Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Librarian

Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to the New and Improved City Library and Adult Learning Resource Centre.

Do you know how much money they’ve spent on us? Would you like to hazard a guess?

Six million pounds.

Yes, yes, I know. You heard me correctly. Six million pounds to house these books. Aren’t we lucky? Of course, it’s been difficult whilst the Library has been closed. They’ve farmed us out to other Libraries, however, it isn’t really the same. A Librarian of my calibre isn’t really at home in the smaller Libraries. I need the bustle of the big city Library, I find I crave the noise. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Noise in a Library? Well it isn’t that kind of noise, not rowdy disco kind of noise. It’s a quiet, book-borrowing, pen-scribbling kind of noise. The noise in the smaller Libraries isn’t the same. It is more of a don’t-know-what-to-do-with-myself-so-I-thought-I’d-come-to-the-Library kind of noise. Totally different. So even thought they packed us off to other Libraries, I’ve still had more time on my hands than I normally would. Time which I’ve spent at home. It’s been quite nice in a way. I spent a lot of time in the garden, re-grouted the bathroom, was able to do my skirting boards once a week, that kind of thing. And of course I was able to spend more time with Jerry.

Ah, Jerry. Jerry is my husband, of course. He’s always been one of those softly gregarious types. You know the kind, not one to shoot his mouth off but he’ll talk quietly to anyone. He’s forever stopping to give young men lifts home. I always tell him, you have to be careful Jerry. You never know who you might pick up, what sort of undesirable you might find in the backseat of your car but he doesn’t listen. If you care for it, Ladies and Gentlemen, I think you’ll find that we have a top-notch true crime section that will make your skin crawl. But he doesn’t pay me any mind, as I’m sure any ladies who also have been married for thirty-odd years will agree is an unfortunate attribute of the male psyche. He wasn’t like that when I married him, he always used to agree that I know best, but I suppose that’s marriage for you. My waist isn’t as slim as it was and he’s forgotten that its better all round if he listens to me. I think he forgets where I work, what I’m involved in, day-in, day-out. He’s never been this close to such a wealth of information succinctly detailing the horrors of human-kind. He wouldn’t know how to use the internet if it walked up to him, smacked him in the face, and said “hello, I’m the internet, here is a simple step-by-step guide to how I work.” No, no, he’s in his own little world, and, this is a bit of a guilty admission, I am quite ashamed to tell you this, especially when so many of you have come here in the dusk of your lives, when things are becoming a little hazy, you’re going a little grey, trying to broaden your horizons, bring a little light, but…he isn’t even a member of the Library. That’s right! I’ll hold my hands up! My name is Lillian Broadbent, Chief Librarian of the new and improved City Library and Adult Learning Resource Centre, and my own husband isn’t even a member.

I have always been a member of the Library. I’ve worked here for 40 years. Woman and girl. My first job was in this Library, when I was a young woman straight out of school, I was here part time when the children were small and needy, and I’ve taken more hours since they’ve grown up and spread their wings. The children, I am pleased to tell you, are members of the Library. They don’t come here very often because they live away and don’t get back a lot, but they’re always keen to pop in when they do. And it is always wonderful to see them. It really is.

So here we are, and I do hope to see you all again in the future. This is a wonderful Library, a real lifelong learning centre, it has everything you could ever need. Not just books you know. We have a varied selection of audio books and some wonderful films and documentaries, some of the dvds, I’m lead to believe, are quite racy, if you like that sort of thing. I don’t much care for it myself. I prefer a nice historical documentary, or a period drama. Jane Austin dramatises particularly well. Such lovely costumes. And it constantly amazes me that she is still so relevant. My daughter doesn’t agree with me, but then, our children rarely do, do they? How many in here have children? I suppose that in some small way that might have spurred you to come here. To fill the gap left by empty nest syndrome, or, really, just to see what all the fuss over the internet is about. Well, we’ll get to that later. There is an introductory session later today at 2pm, which will give you a really good idea of how it all works and what you do with all the bits and pieces. What I really want to convey to you though, is that, no matter what your reasons for coming here, do not be afraid. We’re all friends here. It might sound like a cliché, but it’s true.

Ok, so we have lots of treats in store for you over the coming weeks. Thursday mornings are dedicated Senior Citizens Day. Although I’ve had to put my foot down and cancel the first key speaker. One of our younger members of staff booked her, in what I can only imagine is a bad taste joke. The book this lady wrote is about…sex. The premise is about not letting the dull familiarity of marriage intrude on your sex life. It was written by an American woman with three ex-husbands, no children, and an assortment of handbag sized dogs that look like hairdos. The book itself has a bright pink mock suede cover and is full of jaunty tips, the kind of quirky sex secrets that are apparently best tried out by candlelight. Honestly! Have you ever heard anything like it? It all seems so…robust. I can’t imagine Jerry and I ever doing anything like that. Cold lino under bare skin? No thank you very much indeed. Far more comfortable just to sit in quietly, perhaps read the paper or watch a gardening programme. I do love my garden. It is one of my few pleasures outside of my work. Not that my life is devoid of pleasure. I didn’t mean it like that. I have a lot of pleasure in my life. I mean, look around! Six million pounds they spent on this place. If that doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will. So luckily for us all I managed to stop us being subjected to that and now our first key speaker is going to be a member of the Local Historical Society. Full details can be found on the notice board by the main entrance, or when you’ve learnt how to use the internet, you can go on our mailing list and have all our up-and-coming news beamed straight into your inbox!

Here at the Library, we also keep a full range of papers, both broadsheet and tabloid. The story running on the front page of all of them today is another sad tale in the continued saga of the Side Street Strangler. These poor young boys are perhaps living on the shadier side of the tracks but that doesn’t mean that they deserve what happens to them, poor things. It must be a monster who picks up a young man and does the things described – if you haven’t been following it, well, first of all I don’t know where you’ve been because it has been all over the news, and secondly, I can’t bring myself to repeat the atrocities that are delightfully regaled in the newspapers – they are all over there in case I’ve piqued your interest and you would like to look yourselves. Basically, these poor unfortunates are picked up by a man who is trawling for…well, you know the things that some men look for outside of the home, late at night on the dimly lit side of the street. Five times it’s happened in the last six months. The papers say he’s picking up speed, killing with more ferocity now, but it looks like they have a lead, however tenuous it may be. They say the man they are looking for drives a dark coloured Ford sedan. Well, I call it tenuous because we all know how popular those cars are, don’t we? I mean, we have a dark coloured Ford sedan, as I’m sure do some of you and half the people in the city! Scepticism aside, I do hope the police catch him soon. I mean, he could be anyone! He could be anywhere! We could have passed him in the street and not known about it, such is the anonymous society we live in. This is why institutions such as the Library are so important. Back when I was a girl, the Library was seen as one of the hubs of the community, and it is my fervent wish that it will be that way again.

And that concludes my talk today, Ladies and Gentlemen. I hope this introductory session has whetted your appetite for what’s to come, which is, I hope, many a pleasant hour passed in our Library. And if you quite literally have worked up an appetite, why, you can visit our café bar! It wouldn’t have had a place in the old Library, but I have to admit it is a very welcome addition to the new one. That’s progression for you. And my children call me old-fashioned! Now, does anyone have any questions? No? Good, good. I’ll let you get on with it then, happy browsing, and remember, if you have any problems, the staff will be more than happy to help, or you could just ask for me, Lillian Broadbent, Chief Librarian.

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