Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I hear the bell ring and I know that Jacob needs some help. He’s on the front desk by himself and I can hear that someone has asked him to look for some books for them. I know that this is the one request Jake can’t fulfil - because he’s blind. He can see even less than the 80+ woman asking him.

I wait for the bell to be answered, when the waiting becomes awkward. I decide to give it a go…

The sweet little lady with a perfect blue rinse, immaculate clothes and well applied make-up asks if I can pick a book for her…Non –fiction.

In this library, this request is a little more abnormal than average.

Books are picked by computers, or, if clients aren’t getting what they want. The books are picked by staff; given a few days notice… All the books are stored in a whacking great metal carousel, thousands and thousands of them. Picking them out takes time…

A little trolley is kept near the front desk with a small selection of audio books. I check the woman’s reading profile – Feminist fiction, autobiography, biography, 20th century literature… not a lot to choose from.

I find a jackpot “Greer : the untamed shrew”, a biography of Germain… brilliant, oh, wait, her profile says she’s already had it.

Thankfully I find a copy of a biography of an Australian woman called “Mad Meg”, the subject code doesn’t fit her profile, but I take a risk.

“I’ve found some books for you”, I say, when she returns from the ladies.

“What!?” she asks.

“I’ve found some books for you” I say louder, bending down to speak in her ear.

“Oh Great!” she says.

“I have a biography of an Australian woman…”, pausing for a moment.

“That sounds great!” she says, sincerely.

I give her a choice between “Mad Meg” and memoirs of Arthur Conan Doyle ( he fits her literary interests).

“I like hearing about women, more than about men”, she says, wedging the book in her handbag. “I’m a feminist, you know”

I know.