Sunday, 22 January 2006

The Stressed Librarians

I forgot to write about this the other week. I used to work in a libraries. Well not exactly libraries. They were in colleges and had changed their names to learning centres. The main difference, it appeared to me, between a library and a learning centre was that the users forgot their approapriate library-behaviour because they were in a learning centre. That and the availability of computers (although all libraries have computers these days).

I wouldn't exactly say these jobs were stressful. Well perhaps there were times of stress, mostly they were repetative. Certainly weren't hard.

My first post, at the then Kingsway College, was given to me by a woman I used to do cat-sitting for. She needed someone, I was unemployed. I was lord of the library for 6 hours at a time, on my own. Only a problem when I needed the toilet. My boss would come and go - mostly she'd be at meetings at a different site, rushing back feeling guilty, bringing gifts of fancy sandwiches and chocolate cake. We didn't have many books, reference only, and we didn't have many computers either. We did have a fantastic electronic stapler - love those. It was extremely loud - people would quake as they nudged their papers into its jaws, and jump out of their skin when it snapped a staple through them. But it could staple 80 leaves easy. There was a lady who used to come to college with her cat in one of those shopping baskets on wheels that people used in the 70s before the shopping-trolley-bag was introduced. The most unfriendly cat you've ever met.

Then I went to work for Lewisham College. Weird mix of hormones in that place - girls would come to college looking like they were about to hit the nightclubs and the boys would jostle for their attention, overloaded with testosterone. If they weren't trying to chat you up, they'd be calling you a bitch because you asked them to be quiet. We only had to do an hour of shelving a week but it was a thankless task. After tidying up the section I was responsible for I felt like banning students from using it - it only took 5 minutes and the whole place was like we'd never been there. Still at least I didn't have to do book covering and labelling. The best thing was looking out (from the 3rd floor) over the rooftops of Deptford and occassionally seeing a ship passing slowly between them - surreal seeming but we were relatively close to the Thames. As hugely glad as I was to stop working there, I find that no other work place has been such a laugh since. Stressed? We didn't know we had it so good!

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