over the next three months a number of schools will be working with a dance theatre group to create and produce interactive performances in one of our library spaces.
This week the group has begun rehearsing and getting to know the area – and today was their first experience doing so with the public in the building and interacting in that space.
It went rather well. Both in terms of logistics with nobody getting in each others way, and in terms of public response and reaction. The latter ranged from a very British nonchalance, to families engaging the team and joining in.
One of my libraries has a building site next door – as in, just the other side of the wall of my office – and it has been a noisy year as they demolished the old buildings and then started to build the development from scratch. One of the big complaints from people in the area was that it was removing an architectural feature from the area – specifically the imposing front of what had been a college, complete with an impressive facade – even though the site had been closed and falling apart for quite some time.
As I was walking in to work the other day though, I could start to see the final shape of some of the buildings in the development coming together as the peaked roofs are added to the bare bones of concrete and metal. The shape and colour of the tiles is reminiscent of the older building that had been there before – and I thought it a nice touch. Then I noticed on one of the roofs a lighter coloured V shape, which looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. I mentioned it to a member of staff whose family has been in the area for generations and she got excited enough to jump out and go round to take a picture.
Apparently it exactly replicates signs of bomb damage from World War Two, where a device hit the road a short way away from the school (as it was at the time), and lightly damaged the tiles of its roof where it faced the explosion. Builders rapidly replaced the tiles from bombed out buildings nearby so that the school could keep running but the colour didn’t quite match. This left a distinct lighter coloured V shape that was never repaired or replaced until the building was demolished last year to make way for the new buildings. It had become part of the fabric of the local community – a sign of it pulling together in war and adversity to help its members – and so the reappearance of this V in the tiles on the same alignment and location of the original has been grudgingly admired as a nice nod to the past and the continuity of that spirit.