And now from the librarian who brought you the business information point success story yesterday – today, in stark contrast a tale of failure to even things up a bit… Did you watch last night’s episode of Miranda? Yes, lots of it was hugely funny, especially the ‘sweeping’ bits, although I could have done without the stereotypical librarian shushing our heroine in the library. I expect more of Ms Hart I really do. Anyway, my disappointment at the librarian scene runs deeper than you might first imagine.
I actually saw the clip the first time it was ever shown to the public – a few weeks ago at BBC TV Centre – as a Miranda audience member. While the majority of the episode was recorded right in front of us (great seats – second row centre) the librarian scene was one of a number of video inserts played to us so our laughter could be recorded. Throughout the evening, during recording breaks, the warm-up man (Stu Goldmsith – who will go far – watch out for him) asked questions of the 200-strong audience, while Miranda and her co-stars prepared for the next scene.
Now Stu was stood right in front of me and was almost looking me directly in the eye when he asked “Anyone in the audience love their job?” Now let us be in no doubt, if anyone loves their job, it is me. I’m passionate about the variety inherent within modern librarianship: the teaching, the social media engagement, the education, the technological aspects, the marketing, the er… well everything to do with it really. So much so, that this almost felt like a feed line that Stu and I had worked out in advance so that I would have the floor to tell the audience (and Miranda Hart) how amazing librarianship was these days and how the stereotype was no longer true. So of course I… immediately looked to the floor and shuffled a bit in my seat. The rest of the audience were also silent. The question came again. This time a perky girl near the back shouted out that she loved her coffee shop job. There was a bit of gentle banter between the girl and Stu (right) about this, before he asked again and eyeballed me once more – no word of a lie! Bloomin’ heck I thought, does this really have to be so uncomfortably like Peter denying Jesus three times in the Garden of Gethsemane? Again a long silence, before Stu started to tell us how miserable we British were in our jobs and wasn’t it a crying shame. A crying shame indeed I thought as I belatedly contemplated blurting out a last minute dramatic appeal to the contrary.
I should explain at this point in the narrative that it was about now that in my mind’s eye I was suddenly gripped by a (almost ethereal) vision of Ned Potter (advocacy supremo), however he wasn’t beaming like he does so nicely at the top of the Library & Information Gazette, and his face was probably a hundred times bigger than it is in real life (I will find out its true size for definite in January when I finally meet him in person) and let’s just say he didn’t look very pleased, in fact I’d go so far to say that he looked extremely disappointed in me. And as he bore (bears?) such a close resemblance to Jesus it made my denial so much worse. And after this vision receded, just when I thought my shame couldn’t get any worse, they played that bloody librarian clip!
OK so in my defence I was asked the question by a stand-up comedian whose job it is to rip people with apparently ‘sad’ jobs to bits. And I was not the only ‘engaged’ librarian there who said nothing. Bizarrely one of my marvellous Cambridge colleagues was also present (meeting in the Strictly Come Dancing-bedecked foyer beforehand was quite a surprise). May we both be forgiven.
So why was I struck dumb, other than the tangible threat of the comedic put-down? Well I think partly because however much I don’t want to believe it, deep down in my heart of hearts I still don’t believe the perception of librarians as anything other than stampers, shelvers and shushers will ever change – ’15 years of hurt’ has played its part. And yet the fact that I felt so deeply guilty this time (and Ned filled my head) at least suggests that I conversely recognise that if ever there was a time for advocacy (because the profession has changed) its right now and that however small the opportunities we are offered we should take them. Although I’m great at promoting my service and what I do to my immediate stakeholders and to other librarians, ‘advocising’ beyond the echo chamber still eludes me. I should have been able to say I love my job and reveal that “I’m a librarian” (as proudly as the very lovely Rachel Weisz does in The Mummy – gratuitous photo left) regardless of what cheap joke Stu would have come up with next.
The bottom line then: I must try harder.