Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Just an ordinary day in the library service

You wake at six (a bad start to anyone’s day). You are in the car by seven because you face an hour’s commute. The weather forecaster is predicting an egg frying forty degrees. You try to decide whether this means people will be too hot to come to the library or whether they will make use of the air conditioned facilities. You wonder if this would make a good Facebook status. You can’t decide and it doesn’t matter anyway, you’ve arrived. It’s time to start work.

As you walk in the door you hear the phone ringing. It is a colleague from another branch. IT has rolled out new PCs they day before and this morning they aren’t getting along with the library software. You can’t help your colleague but in the course of the conversation you learn that the PC new roll out for your branch is this morning. You look around the library. It is so calm and peaceful. It’s hard to imagine it will be the scene of an invasion. But they’re coming the voice on the other end of the line tells you and for heaven’s sake don’t let them leave on until they’ve got everything working.

You check the reference desk diary. You read that a plumber will be in during the morning to unblock the men’s toilet. That’s the second time this week. You wonder what it is about public library toilets. You count the cash and help with the van run and then, half an hour before opening time, it happens. Boxes and monitors and keyboards start arriving. Like a swarm of bull-ants ants IT dismantle multiple circulation PCs. You think hang on a sec. The computers won’t be ready for opening time. You try to tell IT. But it seems they have communication problems.

You open the library with no returns PC and no issues PC. You start manhandling books from the temporary returns bin (yes, new sorter also not working). You try to work through the allocated items list but the slip printer at the one remaining terminal isn’t printing in the right format. You pile the books up on the desk so you can re-do them later. Meanwhile the plumber arrives to fix the blocked toilet. A little girl and her mum bring in a Christmas present for the staff. Sweet, but ill timed. You are trying to issue books and help people with their information enquiries. IT finish the installation and announce their intention to start dismantling the one remaining front desk PC. You remember your colleague’s warning. Don’t let them leave until everything is working.

Hang on a sec you say to IT let’s test the new PCs with the library software. You pull out the set of instructions that have been provided for this moment. The PCs don’t work. No matter how many ways you test them. They refuse to talk to the library software. IT shake their heads. They say we can’t do anything about this it’s a software issue. You ring the library systems support people. They say no way. Tell IT that this is their problem. They’re not to leave the building until they get the situation sorted. You walk out to the workroom. You don’t mince words. You tell IT exactly what systems support said (this is your favourite part of the morning). IT panic. You see them on their mobile phones gesticulating. It seems they would eventually like to go home to their families. They decide to uninstall the new PCs and roll back to the old hardware.

Meanwhile, the plumber stops by to tell you that the toilet blockage was deliberate. Someone has been stuffing it full of paper. You narrow your eyes and survey the likely list of regulars. You wonder whether you could start handing out toilet paper on a per needs basis. You can’t. You know you can’t. But you smile at the thought. And, just when you thought the morning could bring no more surprises, someone comes racing out of the workroom to say the air conditioner has sprung a leak and there is water pouring down from the ceiling.

At lunch time you feel you have earned a coffee. Despite the heat, you head to a nearby cafe. You pull out your iPad. Log into Facebook. It’s time for a status update. But how to describe the morning? Busy? Disrupted? Unusually chaotic? Nah, that would be exaggerating. In the end you settle for just an ordinary day in the library service.


Yikes! I’m on the Vestry.


Christmas 2013 – the view from our empty nest


  1. Kathryn

    Oh my. This could have written about our Library. It appears that we all have a regular toilet blocker and that IT ‘support’ come from the same school!
    Thank goodness for those Christmas chocs…. Just another day!

  2. Yes, mountains of Christmas chocolates. Some aspects of library life are the same whatever land you live in. 🙂

  3. Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to mention that I have really loved browsing your weblog posts.
    After all I’ll be subscribing on your feed and I hope you write once more very soon!

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      Thanks heaps! I just found this comment in my spam folder. Sorry it too so long to reply 🙁

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