Gone Terminal

I work at Didsbury library, which is a site library at MMU and in a few weeks we will be closing our doors for good, as the entire site is shutting down. We are  moving to the large All Saints library on the main campus and the departments will move to the new Birley site, forming one mega campus. Map here. More info here.

The closing down of the library is earth-shatteringly heart breaking and it’s a wonder we don’t just spend our days sobbing at our desks. I’ve not even been here a year and I feel utterly wretched, like I’m channelling a character from Mallory Towers who’s been whacked with a hockey stick too many times and all my jolliness has leaked out. Indeed, we are eating our unhappiness in the form of cake, biscuits and ouzo flavoured Turkish delight. If there is anything edible within the building we will find it and we will consume it.

For the staff who have worked here for decades across the whole site, I can only imagine how awful this is. Some people have lost their jobs or retired, but all the library staff are secure for now. Except me (someone hire me please.) The library will be bunking up in the same space as the current library so it’s going to be a tight squeeze. I will be a student there in September so I’m looking forward to making lots of snotty remarks about not being able to find a PC, talking loudly in the silent zone and leaving crisps and old socks in books.

Ian Ransley Design + Illustration (Flickr)

Ian Ransley Design + Illustration (Flickr)

At this time of year, the library seems so empty anyway and most students just want to pay off their final balance, return the last straggling books and then leave forever. There is a definite sense of finality and farewells in the air and every other week we are doing some task or routine for the last time.

Under this cloud of doom, it is morbidly interesting to see how a library is moved. As of today there are 30 working days to go and, apart from some empty shelves, the library kind of looks the same. Except all the cake and people rending their clothes in despair…

The move has been planned intricately on the highest of levels and so I don’t get to see just how much work has gone into this or how long it has taken.

We have been withdrawing items from our main collection – my hands have been stained red with the blood of hundreds of dying books* – and as such I think I have a touch of melodramatic hysteria.

Each person has been given a section and a corresponding list of titles that have not been taken out in a certain number of years. If these are not on reading lists or former reference copies, they have been withdrawn and sent off to be sold or given to charity. This is good (not that anything can ever be good ever again) because nothing is thrown away. And we did get to pick any that we wanted, although when you’re withdrawing ancient textbooks the charm of freebies does dim a little. The books we are keeping need to move to the big library. A company has packed up the Dewey numbers that we don’t really use but have left the core text books for all our courses. These will be moved in the next few weeks as all the courses eventually come to an end. This has been a right ole pain in the arse, as sometimes you don’t know what book is where and it can be tempting to just stick it up your jumper and go and cry in the toilets. Eating some cake of course.

Almost all the printers have gone now, we just have a sad old semi-broken B&W one left. So obviously it’s not all been smooth sailing, as we need more than one printer for the next month or so and at least a colour one at that. In other not-so-good news, staff in our wonderful close-knit team will be separated across offices, departments and managers, and will be facing uncertain roles and futures. At our site library people have a lot of responsibility and in all likelihood they will see their areas of expertise cast away from them. I know we are lucky that library staff keep their jobs and that there still is a library here at all, unlike in the public sector – but it is still an entirely wretched business.

We do get to have some ace parties and I think some former staff that people haven’t seen for years are going to come along. I mean, I have no idea who these random people are but I’m sure they will be lovely. Soon we’re having a party on a barge. Yes that’s right, on a mother fugging BARGE. It could easily be made into a one off BBC drama – Librarians on the Lock. Not sure exactly how a lock works, I just remember Pippin the dog doing a special about them – or was that this episode (symbolic of what is happening to our library, eh.)

My old school closed down** a couple of years ago and I went for a tour last summer. It was weirdly cathartic, especially all the smells; I will never catch a whiff of the sweaty old carpet  in the languages corridor or the waxy pea smell of the hall. It was like a ghost ship; old shoes, worksheets, textbooks, hats just abandoned willy nilly. So when I look around the library and wonder what will happen, how can we ever empty the whole place out, I remember that there will probably be odds and sods scattered about the place for a good while yet. So now please excuse me, I am going to the second floor to commit the stench of dissertation desperation to memory.

