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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Library Job

I've mentioned the many and various jobs I've done over the years. Not always successful. Certainly not in any way related to my theatre experience, but one that does spring to mind was working for Bedford Library Service. I was employed to drive a library van, and as part of the job I was to visit local schools in and around  Bedfordshire, with a group of librarians, who would help stock the libraries of the schools we visited and, later on, do story time with the children. With my experience of working in theatre, as well as puppetry (having done schools touring with several puppet companies, which I have never discussed on this blog, but may do in the not-too distant future.) it seemed the perfect job for me. I would have been good as a story-teller with the children. It was this part of the job which appealed to me most when I first applied for the job.  However, there were one or two problems which didn't help. I had a perfectly clean driving licence. I had been driving for many years. No problem with that. It was the driving of the library van which was the problem. When I went for the initial interview I had to do a driving test in the vehicle. It was large and very cumbersome. As you would expect of a mobile library. I had to drive the thing around the carpark at Bedford County Hall. A great deal of crashing of gears and it was extremely difficult to see clearly when reversing. Also, I had to take it out on the roads of Bedford (with another person sitting beside me, it has to be noted.) Some of the one-way system in Bedford town centre (this was in the mid 1980's.) was extremely hazardous, particularly one junction from Caldwell Street into St John's Street. The traffic is supposed to merge, with no traffic lights to control the flow, so you took your life in your hands and judge when to move into the road. I had real problems putting the vehicle into gear. Not nice if you are standing still, waiting at a junction, craning your neck round to get a view of the road over your left shoulder and then attempting to put the thing into gear so the vehicle will move off safely. The thing was extremely large and heavy, so it took some time to gather speed so I could drive into the flow of traffic. I had real problems with all this. But, regardless of my driving test, I was taken on for the job. It wasn't just driving around the town in the one-way traffic which was the problem (actually, out in the countryside there wasn't a problem at all. It was the gears in the wretched vehicle and the size of it which caused the problems.) but getting the thing in and out of the garage at County Hall which caused the greatest problems. It was extremely narrow and you were expected to reverse this colossal vehicle in and out of an extremely narrow entrance. Also, without the help of any member of staff. Crazy, if you think about it. It would have made the process of reversing so much easier. But they wouldn't do this for me. It  might have been easier if they'd cleared out the boxes and other clutter which blocked the rear of the garage, because there was actually an exit, which, had it been cleared properly, would have meant you drove IN one end and drove OUT the other. But the staff would not do this, they were stubborn in their total refusal to make my life easier. I think there was one occasion when I probably scratched the side of the benighted library van, because of the very narrowness of the garage i was expected to reverse into. Probably merely inches to clear on either side. Also, as you reversed in from the carpark, you had to negotiate a loading bay, a large chunk of concrete, which was directly to one side as you reversed into this garage. An extremely difficult manoeuvre, to say the least. It probably would have been really easy if driving a car (which is what I had only ever driven, apart from vans and minibusses.) Which begs the question 'Why did they employ me to drive a vehicle so large, which actually required the driver to hold either a PSV or HGV licence, neither of which I held?' A really good question. It also didn't exactly help that, at the time all this was going on, the river bridge in Prebend Street was closed to heavy vehicles, which included the library van I was expected to drive. As the library service in County Hall, Bedford, is on Prebend Street, you can imagine the inconvenience if you were required to cross the River Ouse, you had to drive all the way round the town and use the main river bridge which leads into the centre of Bedford and then traverse the one-way system in order to avoid using the Prebend Street bridge and then the other way round if you were coming into the town from the north of Bedfordshire. Not exactly making my job any easier.

The rest of the job was really straightforward. Sorting books. Reshelving them. As I'm something of a reader, as you might have realised if you've read any of my earlier posts. Put me near a bookshop and I can spend hours browsing. Also, merely looking around this room you will see bookshelves simply heaving with books. So, the job was perfect for me. Also, repairing covers, using the special plastic material they use to give library books a clear, protective cover. Also, learning how to use the Dewey system of classification. Then, going out in the library vehicle and visiting all those Primary Schools in and around Bedfordshire. What could have been more perfect? Particularly in the summer months.

Needless to say you must have by now got some idea how this all ended. I got sacked. Which was a great shame, as I actually enjoyed the job. Certainly better than a great many jobs I've done. I think they probably realised that I wasn't suitable as a driver (yes, a driver with an HGV or PSV licence would have been ideal, but wouldn't probably have had my experience of working in schools or an interest in the story-time aspect of the job.) But the library staff's somewhat arrogant attitude as regarding helping with reversing into the garage as well as clearing out the garage so I could drive in one end and out the other. Also, they would sit inside the library van when out on the road and in particular when in school playgrounds, it could be difficult reversing, for safety as much as anything else. A total refusal to help was unnecessary and, quite frankly, quite unpleasant. I think they had a sort of 'we're librarians, and it's not our job to help the driver' attitude. Sorry, but to be honest they were rather stuck-up.
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