Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Who minds the minder? - Penny Dolan

Dearests, rising from the velvet sofa, I finish my fine cup of freshly-ground estate coffee, then sigh as the muse arrives. Reach out for my quill pen, I dip it sharp as a birds beak into my crystal inkwell – a merry gift from a grateful fan - and begin my day’s musings. . . .
No. T’isn’t like that. Now, as the chocolate chickens and rabbits are clogging the supermarket shelves, there’s a Christmas anthology story to write. The tome is back from the editor and I Must Get On With It. By the by, I have an editor-and-consultant version of a story I once wrote to read over, think about and make a reply.

I’ve also got to unload the car from yesterday’s miles-away visit, sort out my talk-bags, and repack for this afternoon’s visit with two early year’s classes at a fairly local library, where, for some odd reason, I originally requested percussion instruments. The problem solving part of my brain is whizzing creatively away about what I intended to do with these as I write.

However, despite all this, I do feel as if I have been living in the above fantasy of luxury. I am feeling very relaxed just now. Almost pampered. Why? Because at yesterday’s busy event, I was “minded” by a children’s librarian. Today I will be minded by a librarian too. It is almost impossible to speak of the difference in stress between the frequently “minderless” day in school, and these wonderful times when someone is there to help you and your sessions go well, and deal with any of the people or admin problems that arrive. Thank you, librarians!

Did you notice that word? “Librarian.” Not “Customer Services Person”. For me, “librarian” is a word that goes with “library”, a place that can be used by young families, by students, by people on low income, by the old and the even older, by groups of various people who love books and reading. I even heard an old man chatting about how he was going to the library to keep warm when the daytime heating in his flat was turned off. It can be used by anyone at all, in fact. Even by politicians.

Yes. The Librarian. The Library. Both under quiet but sinister threat. Go and find last Sunday’s article by Rachel Cooke in The Observer, suitably entitled “Time to go into battle to save our world of books”. Search for Alan Gibbon’s “Campaign for the Book” website, and join it. Visit your local library and see what is happening there. Use it. Borrow books, if you can find some. Think it may be more than time to mind the kindly minder.


adele said...

Quite right, Penny! I couldn't agree more!
And on another note, I, too, have to do a Christmas story and I bet it's for the same anthology. I haven't nearly finished mine and I can't believe they are all going to come back from Bologna gasping to read our offerings. That is what I tell myself at any rate. All strength to both our pens!

Jon M said...

I live on the Wirral, where libraries and librarians seem to be becoming an endangered species!

Penny said...

Hi Adele and John.
The library situation is worrying - especially in the Wirral, I hear. However, as soon as I'd written this, I worried that it made the librarian sound as if her life was just swanning around "minding and lunching". She was actually managing the comings and goings of about three hundred children from pushchairs to Year 5 classes - all with attendant adults - around what turned out to be a very flexible timetable. She'd also organised the room, got in my "requirements" such as a flip chart etc, plus lots of my books, plenty of library information, and several smaller staffed book activities as well. And she had to go on to do some library work afterwards, then repeat the same the next day with for illustrator Lynn Chapman, and then do all the tidying up and admin. While keeping up to speed with her everyday library tasks as well. And she had to keep on smiling!

Ms. Yingling said...

I really hate being called a "media specialist" and my dear library being called the "media center", but about thirty years ago, librarians were trying to get "with it", and now we all must suffer. Yes. The Library. It's full of libri.