 

* i.e. ink from the withdrawals stamp

**the one where I infamously had to wear a bottle green bowtie for five years, case in point:

Me at school

Circa. 2005

Library Fascism

This post was going to begin with a 1984 Dewey gag but it turns out that 198.4 is parked around the classification for the Philosophy of Scandinavia, which doesn’t exactly lend itself well to jokes. So please just laugh amongst yourselves as I elect myself as Library Dictator. Yes, this does involve some sort of (knitted) uniform, possibly a massive crown and definitely a dictatorial pet bird.

As the Library Dictator (in my own fictional world, not actually been promoted in the most epic way imaginable), here is the official list of new library laws that I have rolled out, severe punishments included.

If you think it’s mean just pop me an email to upmybum@stickit.com and remember that once upon a time dear old Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas so it really could be worse.

Lord Vetinari

 

  1. Thou Shalt Not Use Highlighters

Crime: The use of the most vile and repulsive stationary item, the neon demon stick. This is the ultimate library crime, involving the desecration of lovely books with mindless scribbles. If you want to highlight books don’t be so selfish and buy them yourself or at least photocopy the pages. There is no defence. If only I could literally point at the  highlighter stained fingertips and say ‘AHA it was YOU all along.’ Yes, it would be like I was Poirot thankyouverymuch.

Punishment: If you are caught neon-handed, only the highest punishment will do. From now on, whenever you sit down to a delicious meal you will be served only the Fish Burger (McFishy?) from McDonalds, which is the ultimate worst item of junk food. You will never eat anything unhealthy and tasty again.

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  1. Thou Shalt Also Not Use Those Sticky Markers

Crime: The highlighter for hipsters. I just get so angry when I see a book with them poking out like happy little waving fingers waving at me until you shitting well rip them out and the sticky bits stay behind. Just the thought is giving me a coronary.

Punishment: There will be crumbs in your bed forever. And you will not even get to eat the biscuits.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Return Wet Books

Crime: If your book is wet then you’ve done something very wrong. It doesn’t matter if it is wet with liquid gold or your own bodily fluids. All books should be dry. Here’s a tip – is it raining? Are you enjoying a delicious beverage? Are you in the bath or the sea or a canoe? Put the book back.

Punishment: You will always have a dry chip. No vinegar or ketchup for you. (Yes, these are all becoming food related. No I am not hungry, why would you ask that?)

  1. Thou Shalt Not Bring Kiddiewinks Into The Library

Crime: Having children. Just kidding haha.. We do allow children in the library but if they are under 10 they can’t go upstairs. I don’t have a problem with children per se but it’s those sneaky ones that look 5 years old but are 14 or the massive ogre ones that turn out to be 7. I’m just sick of embarrassing myself asking how old children are. Brand them or something please!

Punishment: Oh lawks I can’t punish the ickle children. Well, maybe they can get a satsuma in their Christmas stocking this year. Yeah take that kids, have some vitamin C.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Use The Word ‘Placement’

Crime: Never is an excuse weaker than when a student says they can’t renew their books or pay their fines because they were on placement. Just typing those horrible letters make my inner hideous witchy crone come out to scream at them. Everyone is on placement, renew your bloody books like a grown up.

Punishment: Whenever you choose a chocolate it will always be coconut – and coconut aint bad but you’ll never have a nice strawberry crème or mini galaxy caramel again. Ha, take that with you on placement.

  1. Thine Mother and Father Shalt Not Phone Up For Thou As If Thou Art A Big Baby

Crime: Self-explanatory. If you are old enough to be in university you should never ever get mummy and daddy to phone up for you, especially to ask if we can wave diddums’ fines.

Punishment: If you like your parents so much they can do everything with you, include go with you on dates, sleep in your bed and shower with you. Yes it is creepy, but necessary.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Eat Thy Delicious Food In Front Of The Librarians

Crime: If I’m hungry (i.e. 90% of my waking moments) then I don’t want to see and smell your delicious food. Hot food is banned anyway so that’s a double whammy of a crime.

Punishment: If you want to eat cold food, pay me a tithe of a good nibble on your flapjack. If it’s hot food then you must surrender it immediately and watch as I stuff it into my big gob.

 

Good job I’m not a Library Dictator eh, or else I’d be obese.

 

The Librarian

 

PS. If you know the mammals in the pictures then let’s be friends 🙂