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international librarian of mystery

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Fastest Librarian in the West

Mrs Oolong was supervising the makeover of the library's display area out in our foyer.

We had some new promotional material we wanted to put up in 'the eyeball zone': straight above and as part of the main entrance doors. A full-on spring-clean had been ordered to do all the required poster and notices shuffling to necessitate the new material, and to cull all of the out-of-date posters and information flyers that had built up over winter. 'Arrr', as we librarian's like to say on Talk like a Pirate Day, 'there be nothing like a nice cull'.

So I was well up for it. And Mrs Oolong, who despite a lack of prowess in some of technological areas of the world, can still organise a nice-looking display for the Summer Series Thing, was overseeing the last step in her creative project, with ex-superstar boy librarian Josh in tow as the muscle.

First we read the Occupational Safety and Health 'Safe Ladder Use' guide which Josh seemed to find amusing for its repeated use of the phrase 'all practicable steps'. Then Mrs Oolong handed over a couple of what I can only describe as handi-librarian utility-belts. Both Josh and I got one, and each had a hooks and slots and pockets for any number of gadgets. To mine was appended a hole-punch, a steel ruler, a transparent plastic ruler, various pens, pencils and erasers, four Phillips and two flathead screwdrivers, gaffer and duct tape, and, best of all, a staple gun dangling jauntily from the hip. There was also some pendant-looking thing on one of the hooks - I took it off and looked at it. It was a thin, long metal box, which contained a plastic tube filled with blue water. It was on a long bit of string, so I took it off and hung it around my neck. Quite nice, I thought.

"Natalie," said Mrs Oolong, "spirit levels are not usually worn as fashion accessories."

I replaced the level on its hook, and slung on the belt, only to discover the whole thing weighed about 10kg. I removed everything but the various tapes, the level and staple gun, which made it much more manageable. Josh and I tried a few quick draws with the staple guns to see who was the Fastest Librarian in the West, until Mrs Oolong stopped us with a flash of her furrowed brow.

Primed with the finest in Occupational Safety information, and with all the tools we required at our fingertips, we marched to the foyer to tackle the job at hand. Mrs Oolong gave us a general idea of what had to go where, told us she'd be back to check up in an hour, and left us to it.

It went pretty smoothly, at first. We culled the old stuff, then removed the still-current material we thought we'd have to move to make room for the new display. Then we got to the part of the foyer where the second floor mezzanine gets used as extra display space, and the ladder was going to have to get put to use.

"I'll hold the foot of the ladder if you want to go up, Nat," said Josh, propping up the said device and gesturing for me to climb up.
"Uh-uh. I'm not going up there," I insisted.

Boys, ladders and my bum are a combination usually best avoided.

"Okay," said Josh, "just make sure you brace the legs at the bottom. Remember, 'all practicable steps'."

So Josh started to climb up, with me holding the ladder as firmly as I could. And yes, I took the chance to check out Josh's bum, which looked quite good actually, but probably led to a slight lapse of concentration on my behalf, and, before I knew it, the feet of the ladder were slipping backwards between my legs, and my efforts to steady the contraption by pressing forward with my arms only seemed to worsen matters. Josh let out a small wail and rode the ladder down as it continued to slip and then fell to a horizontal position on the floor where it landed with an almighty smack.

"Jeeeeesus," said Josh, with admirable restraint.
"God, sorry sorry sorry!" I wailed. "It slipped at the bottom!"
"Where you were bracing it with your feet?" he asked, prising his fingers from the rungs, mercifully unscathed.
"Err, no."
"Jesus. Well, could've been worse I suppose. At least no-one was walking past, and Mrs Oolong wasn't here."
"Yes. Sorry."
"No harm done. I thought these ladders had no slip feet, anyway?"

We looked at the rubber soles at the bottom of each ladder leg, and, indeed, they appeared as if they'd been put there as a non-slip measure. Josh ran his finger over one.

"Hmm, that might be it, covered in dust. Should've given it a wipe before putting it up."
"All practicable steps, eh?"
"Heh. Yes. A well placed foot may have been just as useful, though."
"Err, yes. Sorry."

Josh did the rest of the ladder work on his own, utilising the no-Natalie-needed technique of opening both sets of legs, and turning the ladder sideways to wherever he was working. I continued to toddle around the displays within my reach, and, before long, we had the place looking sparkly and new. The new material looked great around the main entrance - all bright red and impossible to miss. Mrs Oolong arrived back just as we were admiring our handiwork.

"Excellent work, you two!" she enthused. "No problems?"

Josh cast a glance at me. "No," he said.

Phew. He may have just regained his superstar status.