Posts Tagged ‘ Library ’

If These Books Could Talk (a poem)

I am the fruit of knowledge and experience,

The product of months and years,

Of pain and joy and toil and tears.

I am coloured by a worldview that is my own, 

Shared by no other.

I am built from mistakes and reflection,

From failures and mis-steps and triumphs,

Perhaps I am even built from wisdom.

Alone, I cannot give you these things.

Knowledge, experience, skill are not mine to bestow.

But together. Ah, together!

A meeting of minds, in the moment, or across the years.

A new construction. 

My words meet your thoughts.

My worldview blends with yours.

There is work involved, but also reward.

I cannot give you knowledge or understanding,

But I can advise and guide the way.

Take what I give and forge your own path.

Bring your experience, passions, skills.

Use your mistakes, triumphs, failures.


Knowledge, understanding, perhaps even wisdom.

Not mine to give. 

But yours to build on, and yours to surpass.

This is a poem which I wrote back in 2018, in response to a poetry symposium held on campus called Poetic Nursing Heart. I attended the first (and indeed subsequent) symposium, where I heard from nursing students and staff about their philosophy, concerns and joys through the medium of poetry. I also shared some of my own poetry, from the perspective of a mental health service user (you can find some of that on this very blog), but I wanted to respond in a different way. So I wrote these words, in theory from the perspective of our books, but showing some of how I feel about my role as well.

This is also a handy moment to be able to say that I’ve started a YouTube channel to share some of my writing and singing (at least, I don’t think I’ve already mentioned it). Here’s the poem as uploaded to YouTube – and please do check out some of my other videos there as well, while I experiment with how to do the YouTube thing.

Still a librarian

These are, to say the least, uncertain times. I am one of the lucky ones, at least so far, but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly affected me.

The Singing Librarian at work
The Singing Librarian at work in more normal times

Like all libraries in the UK, mine is now closed. The doors are shut for an unspecified (and unspecefiable) amount of time, the study spaces are unoccupied and the books remain untouched on the shelf. And yet, the library is open. As much as we possibly can, we have moved online. And many of the things which make the library a library are still there. Services, resources, support. And most importantly, people. That’s all still there. It’s just that “there” has a different meaning.

When I have told people I’m working from home, to a pretty normal pattern of hours, some have been confused. How can a librarian possibly work from home? I would say that a library needs librarians (in the broadest sense), otherwise it’s just a building full of books, but a librarian doesn’t need a physical library. However much we might love it and miss it and long to get back to it.

So, what do I do from home? For some of the time, the answer is the same as for everyone else who has had to move what they’d normally do face-to-face into the online world. Grapple with technology. Manage the flood of notifications. Say “yes, we can hear you” many times a day. But beyond that, what can I do? I can support, I can advise and I can teach.

Support. The library already provides online guidance, but this has become more important than ever. So a good chunk of my time has been spent creating additional guidance for those students and staff who are working off campus for the first time. Reassurance, instructions, information. I have also begun informing different subjects about the resources available electronically, including some which have been made available temporarily during the pandemic.

Advise. I can answer queries. A trickle at first, as everyone had other things on their mind. But a steady stream now, and no doubt a torrent eventually. The usual sorts of questions I would get in the library, just answered by email, through Skype calls, or (after carefully blocking my caller ID, as I don’t have a work phone when at home) by telephone. It takes longer, particularly for telephone calls where neither of us can see the other’s screen. But this essential part of my role remains essentially unchanged.

Teach. Universities across the world have been plunged into an online-only model of teaching and learning for the time being. The three I work for are included in this. I had some teaching planned in for the coming weeks, and am in the process of taking what I would have taught face-to-face and seeing how I can teach this electronically. This is not a simple process, as simply recording a video lecture and telling the students to watch it isn’t really teaching. I have to think about what I want students to learn, how this can best be achieved, and how to engage with the students as people.

Soon, I will be able to get to some of the routine things – making sure our book budget gets spent (on ebooks, obviously!), maintaining online platforms etc. Hopefully do some CPD. Develop our online guidance in a more planned way rather than just reacting. Write a journal article. For now, the most urgent things are the only things getting done. And that’s fine. Everything is taking longer, so I am being kind to myself and just getting done what I can get done. The rest can wait. I’m not going anywhere. Nor is anyone else. But it is good to know that I can be a librarian from home just as much as I can in a library.

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