Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karen Bartlett

Librarians are stressed. In keeping with the theme, lower your astonishment to a whisper.

According to a survey conducted by recruitment consultant Saqib Saddiq, working in a library is more stressful than fighting fires or serving on the thin blue line that is the police force these days.

It's hard to believe that being stuck between book stacks all day is really worse than tackling yobs or fending for yourself in front of a classroom full of primary school children with attention deficit disorder. But if you believe that it's a harmless occupation it seems you know little of the real world of the library.

"Libraries are a battleground," one senior librarian told me last week.

Public perceptions and behaviour has changed. We tend to think of librarians as meek and gentle people, and more often we go to the library to act out our aggression.

The truth is that the modern library is full of annoying members of the public asking questions.

Then there are the drunks and vagrants, not to mention all those sent home from mental hospitals in the 1980s and finding themselves with nowhere else to go. "Yesterday a man came into the library and put his head through a computer terminal," my librarian told me. "Then the police came and he dropped his trousers and committed another offence." A few days before that someone had spat in her face.

You see life in the library. There are the heart-rending stories, like the old ladies who have nowhere else to go and bring their librarians Christmas presents. Then there are kids doling out racism and the disgruntled customers who call you names.

Even worse, becoming a librarian robs you of your innocence. Libraries have always been notorious for dirty old men who delight in making a beeline for the youngest woman behind the counter to ask for books with filthy titles that would never be in stock.

And perversion moves with the times. Online librarian lovers have set up websites dedicated to their fantasies. …

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