7 January 2012

Libraries on daytime television?

Don't you think that in these days of urgent library advocacy we might be missing something by ignoring daytime television?  I mean, look at the schedules.  Hour after hour jam packed with estate agents, cooks, antiques dealers and emergency services.  Surely librarians are worth half an hour?  

Here are some of Dymvue’s suggestions :

Flog your folios
Quentin Spindly-Woodlouse, formerly of Magwitch’s Antiquarian Booksellers in Way on High, visits various Rare Books collections, such as those at the Dr Shipman Medical History Centre, Fitzplonkers University and the Drastic Diving Institute.  Quentin discusses the most treasured items with their curators and learns about their unique and historical value.  He then also meets the Accountant at each institution and suggests how much certain books might fetch at auction, and each curator then has 5 minutes to prepare and deliver a pitch to the Accountant, explaining why the books are worth keeping.  Finally, at an auction we see whether the books reach the expected sums.  The programmes attract a lot of human interest as the curators bravely watch their treasures go under the hammer, and the Accountants grimace at the paltry sums achieved.  

Circulation, circulation, circulation
A group of students compete with each other by attempting to locate in their library every book and journal article on a reading list.  Each begins with 50 points, but lose 5 every time they have to ask each other for advice, 10 if they check the catalogue, 20 if they phone a mate at another university, and 25 if they ask the librarian.  Meanwhile, the librarians have had to guess which books and articles will be on the reading list and to buy them for the students, so they score points if they get any right.  Students can also lose points for hiding the books, tearing out pages or smuggling them out of the library, and there is often keen competition at the issue desk when 30 students find there is only one copy of a 1973 paperback to share between them.

The follow-up to this series, e-circulation, e-circulation, e-circulation, challenges the students to find all the items on a reading list electronically, using a range of linking systems each with a unique password and different search options.  Anyone using Google Books or SuperTorrentDownload is immediately disqualified and awarded a degree.  The librarians are then quizzed and awarded points for being able to remember the licence terms for each product.

Cash in the knitting basket
Angela Rippon visits a library to help the staff raise money for a good cause.  They show her pieces of their knitting (sensible cardigans, fingerless gloves, the Archbishop of Canterbury) which are then valued by an expert. The staff then go to a craft market with the knitted goods, and try to reach their target by selling them.  Failure to do so results in painful unravelling.

I’m a Resources Centre Manager – Get me out of here!
Ten Resources Centre Managers are stranded in an abandoned book warehouse in East LondonConditions are tough : they must survive by eating abandoned takeaway dinners and anything they can hunt down in the service ducts ; heating and lighting is intermittent and subject to frequent failures, and management restructuring takes place every week.  The managers are set various tasks each week, like creating an Incentivisation Scheme, getting each other on their radar and finding low hanging fruit.  Programme 6 springs a surprise catastrophe when a roof section caves in and floods the contestants, leaving them to reshelve as many books as possible in the dark without ladders.  Participants are voted off by the public until the last one left is pronounced “King of the Bungle”.  

The graduate trainee

Fifteen aspiring young library graduate trainees compete for the chance to catalogue Lord Sugar’s collection of shower curtains.  They are judged by completing tasks, such as 

  • creating an app for the library while at the same time fixing the photocopier,  unblocking the toilet and re-drafting the staff coffee rota
  • finding 12 large print romance novels for a bad-tempered elderly woman who claims to have read everything in the library already
  • promoting a children’s reading scheme with no funding apart from colour-in sheets provided by the local minicab service - these have pictures of Ninja Turtles
  • motivating a team when, after shooting a video to advertise everything the local library can offer, the leader is told that it is about to be closed down
  • moving the library books, dvds, cds, games, pictures and media centre to an Arndale Centre unit, finding that the new accommodation is actually 1,000m smaller than anticipated and the wrong shelving has been installed.

How clean is your archive?
Kim and Aggie visit a series of Archives, taking readings on temperature and humidity, examining mould spores and levels of dust. They advise the curators on the care of the artefacts.  In one episode, Aggie demonstrates the remarkable effects of household bleach on a letter signed by Henry VIII, and Kim finds a nice plastic folder for one of Newton’s notebooks. One programme in the series is entirely devoted to the issue of whether cotton gloves should be worn when handling old paper.

Reality cat rescue
An adorable kitten is stuck somewhere in a library.  Two pairs of librarians compete to rescue it.  The task is made more difficult by blindfolding one member of each team (the searcher); the other (the anchor) can track his movements on a screen and can send instructions by 2-way radio to the searcher but only by speaking to him in Dewey Decimal numbers.

The Great library bake off
Ten passionate baking librarians battle to be crowned best library baker. Each week three challenges are presented and, in an interesting twist to the usual format, contestants also have to ensure that no other librarians are allowed to eat the exhibits before judging is completed.  All librarians can be armed with palette knives, scrapers, flywhisks and toasting forks, and any caught actually eating cake is branded with a biscuit cutter.