Today, I started what basically constitutes my first job. Unless you count being a self-published poet, which personally, I don’t. Most jobs don’t take place at 1am and involve nothing but a pen and paper, let’s be real.
I’m working in the library of my old school, which I left last year. I think I mentioned briefly in a previous post that the school librarian died a couple of weeks ago. It’s very sad — she was an important part of my time at the school — but it was one of those things I didn’t know how to deal with. What’s an acceptable level of mourning for a school librarian? How am I meant to react?
I’m bad at feelings, and I need examples to help me — so a situation like this was difficult. Most novels don’t exactly deal with this scenario. Uncertain of any other way to process it, I offered to help out in the library, thinking I’d pop in for a couple of hours on a volunteer basis and just shelve some books.
This offer landed me a temporary part time job. Okay, so I don’t yet know if / how much I’ll be paid (the headteacher said we’d work something out about payment), and it’s mostly only a couple of hours a day, but it’s still the closest thing I’ve come to being gainfully employed.
Working in the library made me realise how much the librarian did for us. She singlehandedly ran that thing, as evidenced by the chaos left behind. Before I took over today, a team of prefects and staff have been trying to fill her shoes, but her system was unique and, admittedly, somewhat archaic.
Case in point: all loans / due dates are recorded on cards that are slotted into the front of the book, and returns have to be reunited with the correct card. Many of them seem to be missing (the cards or the books, either one), so this is a pretty difficult task. I’m fairly sure after all the years of practice she had, though, our librarian would have been significantly faster than me.
It also made me realise the conditions she had to put up with, namely that the library is boiling hot. It’s a warm day, for England: we’re having a heatwave this week, which is my least favourite kind of weather. The library is on the third floor, or fourth floor if you include the ground floor, and since hot air rises, it’s very stuffy. There were fans to keep the air circulating and many of the windows were open but I still found it unpleasantly warm.
That place will never not remind me of her, and trying to step into her shoes just made me realise how utterly inadequate I was. But, I’ll do my best over the coming fortnight or so, and we’ll see what happens.
I had a few notable encounters with students, though.
One came up to the desk to ask about the final returns date for this term, and addressed me as “Miss”, so she clearly accepted my validity as a member of staff. (Result! I’m normally perceived as younger than I am.) And I actually knew the answer to her question, too, unlike the student who asked if the printer was working. It turned out it wasn’t turned on. Whoops.
Another boy — and I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him before — recognised me not only as a former student, but also said, “You’re an author, aren’t you? Miriam, right?” While being recognised for my writing wasn’t uncommon in the week or so immediately following the interview with me on the school website when St Mallory’s Forever! came out, that was two and a half years ago. More to the point, I’ve changed since then, and then there’s the fact that this boy doesn’t know me in any other capacity, as far as I know.
I told him he had a creepily good memory and while I was a little bit baffled to be recognised like this, it was also kind of nice to think that somebody remembered me. A member of staff also asked me about my writing, and what I’d had published and things, so that was nice.
While I was there I ran into a couple of my old teachers: one of my Classics teachers has an office in the library, so we chatted a bit, and my old form tutor was working in there too. Turns out she also eats mostly gluten-free, so we talked a bit about that, as I’m going to be making significant changes to my diet in the near future. (Stupid coeliac diagnosis…)
Mostly, though, I reunited books with their cards, played a bit with the library stamp, shelved books (where on Earth do psychology books belong? A mystery that remains unsolved), and started rereading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell while nothing was happening, because hey, I’m in a library. Reading a book is definitely an acceptable way to spend the lulls, and the whole time I was there was one long lull.
I’m tagging my library adventures on Tumblr as “i am in ur library shelving all ur books” because I am a mature adult who has a job, so if you’ve ever wondered what school librarians get up to when they’re not telling you to be quiet, I guess you could have a look over there. Though spoiler alert: it isn’t a whole lot, not at this time of year.
And I will leave you with this selfie of me. Hooray.