A Librarian’s Life

I read a blog post last week which brought back memories and I thought I would share with you a very memorable week I had, back in my days as a community librarian.

libraryI worked in a new town, somewhere in the midlands. The library was attached to a secondary school on a large estate. There was also primary school and a community centre on the same campus. It was school inspection week and so we had our normal clientele as well as her majesty’s inspectors coming in and out of the library. The library had been open ten years and we had recently celebrated that with a birthday cake cut by our oldest reader, in her eighties, along with our youngest member of a few months.

It may or may not have been one of those Mondays when I arrived to find broken windows and a weekend break-in. Yes it was that kind of an estate. I parked where my car had been stolen from, a week or two previously, and hoped it would be there at the end of the day.

All days were busy. We had the public mixing with crowds of teenagers and did our best to maintain an orderly atmosphere. Some teachers were good and some less so at supporting this. But this week, everyone was on best behaviour. The library was a scene of purposeful activity. Children sat wherever they could, at desks, on beanbags or even on the floor. Sometime during the morning, a member of staff came to see me. She was unhappy about the behaviour of one man. He was middle-aged, non-descript and crouching down observing some of the children. So far so good, until I noticed the action of his hand. Yes, we had not a schools’ inspector but a pervert. What to do? Did I make a citizen’s arrest? No, I regret to say, I moved him on by giving him a filthy stare and called the police. He was long gone by the time they arrived.

A member of the teaching staff reported that she too had seen him but thought he was an inspector.

Today our mobile phones would be out and we’d be shaming him with our photos. Back in the early 90s, before social media, such men remained hidden and uncaught. I had been too timid, too buttoned-up and that I always regret. What would you have done?

About Rosemary Noble

Writer, author, amateur historian and traveller
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4 Responses to A Librarian’s Life

  1. Angela Petch says:

    Difficult one this, but as a mother I like to think I would have made it very obvious to him I knew what he was up to. Of course, you couldn’t frighten the children, but I hope, through language and expressions (like your frown) he would have received the message. How horrible.

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    • With it being a school, I called in the Assistant Head but the man had left by then. That five minute’s delay cost an arrest. I tell myself if I had laid hands on him, I would probably have been hit. What I should have done is found one of those inspectors to waylay him. That would have caused a stir.

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  2. jessiecahalin says:

    It sounds as if your employer neglected to train staff to deal with Child Protection issues – sign of the time in the nineties. You were placed at risk without guidance. Nowadays, school libraries would not be open to the community owing to the risk.

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  3. Training on child protection issues in the 90s – whatever next! I worked for forty years with children – all ages – and only in my last year in 2010/11 did I have a CRB check and then 2 as I changed my job. It was a sadly neglected area. Come to think of it, training in any area didn’t begin until the 90s. You just got on with it.

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