Archive for the ‘ Library ’ Category

How to get on a librarian’s little list


Admit it, we’ve all got one.  A little list of the people who’d be first up against the wall if you were to stage a revolution.  Ko-Ko, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, puts it like this:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I’ve got a little list – I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground
And who never would be missed – who never would be missed!
There’s the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs-
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs-

And so forth, through a catalogue of people that he could quite happily cope without.  We all have our little (and not so little) niggles, and this is an attempt to catalogue the ‘little list’ of a typical library.  In reverse, but not particularly precise, order. Continue reading

Adventures in ontology


A number of recent events have come together to force me to write a post on the subject of ontology.  Firstly, there’s the ongoing debate about the classification of the stuff in the solar system, which has been fascinating to observe.  Secondly, there’s the terrifying fact that I’m about to begin my librarianship qualifications, which will immerse me yet deeper in the murky world of cataloguing.  And finally, I came across a link to an article called Ontology is Overrated, which caused my thinking on the subject to step up a gear.

But what is ontology?  Continue reading

Boundaries of ignorance


The further you progress in the education system, the more you realise that there’s an awful lot you don’t know.  My MA in English Literature means I know a bit about the field in general, quite a lot about eighteenth-century novels and far too much about Henry Fielding.  But it also makes me realise how much there is about even my chosen fields that I don’t know.  Higher degrees mean learning more and more about less and less, but would I really want to study dozens of GCSE or A Level subjects and be frustrated, knowing that I had now scratched the surface of an awful lot of things?

A post elsewhere on WordPress really challenged me to think again about how little I know.  Continue reading

It must be summer…


Things can get rather silly in the Library of Doom.  It’s probably a reflex action that helps us cope, making us laugh instead of scream.  The silliness tends to be most obvious over the summer, as there are very few students in (so you can get away with more) and other than stock management, there’s not all that much to do.

So it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when I bounded out enthusiastically for a session on the issue desk (one hour, serving approximately ten students) and was handed an origami boat.  Continue reading

Things not to do in the library on a hot day


Imagine, if you will, that Great Britain – that damp, green, eccentric island – is experiencing a heat-wave.  Imagine, if you will, that the hottest July temperatures since the reign of Queen Victoria have been recorded.  Imagine, if you will, that there is a library, the Library of Doom, which has an interesting building design with lots of glass and a general lack of air-conditioning.  Imagine, therefore, lots of very hot and sweaty members of library staff.

There are certain things which you would not recommend doing in these circumstances.  Continue reading

My library runneth over


Everyone knows that libraries and bookshops share something in common with the TARDIS – they are much bigger on the inside than on the outside.  This is particularly true of dusty second-hand bookshops and old libraries with idiosyncratic shelving systems.  However, even those places with the stretchiest hold on the usual laws of space and dimension can only stretch so far, and it seems to me that the Library of Doom has reached that point.

Second-hand bookshops can get away with having books lined up along the window sill, or in teetering piles on the floor, but this doesn’t tend to be very acceptable in the world of libraries. Health and safety people tend to have a fit if there’s anything on the floor, and library patrons naturally start to complain if the books start encroaching on non-shelf territory.  I was intrigued to see what the state of play was in my crazy library, so I wandered round with a tape measure, a pen and a piece of paper yesterday morning before starting work, and here are the the thrilling results.  Subject area, followed by the number of shelves-worth of books that won’t fit on the shelves and are decorating the floor, trolleys, windowsills or study desks.  Or in one case, the top of a radiator, so I hope we find somewhere for those before the winter.

From least impressive to most: literature (4 shelves), sport and art (5 shelves each), music and policing (six shelves each), general science (7 shelves), media (10 shelves), history (13 shelves), languages (14 shelves) and social sciences (20 shelves).  I have a feeling that I missed the geography section accidentally which would add a few more.  Plus approximately 12 shelves-worth of periodicals and don’t even mention the DVDs, as it’s liable to make us all cry.

That’s a lot of books without a home, and sadly no spare space to erect any new shelves.  In approximately 30 months, there will be a brand new Library of Doom, but in the mean time, if you here of any tidal waves of unshelvable books engulfing unsuspecting students, you know why!

Has anyone got a book-shrinker?  I’m sure I saw several boxes of books arriving just before I left this afternoon…

Higher education = Big Brother?


It has occurred to me that there are disturbing parallels between my work in the Library of Doom and the world of so-called ‘reality’ television. Both provide a vital social service, but the populace at large is probably blissfully unaware of this. We keep strange people out of the workforce and off the streets for a period of time, contributing to the overall sanity of the nation.

I do not watch reality shows very often, but it is sometimes unavoidable due to friends, relatives and housemates who devour them greedily, thrilling to the exploits of the publicity-hungry folks these shows tend to attract. Increasingly, the cast list of these shows (I’m looking at you, Big Brother) largely consists of strange, unpleasant people who I’m very glad I’ll never have to meet. For anything up to three months, these people are locked away in a secure environment, meaning that their interesting social skills are only inflicted on a dozen or so people. Thankfully, it seems that the British public decides en masse that nice people should win these shows as often as possible. And also, I have to admit (grudgingly, mind you) that Big Brother has probably done wonders for tolerance, acceptance and inclusion, in that the past winners have included a gay man, a male-to-female transsexual, a working class chappie and even, of all things, a practicing Christian.

Higher education performs many roles, but at least where I work, it fulfils the same vital function as reality TV. I see disturbing numbers of people every day with bafflingly low levels of knowledge, intelligence and common sense, people who surely could not function in the workplace. For three years, or possibly more, we shield society from these people and attempt to teach them the skills they’ll need to survive. We try to show them how to think for themselves, demonstrate how to interact in polite society and force them to fend for themselves without mummy or daddy to cook, wash and clean for them. “How long can you borrow a 7-day loan for?”  “Have you got any photographs of the Great Fire of London?” And of course the brick wall people, who make you feel like you’re either talking to or bashing your head against said edifice. Don’t you feel glad that the valiant staff of higher education institutions are keeping these people away from the rest of the world and at least attempting to turn them into functional members of society?

Maybe the analogy’s not valid, but it struck me recently, so I thought I may as well share it.

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