Saturday, 1 September 2012

Summer's swan song

Today it is September. Those long, balmy, (often rainy) August days are far behind us. Those days when the English sun would shine from dawn til dusk over quiet libraries, closed lecture halls, a canteen with reduced opening hours. Order and calm reigned supreme over our faculties and spires, our parks and gardens. We had such plans. We would manually upgrade all our short bibliographic records. We would catalogue our backlogs. Every shelf would be checked. Every reading list scanned. We might even be able to - wait for it - sort out the 'store room.'

And what happened? The summer we envisaged in our minds back in June went on forever. Day after day of heat and quiet and time. Buckets of time, stretching out over the weeks until the time that no one could then  even imagine being real - the Start Of the New Academic Year. But the summer we saw in our minds in June was not the true being of reality; oh no, this Summer was a trickster, a prankster. She made us think she went on forever in the hot sunny days characteristic of June, July and August in England that exist only in the nostalgic memories of our childhoods. Instead of this majestic Summer, where everyone goes on long picnics and still manages to complete multiple big projects, we got summer - one rainy season followed by burning hot days where time manages to go quickly and slowly at once. And before we've had time to process where time has gone, it is September again and we're seeing on the horizon the SONAY riding out to meet us on the plains of the campus.

As the law of time goes, September will see us simultaneously riding out to meet the Start Of the New Academic Year and leaping off our metaphorical horses to run back to our projects that we planned to complete over the summer. After the quiet that has reigned supreme over the library and the campus, after two months of closed lecture halls and empty classrooms, I am waiting for the rush. Our students bring our campuses to life, their cycles lining the streets and their coats all over the library give us concrete proof that they value what we're doing and why we're here. If they didn't, they wouldn't be here, and we would have little point as libraries and librarians. And whilst every single short bibliographic record might not have been upgraded this summer, I suspect that we all completed projects and sections of bigger projects. That is what is important.

The summer always goes faster than we expect. I start missing our students in August. Every book in our library might have been shelf-checked and in the right place, but I miss our students coming in and browsing everything. I miss the clutter and the whispers and the bags and the illicit mobiles. A library should be alive and without readers it is dead. It has no point. One major thing that I have accomplished this summer is forging better links with our academics. I am now attending a big meeting for new students at the start of term to introduce the library and our services and I have been invited to resource meetings for one of our graduate degree programmes. Things are exciting, dynamic and fresh. There are challenges too, of course, but I like a challenge. When the SONAY rides out towards us, I'll be the one at the front on the big white charger.

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