When you have what is in many respects the perfect job, and lots of people out there don’t have a job at all, it’s difficult to decide when it’s appropriate to say enough is enough, get things sorted out or I quit. However, I’m starting to think that time might have come for mine.
I got into work yesterday to discover my entire fiction stock piled in boxes and water dripping through the ceiling. For the third time, the lead on the roof had been stolen. It’s not exactly unexpected – it’s an Edwardian building and lead theft is a significant problem. A couple of years ago, we lost £2,000 worth of stock in a similar incident when gulleys got clogged with dead leaves and flooded. If we lose any more, it’s unlikely that the school insurance company will pay out.
I am enormously grateful to our school caretaker who took it upon himself to spend an hour moving all the books out of the way and drying off the shelves. If it hadn’t been for him, things would have been very much worse. However, I’m not quite so pleased that (a) nobody bothered phoning me so I found out what had happened minutes before the library was due to open and (b) nobody can promise it won’t happen again. Basically, the only way I can be certain my stock is safe is to put over 2,000 books away in waterproof boxes every time I leave work, and come in an hour early to put them back on shelves when I get in. I think that’s unacceptable. Apart from the fact that I already average 15-20 hours a week and only get paid for five of them, it means nobody can use the library stock if I’m not there. A library that’s stored in boxes for 80% of the time is hardly a library at all.
Unfortunately that isn’t the only problem with my accommodation, though if it was, that would be bad enough. The lighting is so poor that if I want to work after dark (that’s around 16.00 at this time of year), I have to use a head torch. I can’t use a lamp because there’s no power point I could use without creating a safety hazard. The only computer I have is my own laptop, which wouldn’t be insured if it was stolen, so I have to carry it with me everywhere. Over the summer holidays my kids and I computerised the entire library catalogue and weren’t paid a penny for it. Since nobody from the IT staff can find time to sit down and help me turn that file on Open Office into a useable database, I’m not sure it was worth abandoning the catalogue cards anyway.
The library is in the school reception area. This sounds fine in theory – it looks great when people come in. However, it is used as a classroom most of the time, which limits its functionality as a library, not to mention my ability to do work in there. Also, people troop through it constantly – whole classes of them. Football teams getting changed for after school activities leave their clothes all over the floor. When stuff is delivered from suppliers, it can sit there for hours or even days, right in front of my shelves. I once had to move 24 boxes of stationery with a wrist in plaster, so the kids could see the books.
Of course, I’ve asked for changes to be made. It’s like banging on a brick wall. There’s no space, there’s no money, there’s no time, it’s the same for everybody else. I stay because, despite all this, I love the job, I happen not to need the money (though that’s hardly the point) and if I worked to rule, the kids would suffer. I love the kids. Their enthusiasm, and the difference I’ve made to the reading culture of the school, is what keeps me going. Everyone is very nice, I can have time off whenever I like (though they know I won’t ask often, because if I’m not there the job doesn’t get done), it’s a nice atmosphere, etc, etc. So I don’t complain. And I’m beginning to wonder if I should.