This month marks my six month anniversary of being a GT. Someone else may take this opportunity to write a deep and reflective post about how they have changed as a professional and, dammit, as a person as well. Not me, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that kind of touchy-feely stuff. As I am learning, we don’t always get what we want, like a new Harry Potter book detailing just how Harry, Ron and Hermione turned into such creepy looking adults or a decent LIS course (amiright).
Instead of talking about my feelings, I have come up with a list of the things I now know about working in libraries – and the things I am still totally clueless about. If anyone has the answers to these, seriously get in touch. I can pay you in the librarian drug of your choice; coffee, cats, cake, crafts or crack.
So far, I have learnt:
How to do my job
Yeah, it would be a little worrying if I didn’t know what I was doing by now. Not that I don’t spend some days just staring at the book in my hand, wondering what the hell I meant to do with it – but for the most part, everything has clicked into place. I haven’t been fired yet so hopefully things are going well.
How to write emails
Sometimes it still feels like a minefield – I agonize for hours over exclamation marks and whether I should put ‘thanks’ or ‘cheers,’ only to hit send on an email that someone will take ten seconds to skim. It has become more natural though, and it helps to realize that most people probably feel this way sometimes.
Apart from that one student who emailed me with only the four cryptic words, “I have found them.” I don’t think she has ever worried about how to write an email…
On the first day of my Graduate Traineeship they should have told me to kiss my loved ones goodbye, as from that point on I would have only one major relationship in my life – with the fudging photocopier. If half of the queries I deal with are about fines, then the other half are how to copy, how to scan, how to add credit, how not to die when scanning your own face.* Indeed, you’ve really never felt alive if you haven’t stuck your hand blindly into the boiling innards of a photocopier, risking your fingers to pull out the remnants of someone’s Ryanair booking confirmation.
As in, nobody really conforms to the stereotype but all non-librarians are weirdly obsessed with it and ask you about it whenever you mention where you work. I’m talking about the idea that librarians are quiet, nerdy, cardigan-smothered battle-axes who ssshh people over the tops of their glasses, before going home to their cats and/or knitting. I didn’t really expect to meet anyone like that when I started at MMU but I thought there might be some echoes of truth. Turns out, not one jot. I may wear cardigans and glasses and tell people to shut up but that’s because I am grumpy, stylish and blind, not because I am a librarian.*
There is one! Hallelujah!
We have special posh sellotape, only to be used to affix spine labels to books because it doesn’t turn yellow and costs a fortune. This is some seriously specialized shit.
Dewey Decimal System
It’s taken six months, but I am now prepared for everyone thinking I have memorised the entire DDS and will be able to direct them to books on their particular subject. In these cases I either point them towards the catalogue or point them towards a random shelf and leg it.
After six months of attempting to use up the entire UK supply of post-it notes, I have realised one epic thing. I am so, so glad I didn’t do a PhD. There are lots of little reasons why not, like the fact that I can see the results of my hard word on a daily basis rather than waiting for years, or that I am finally writing a book, or that I probably would have made a sucky academic anyway. Sadly (ha), the world will never get to read the amazing research of Dr Bayjoo on Medieval Welsh literature but hopefully they will get some use out of a library where Ms Bayjoo works. I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about emotions but seriously guys, I am so pleased that I work in a library as a GT, not as a student. Huzzah!
I have six months to learn about:
What is up with staplers
So what I do know, is that staplers break constantly. How can we live in a world whereby I can carry the entire internet in my pocket and videochat with my sister on another continent – but can’t affix pages of paper together in a semi-permanent fashion. If I don’t become rich by being a librarian (likely), then I will just have to invent a stapler alternative and solve this blight upon our society.
What the fuck is metadata?
I feel like I have told everyone one of our thousands and thousands of library users that they cannot reserve books that are on the shelves upstairs. I do it every. single. day. If I am looking at a career spanning several decades of saying this same thing every day, I am going to need to get myself to a zen-like place or pour Baileys onto my cereal. It’s not so much the repetition, it’s the telling someone that the book they need is upstairs, giving them the shelf mark, and then watching them just walk away because they can’t be bothered to actually pick the book up. The stuff of my nightmares, I tell ya.
I have tentatively accepted my place to study for my MLIS in September. I am both pleased and not pleased, manically veering between both emotions on a daily basis. Watch this space to witness my complete mental collapse.
Why do all the students have them? What the hell is in them? Is everyone just going on holiday apart from me?
Why books are so dirty
Seriously, I don’t know what people are doing to these books but after an hour of straightening or being on the counter, I am filthy. I have gone through two bottles of sanitizer in six months and I’m beginning to fear that the book bacteria are becoming resistant.
Lack of scientists
Where are all the scientists? I thought, coming from a literature background, that I would be in a minority. Surely scientists, with their organized brains and love of data and charts and numbers, would make fantastic librarians – and yet everyone I meet has done some sort of humanity degree. It is great though, to work with people who share similar interests in old books and dead people.
Subtitle: why can people be so mean (sob, sob). I bloody love Twitter, and think that is almost an essential tool for anyone, early or late in their career. Just think of the networking possibilities you could have whilst sat in bed eating jam with a spoon. Nobody would even know, unless you tweet about it! Yet, some people use Twitter to be mean and it can be a harsh reminder of the fact that even though we are grownups, some of us are still children. And I say this as a person who has tweeted about their own bum.
Thanks for reading – here’s to another six months!
**This is definitely going on my CV