Fahrenheit 451, and other dystopias

library 2

Sometimes you’re running an open mic.(say, at the world-famous Puzzle Hall Poets Live) and someone does a poem that makes you say: can I have a copy of that? And if you spin cobwebs you can say: oh, and can I put this out on the aether? And if the someone’s a librarian called Simon Z. (like Joseph K..but not fictional), he thinks a for a bit, and then says: Why not?

So, for everyone who cares for education and literacy (….which is all of you…).and who has ever been inspected or had their interpersonal team-building communicative skills profiles honed by a training day,(which is probably all of you) this is for you, from Simon Z.


First, don’t mention the books.
Today’s libraries have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with books.
If anyone notices the odd ones stashed away in corners gathering dust
say they’re awaiting pick-up by waste disposal.
Change the subject to how thrilled you are by the new Service Delivery Directive
and the exciting opportunity to combat social exclusion
by displaying leaflets about council tax,
how much you welcome the installation of a phone for Housing Queries
even though it takes up the space where a bookstand used to be.
Actually, best not mention the bookstand. Or the books. Don’t mention the books.
Say how much you appreciate people taking time out of meetings
to train you in customer service
which, to be fair, takes a real effort for those whose work does not involve serving customers.
Of course, it means the library is short-staffed while you attend –
causing a poorer standard of customer service –
but maybe don’t mention that part. Or the books. Don’t mention the books.
Praise the computers. Celebrate the Community Engagement Framework Model.
Turn a blind eye to the closures of libraries (or “branches”)
and don’t worry if they rubbish your ideas. They will in time realize they are good ideas,
implement them, and pretend they thought of them.
Be grateful when they bring in PR executives to tell you how to sharpen your vision
and wear confidence clothes, while charging more for presenting a one-day course than the annual budget for books.

But then, I must warn you, don’t mention the books. Ever.
This is the modern age. We have Kindles now. Or some of us do. The ones who take the trouble to keep up.
We must be bold and forward looking.
We must relish challenge and embrace change.
Just agree to everything. Question nothing. Keep your head down and don’t ask awkward questions. Look serious when they do, laugh when they tell jokes, explain how you feel it is important to address 21st Century issues with 21st Century solutions.
And for God’s sake whatever you do, listen – just don’t mention the books.
I mentioned them once, but I think I got away with it.


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