A librarian from Scotland took to Twitter to share her insight into what it is like being a librarian in the UK.
Secret Library Gorgon, whose real name is Mel, told Bored Panda that being a librarian was never her intention but sometimes great things happen without you planning them.
“I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years but I became quite unwell about five years ago and had to leave my product design engineering role and course. I was gutted but I knew that recovery would take a while. I’ve always been a bookworm so I started looking for jobs in libraries and other environments to do part-time while I recovered. I love it so much that I hope I can keep working in libraries permanently.”
After chatting with a colleague about some of the quirks of their job, Mel started posting them on Twitter: “I figured a few of my fellow library assistants would relate. If I’d known how big it would become, I’d have proofread them first!”
Things I have learned about the general public whilst working at the library:— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
1. A huge number of people under 20 can't read face clocks, having grown up with only digital one.
2. Many people don't know how to spell "library." It's in our email address. This causes problems
3. A disturbing number of young people don't actually know how book-lending at the library works. They assume it costs money! Teach your children about libraries!— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
4. Crime and thriller are basically the same thing in many cases. In fact, we have doubles of books because of that.
5. People use hidden codes like asterisks to mark which books they've read. Please don't do that! The system will let you know if you've already borrowed something! Just ask.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
6. If an automatic door breaks, people will walk into it instead of reading the sign at face height.
7. Libraries are a godsend for blind and deaf people and not just for audiobooks. They can come for help with filling out forms and getting directions.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
8. Some elderly people go through books at a TERRIFYING rate. They are to be feared and respected.
9. Some people are so afraid of computers that they will come to you with a query and then become upset if you offer to look it up on the computer instead of in a book.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
10. Some people have never, ever used a telephone. Especially older women. Their husband did it for them.
11. The DWP fuck over everyone but especially the most vulnerable and I haven't met a single library worker who hasn't helped struggling library users with food or phone calls or even a cup of tea when it's cold and they can't afford heating.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
12. The Jobcentre regularly lie to people and like to tell them they can get services at libraries that simply do not exist. We will try our very best to help you get what you should have been given at the Jobcentre.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
13. Most banks assume that everyone has an email now. In fact, some people have trouble proving that they exist at all without one.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
14. Library folk are good folk. We do this because we are passionate about it. We have to be.
15. Libraries aren't quiet anymore. They're community hubs now. They may have quiet study areas but most libraries are bustling with activity. Between kids' classes, singing and memory groups for those with Dementia, craft sessions and noisy office equipment, don't expect silence— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
16. Libraries remain the only place where you can spend hours in a publicly-accessible building without being expected to spend money. Parents come to entertain their children for free on wet days. People in poverty come for a warm place to sit. Libraries are a haven.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
17. Some people will go their entire lives only reading 2-3 authors but still have enough material to read a book every month. (See also: Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, etc.)— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
18. A library lives and dies by the staff on the counter. You can have the best funding, all of the books and tech in the world but you'll only get footfall if your staff go above and beyond. Sometimes even that doesn't work, though and it's frustrating.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
19. We're funded based on footfall. I've seen staff cry because we lost a youth group to a private hall that has fancier facilities like a cafe. We need all the footfall we can get.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
20. Staff are hitting their heads against walls volunteering to create events, classes and groups only to have them shot down because local councils don't understand social media or want to charge for it. I can't overemphasise just how much unpaid work staff do.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
21. Most of the facilities are only working because staff pay out of pocket to get things working. My manager bought a new laminator when we couldn't afford one. She buys in colouring materials for kids. We sometimes bring in our own stationery. We even but lightbulbs in.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
22. Authors don't like to visit little libraries because they don't get paid. Bookstores often pay.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
23. The "sexy librarian" trope has actually done a LOT of harm and has caused countless incidences of sexual assault by men who can't tell the difference between porn and reality.
24. Old ladies keep libraries in business. Old ladies who read are the best. Old ladies who can tell you exactly which page features the most gruesome murder scene are the very best.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
26. I'm not supposed to have favourite library users but I do: I love library couples, who bicker over each others' reading tastes or share books and then argue about the themes.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
I also love the autistic kids with special interests. I will crawl over hot coals to get you a book about the specific type of train you are interested in, tiny child. I will listen to you tell me about it in great detail. I will try to remember for the next time you come in.— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
27. The single best moment, for me, is when a library user graduates from Young Adult to Adult and suddenly the entire library is open to them! They can read anything! No more tiny teen section! All of the classics! Sci fi! Horror!— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
They often get overwhelmed.
28. And finally, because I've spammed you long enough and because my typos are mounting up, remember this:— Secret Library Gorgon 🐍 (@grumpwitch) 15 May 2019
Library staff can overcome many challenges but Book Gods help you if you deprive us of caffeine. You don't want to see what happens then.
The Secret Library Gorgon lives up to her name as a fierce protector and supporter of local libraries:
“I think libraries need to be advertised. The world is so commercial and every brand is vying for people’s attention, especially on new technology that I think libraries miss out on being part of the conversation. They’re sometimes seen as a relic of the past and very few people realise just how much they do. We need advertising campaigns and reminders that libraries are still here.”
“Budget cuts are definitely the biggest threat. Local councils and other bodies are having to stretch smaller budgets thinner and thinner and unfortunately, libraries often take the hit. It’s all the little things we need to do but can’t, like fix a broken piece of equipment or run classes with better materials that make us lose library users. If a printer stops working, people go somewhere else to print. If the children’s activities at a sports centre are more involved because there are more staff on hand, people will take their children there instead.”
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