Posts Tagged ‘ work ’

Ian for a summer


One of my friends has me listed on her mobile phone as ‘Gerald’, as this was the role I played in Me and My Girl, opposite her as Jaquie.  The idea was that she knows a great variety of Davids (mark this date in your diary, it may be the first time I’ve mentioned my name on this blog), but Gerald will probably always be me and only me.

A reminder of this fact, combined with being dropped off at Newport Pagnell service station at Christmas by one of the other Davids of the world, caused me to recall my summer of being Ian.  It is not unusual to be temporarily called any one of a number of names, Chris and Simon being particular favourites, but this is the only time I’ve gone by a pseudonym in real life for any length of time.

This was during my student days, when a summer job was an absolute necessity and was unlikely to be overly fulfilling.  This particular summer I managed to secure employment with Welcome Break at the M1 service station at Newport Pagnell, the town where I grew up.  I was employed to clear and clean tables, operate the floor cleaning monster truck and occasionally to do the washing up, a particularly unpleasant task.  In addition to duties which were less than stimulating to the mind, I suffered a series of problems with the whole point of my presence there – being paid.  Although I was supposed to be paid weekly, it wasn’t until several weeks had elapsed that I received a payslip.  Opening it eagerly, I was deeply disappointed to find that it was for a total of zero pounds and zero pence.  A crushing blow.

I was eventually paid for my labours, but my summer had more confusion in store than simple cash-flow troubles.  When I started, I was issued with my beautiful Welcome Break polo shirt, but they did not have any name badges with my name on.  Not a problem, I was told.  Apparently I didn’t really need a name badge, and as I would only be there for a couple of months, it wasn’t really worth getting one done for me.  Unfortunately, there was one circumstance where name badges were needed: when there was a visit from Head Office.

So, on one fine day, I arrived at the service station, only to be told that there was a visit from Head Office expected today and I should be wearing my name badge.  I politely mentioned that I had no name badge because there were no Davidic ones available, and thus caused a minor panic.  The shift supervisor soon hit upon a cunning plan – give me a random name badge for the day and hope that it went unnoticed.  A quick trip over to the uniform repository and I was ready for work with a name badge proudly stating that I was Ian.  The day passed, for me at least, without any further incident of note.

An elegant solution, one might think, to a very temporary problem.  Unfortunately, this was not to be.  For reasons that were unknown to minions such as myself, the visit from Head Office was extended for quite some time.  And so, because I had been Ian on the first day they were there, I was (at least in the realm of name badges) to be Ian until they went away or I went back to university, whichever came sooner.  You can probably guess which one came sooner…  For several weeks, therefore, my uniform proclaimed me as an Ian, whereas my inmost being knew me to be a David.  My fellow minions were confused at first, but most of them soon learned to trust what they knew to be the truth and continue calling me David.  I refused to introduce myself as Ian, but my Davidic nature went undiscovered for the remainder of the summer, or perhaps it was deigned to be unimportant compared to the real cause of the extended managerial visit.  I suppose I shall never know, but I shall always remember being Ian for a summer.  It didn’t really suit me, but at least I know I have the choice.  David I am, but Ian I could be if necessary.  I was, after all, accustomed to looking round when I heard the name, and could soon get back in to the habit.  But would a David by any other name still be the Singing Librarian?

An anniversary


Today marked the 8th anniversary of my arrival at the Library of Doom, a nervous young graduate entering his first full-time job, as a humble Library Assistant.  I seem to recall that the day was sunny, and three ladies started at the same time as me, though none of them work here any longer.  I had been staying with two friends, who had generously opened their home to me while I searched for somewhere to set up camp.  I live with them again now, as we have purchased a house along with another friend, but in the intervening years I had four other addresses which were not also theirs.

In that time, I have moved from Library Assistant to Senior Library Assistant, with a four-month diversion when I was seconded into an Assistant Librarian position.  I have seen many members of staff come and go, watched students start and end PhD theses and become academic staff members, seen several new libraries start up, processed many thousands of inter-library loans and watched far too many ducklings grow up in our enclosed garden.  I have seen floods, leaks, power cuts, falling shelves and masonry, escaped animals, fire drills, injuries, potential law suits and deeply unpleasant bookmarks.  I have laughed, I have worked hard, I have lost motivation and found it again and I have, on more than one occasion, cried.

I have had to fill in only one medical self-certification form, for two days off work due to head trauma.  I had walked into a lamp post.  I have completed an MA in Literature and a Postgraduate Diploma in Information and Library Studies.  Outside of work, I have performed in eleven fully-staged shows and too many concerts to count, both classical and popular, with a slowly growing fan club of fellow library dwellers, alongside assorted others.

So what did I do at work today, to celebrate such an anniversary?  I attended a development workshop where one of the tasks involved writing a story about being a member of staff at the University of Doom in 2014.  I sat on a help point for two hours and helped only one person.  And I peeled stickers off books as part of transferring them from short loan back to the main collection.  All in all, a thrilling day!

Library Mythconceptions


It strikes me that most people don’t have a clue what I actually do all day at work.  Hopefully my fellow inmates at the Library of Doom have at least a vague idea, but in the wider world my actual activities are about as well known as Chandler Bing’s job title in Friends.  In other words, everyone thinks they know, but nobody really does.  I think this is largely due to a variety of myths, rumours and misconceptions that surround the world of librarianship.  I won’t bore you with the details of exactly what I do, but here are some things which aren’t entirely true.

It must be lovely, being able to read all those wonderful books.  Well, yes, the Library of Doom is indeed full of books, both wonderful and otherwise, and I have handled a large proportion of our stock (getting on for half a million items), and probably seen almost everything, even if only the spine of the book out of the corner of my eye.  However, I don’t get to sit around during working hours perusing this storehouse of knowledge, as, strangely enough, I’m being paid to do more useful things.  The only time when some of us might get to sit down and read is if we’re stuck on a late shift on the issue desk over the summer, when you see approximately one and a half students per hour.  If you’re lucky.

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Good librarian, bad librarian


One of last week’s strips over at Unshelved/Overdue Media, a wonderful web comic about a public library, struck a particular chord with me, as it features the staff battening down the hatches in response to someone asking ‘What day of the week is the second Thursday of the month?’, unsafe in the knowledge that this query heralds one of those days.

Here at the Library of Doom, we certainly have those days, when an outbreak of ‘thick’ hits the student population.  Of course, as librarians we are immune to the horrible disease of thick, but we can certainly be badly affected when the symptoms manifest themselves in the student body.  Dealing with stupid queries is one of the times when I have to keep the greatest amount of control over myself, as an immense urge to be sarcastic, demeaning or just plain rude comes over me.  Thankfully, the good librarian in me tends to win, and the bad librarian has to be contented with repeating the story about the latest thick outbreak at every opportunity.  But what would happen if the bad librarian won?  I beg to put before you a few real examples from the Library of Doom, with what the bad librarian wanted to say, and what the good librarian chose to say instead.

Student: How long can you borrow a 7-day loan for?
Bad librarian: How long do you think you can borrow a 7-day loan for?  If you need to ask that question, then you’re in the wrong place.  You, personally, can’t borrow any 7-day loans at all.  Everyone else can borrow them for 7 days.
Good librarian: A week.

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