This post is slightly different, in that it wasn’t originally written for this blog. I heard about it on Twitter and thought it would be a good piece to call in, as turned out to be the case. Carol McLeod works for Midlothian Libraries.
It’s not quite 9.30am and staff are scurrying about, preparing for what could be a busy day ahead – it’s funny, you never know what will be flung at you when you work in a branch and the day can start in quite an orderly manner and very quickly be thrown into chaos at a moments notice.
Today there is a Bookstart Rhymetime session at 10am in the children’s area of the library. That means lots of babies (and toddlers) coming with their mums and it’s always a lot of fun. There are cushions scattered around the rug on the floor and lots of soft, cuddly toys to entertain the wee ones when their attention wanders or if they become fractious for some reason or another. The squeals of delight when they sing their favourite nursery rhyme or song is very genuine and brings a lot of pleasure to the mums – and the customers who are at the desk waiting to return or have books issued to them.
The session is soon under full swing and this morning it is a rather noisy affair, with animal noises emanating from the children’s area and travelling through to the several adults who are sitting at a PC, wondering if there has been an escape from the zoo.
While the fun is all happening with the wee ones, a man comes up to the desk and asks if he can use a PC. He is asked if he has a library card and he says he does but cannot find it, so he is asked if he has proof of his identity (which would enable his record to be accessed), otherwise he would have to be furnished with a guest access to the PCs for today. He promptly rolls up both sleeves and displays his name, in gothic letters, tattooed on his forearms – his first name down one forearm and his surname down the other – and announces, “Ah widnae hae onybuddy else’s name up ma airm noo, wid Ah?” As there is no answer for that one, he is promptly furnished with his details in order to give him computer access.
It’s not long before someone using a PC needs help in order to print something to take away with them and staff are on hand to assist. That done, just as a return to the desk is about to happen, another request for help from a computer user (who doesn’t know how to set up an e-mail account) is called out to staff who are also able to help.
A short return to the desk is in order when the phone rings – someone wants to know if we can send a fax for them. While there, several readers have made their selection and their books are duly issued and a bus pass form is processed at the same time. Next, help is needed to photocopy birth and death certificates for someone who has suffered a recent bereavement and is a bit upset.
Another return to the desk is needed when a workman (who has been working on our roof for the past few days) wants to know if he can go into the back office, as his workmate has just come through the ceiling! An image of a mangled body lying among the books flashes through the mind – but things are not so bad when we go through to investigate, it is only his legs which came through the ceiling and not the whole person, as the ceiling joist saved the poor workman from plummeting into the library below.
Oh well! Life is never dull when you work in a branch library…
Thanks Carol – I’ve worked in branches myself but I don’t think I ever had a day quite like that one! It’s funny, but it also shows the range of tasks branch staff have to help with and how reliant the digitally excluded can be on their public library. Carol is happy to answer questions via email – in the first instance, please use the comments space below.