What's a nice gentlewoman like you doing in a bindery like this?

Posted by September Blue Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Amy at Textual Tangents sent me a link to this: library fundraising via Victorian porn. As a Victorianist and a library employee (though sadly not a librarian: they're the ones with useful Masters degrees and somewhere-close-to-decent salaries), I'm impressed. Why didn't we think of this?

On the other hand, if my employers were as budget-conscious as they claim to be, they'd have already tapped the huge market among our patrons for other services. Some kind of personal shopper service for those students who skipped library induction? ("Yes, I'm afraid all our books are shelved according to an esoteric code we're forbidden to disclose to the uninitiated. I'll just consult the gods of Class-Mark, and we'll be right with you.") Direct phone calls to the semi-mythical other librarian at the patron's last library, who always used to fetch my books for me, you know, because I'm useless with all these numbers and I just couldn't find them myself and she was so helpful, and on, and on... (It's always tempting to burst into tears when people try this one: "Well, if you loved her so much, what did you ever see in me?") Personal conscience for the weasel-minded Management and Law students, who are always hiding books in other corners of the library? (There's a John Grisham thriller in this. "He was a brilliant young law student who never looked back, until the day he finally learned: when you stare into the abyss behind the Fine Arts and Architecture shelves, the abyss behind the Fine Arts and Architecture shelves stares back into you.")

Both the departments I work for (the library counts as a non-academic department) are in the middle of major overhauls at the moment. The restructure of the English curriculum has taken a lot of work and about 570,000 hours of staff time in committee meetings to get into place, but it's mostly existed off the student radar, so even though the point of the revisions is to change things in a fundamental way for the students, the students themselves won't see it as a huge interruption to their studies. The library renovations, on the other hand, are going to affect everybody, even though the explicit aim is to cause as little disruption to students as possible. We'll be shifting to a mostly closed-stacks system for a year, which is annoying but unavoidable, and every single book we own will have to be moved somewhere else. (I look forward to finding all those missing law textbooks when the builders prise up the floorboards, though.) Since we foolishly neglected to set up a Victorian sex phoneline, the budget is limited, but we seem to have an infinite supply of money for Artists' Impressions of what the renovated library will look like.

Actually, you know what the Vienna library should spend their phoneline income on? Artists' impressions of what the library will look like during the renovations. I think we'd all be better prepared if we knew what was coming in the immediate, as well as the distant, future. "And behind that pile of rubble, the student in the green shirt is windmilling his arms about in fury because it'll take four hours to get the book he needs right now, I tell you! Now! God, the librarian at his last library would never have done this..."