A Whole New World

Like most Edinburgh residents I, at times, get frustrated at how busy the city centre gets, but I’m really starting to miss those crowds.

The first indication that my working life would soon be drastically different came on Saturday 14 March. Having dashed to the supermarket before starting a Saturday shift (and seeing the Holy Grail, in the shape of a shelf full of precious toilet paper) I hopped on the bus into town, usually busy at 9am on a Saturday. Not on this Saturday, however. There were just two passengers on the lower deck, and even fewer on the top deck. And I thought I was empty upstairs…

The following week was surreal. As a team leader, my first role each day is ensuring that we have adequate staffing in the reading room, something that proved increasingly challenging as the week progressed. On Monday, several staff reported coughs and fevers and self-isolated to be on the safe side. On Tuesday, advice was received that all staff in an ‘at risk’ category should go home, and on Wednesday this was extended to anyone living with someone in this category. Realisation dawned on us, some of whom have worked together for up to 30 years, that we were going to be spending an unprecedented period of time apart.

The Library closed to the public on Wednesday 18 March, so we said farewell to our readers, some of whom we see every day and have built up a strong rapport. Thursday was spent clearing out the reserve book area. After hours of hard graft on the part of librarians, bookfetchers, porters and curators, this area – which houses more than 1000 books, newspapers and microfilms at its busiest – was stripped bare, a sight that most of us have never seen before.

On Thursday I coordinated with staff who were working from home. They showed great initiative, ensuring our online chat service was covered, as well as working on other projects.

Friday 20 March dawned with an early announcement that the buildings would close to the majority of Library staff at 5pm until further notice. I left for annual leave at lunchtime, pleased we had reached a decision, and even more delighted that our very helpful IT department had set me up with a laptop, enabling me to connect to the Library network from home.

I am presently staying with my dad and his two dogs in a quiet Ayrshire village, and I’m lucky enough to be able to work remotely – a whole new way of working. I’m grateful to be healthy and my attitude is to take things day by day. Having two permanently happy dogs for company definitely helps, and being with family and checking in with friends feels especially important in the current situation.

I do hope that in the not too distant future the world will return to something resembling normality, even if it means standing room only on the bus into work.

Featured image by Bayo Adegunloye on Unsplash