Memories of a Library Assistant in Edinburgh
MANY years ago I used to work in a library. Now that you've stopped laughing I'll continue. It wasn't just any library, it was THE library, the numero uno of book depositories, the largest in the nation . . . the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge. Let's face it, if you're going to hand out books for a living you might as well aim for the top.
And that was basically what my job consisted of - handing out books. Apart from the exciting times I got to wheel them on a trolley into the rarefied world of the Advocates Library next door. To be clear, I was in no way ever a "librarian", just a lowly deliverer of weighty tomes to the intellectually-gifted few who were allowed up the hallowed stairs to the Reading Room.
I was just out of school, and to even be considered for such an unskilled job I had to be interviewed by a panel of three people. Yes, a triumvirate of academics to quiz a 17-year-old to discover if she's got the necessary qualifications to deliver a book. Apparently, my limbs were deemed acceptable.
Then, the National Library was a daunting place. The Reading Room was run by a matriarchal character called Ms Deas, straight from the pages of a Muriel Spark novel. She had all her staff living in quiet fear - and God help any general member of the public who tried to get into the place without the necessary paperwork. If you weren't an academic or a PhD student you had no chance.
More from Gina Davidson at the Edinburgh News.