In Honour of Cleaners

Retirement Do

Librarians; always seeking an excuse to extend our lunch hour

Today’s post is in honour of Rachel, one of our cleaning staff who retired today after twenty-one years working at the University (and sixteen of those in the Library) Rachel is a tiny but fiery Italian lady, and once told me a story about when she first started working in the Library. She’d been warned by the other cleaners that the Library staff were very unfriendly and it wasn’t a nice place to work and once she started, she agreed. So one day she door stepped the then-Library Manager (who’s still here, in another role) and asked her “do you have a degree?” to which the Manager replied “well, umm, yes.” Rachel then said “well if you are so smart, so educated, then why do you not say Hello to me in the mornings, hmm? Why do none of you speak to me, hmm?” And after that, every member of Library staff always said hello to her and her fellow cleaners. Since that day, sixteen years ago, a great friendship has built up between staff and cleaners and today we threw a retirement celebration for Rachel at lunchtime complete with flowers, gifts and cake* because we’re all going to miss her very much.

I tell this story to illustrate a point that I think is very important in libraries (and indeed, in all places of work!) – always be nice to the cleaners, caretakers, postal workers, security and anyone else who works in your building. Don’t ignore them when they walk by. Find out their names and say hello. Ask how things are going for them. These are the people do the really hard work and if they didn’t do it, our library users would notice it straight off. Who do you call when someone has done something awful in the toilets? The cleaners. Who comes to help when the ceiling over the music collection starts leaking? The caretakers. Who hunts down that box of missing books? The postman. And who comes to help when you’re cornered by an angry user? Security. I can’t count the number of times that our cleaners and caretakers have helped me out when the building has been full and something has gone wrong and although I don’t doubt they would have done it anyway because they’re all good people, it was certainly made easier and happened much quicker as a result of having a good relationship with them.

Obviously you should be nice to everyone unless they’re actively trying to cause you harm, and I’m sure most of us are because Librarians do tend to be a pleasant lot, on the whole. But if you need more persuading, remember that being nice to cleaners and caretakers and postmen and security and anyone else who works in your building can actively save your bad day from getting even worse. It’s basic karma, really; if you are nice to people, they will be nice to you in return and don’t we all want to work in an environment like that?

*and wine, there may have been a few tipsy librarians trying to hide at their desks this afternoon…

One thought on “In Honour of Cleaners

  1. Back in my PhD student/latenightlibrarian days, my favourite fellow was the one who actually spoke to me as if I was a person, and not some sort of stupid book-fetching automaton. I’ve never forgotten that: one person out of about a hundred who treated you decently!

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