So, today, it’s Tuesday, and it starts pretty much the same as Monday, only with the addition of some moaning about how tired I am, and with me putting a packed tea as well as a packed lunch in my husband’s bag as he is out tonight. I defrost my bicycle seat and cycle to the pool where despite feeling tired, I manage my 100 lengths and get to work at 8.25.
This morning, although I will be based in the Lower Camera, I start my day with half an hour in the Upper Camera, getting it ready for the readers, as the colleague who will be based there this morning doesn’t start til 9. This involves switching computers and copiers on and sorting out about 50 books, most of which need to go back on the shelves in the reading room and some of which need to be returned to other locations on site. I’m tight for time to do this amount of books on my own, so I sort the books fast and practically fling them into their places on the shelves. The good thing about a fairly static collection where the books have actual homes is that there is generally an obvious gap to put them into!
At 9am, I go back downstairs and we begin “The turnout”. When readers order books from our remote store in Swindon, they are held in the reading room or “reserve” that they have been ordered to for a week; each morning we get a automatically generated list of the books which have been in the room for a week, we retrieve them from the reserve shelves, scan them out of the reading room on the system (“Aleph”), and put them in boxes to be returned. Some of the books have been reserved by readers at other libraries so we have to send them on separately.
At 10am, just as we’ve got rid of the old books, the new orders arrive (and the filled returns boxes are collected – well most of them, we’re sending back so much this morning that there isn’t space on the van). 10 boxes of books! We unpack them onto the four staff desks, scan them in on the Aleph, put them back onto the table sorted into alphabetical piles, and then put them away in the reserve.
At the same time, we’re passing out requested books to readers, helping people with the photocopiers, and pointing out where the toilets are.
Teabreaks also start at 10, there are four of us to go, and we also need to cover the break in the Upper Camera, so this is always tricky logistically!
At 12pm we get another delivery – it’s usually smaller but this time a couple of boxes of books were held over from the morning delivery so we need to put those away too.
At 1pm it’s time for my lunch. I head to the public library to pick up a couple of books, buy gluten free crumpets in Marks and Spencers, ring my husband, and eat some butternut squash soup.
At 2pm, I was supposed to have a meeting for an update on a project, but it’s been postponed, so it’s straight back to the Lower Camera. Immediately I have a couple of enquiries from other members of staff to deal with – one involves me hunting for (and finding!) a book, another involves a system oddity that I will need to talk to my manager about as it’s not something I’ve seen before. Probably needs the systems people to sort it out.
At 3pm, the teabreaks round starts, and the afternoon delivery arrives. It’s another big delivery but the readers don’t really bother us while we’re processing it so it goes away fairly quickly.
At 4.15 I go for my break – it’s a late one as I’m working til 7pm tonight. I normally work til 7pm on a Thursday night but someone needed to swap so here I am. Come back at 4.45 and shortly afterwards send the others home whilst awaiting the arrival of the other person on 5-7 duty. He arrives promptly and after a quick chat he goes off to do some shelving. We don’t shelve during the day as we’re busy and it’s disruptive to the readers, but it’s a priority during evening duty. Whilst he’s busy doing that there are a constant stream of people wanting books from the reserve, it feels like each time I sit down I have to get up again, and it’s almost a relief to have someone ask for help with the photocopiers!
My manager rings me back with an explanation about the system oddity, but I will still need the systems people to sort it out. She also suggests asking for a report to see if there are any other books which think they are somewhere that they’re not!
Finally it’s time to go home – 10.5 hours is a long day when usually I start at 12pm on a 7pm finish. Luckily, even though Mr W is going out tonight, he agreed to come and take me home first so I don’t have to tackle a 30 minute cycle ride in the cold when I’m quite so tired! Definitely a ready meal on the agenda for tonight!
Mavis Gallant’s “A Recollection” (1983)
23 hours ago