My job interview turned out to be less an interview and more an invitation to pitch for work! I don’t want to give away too much about the institution, but it’s a small library at a Jewish religious institution. The philanthropist who technically owns much of the library and lends it to the organisation is keen to have more people using it. I was shown the existing library and asked if I could organise and possibly catalogue it. I asked for some time to think about it and come up with some ideas. It was suggested that I come in regularly for a few weeks to organise the library and maybe once a week afterwards.
I need to think about what is feasible for a small private library, but it sounds promising. The people I spoke to seem keen on a computerised, searchable catalogue (OPAC), but these things are pricey and really designed for much larger libraries. The first library I worked at switched while I was there from a specially-created OPAC to the open source Koha and I am thinking along those lines, but I will have to do some research as I’m not too aware of the technical side of these things. In particular, I’m worried about having to install it myself, as well as an interface on the institution’s website, because I do not have those technical skills (which are basically IT skills, not librarian skills).
I am also worried about how much actual librarianship this job will entail. I feel that there are two ways that we could take this. Certainly someone needs to spend a number of hours in the library reorganising it and a trained librarian could do this, although I’m not 100% convinced that one would need to do so. The issue is the next step: do they just get someone to come in for a few hours each week to tidy up a bit and handle any visitors or questions? This could be done by any willing volunteer. Or do they want to go down the route of getting someone to retrospectively classify, catalogue and subject index the entire library, which would be a significant, long-term, and time-consuming job for a trained librarian (i.e. me, as I’ve been told that they aren’t talking to anyone else at the moment). This is a question of money as much as anything. It sounds like there’s potentially enough money, but I don’t want to presume anything at this stage.
It did occur to me that a third possibility would be to put the library catalogue on a Goodreads.com account. This would make data entry a relatively straightforward process of finding the book on Goodreads and clicking on the relevant buttons. However, Goodreads is often not helpful when it comes to Jewish books, especially those only in Hebrew, and you can’t search in Hebrew, which would be a problem. Subject indexing would also still be tricky for a non-information professional.
A lot comes down to what the institution wants to do with the library, and how much money is available. I feel that I should give them a number of options when I get back to them, even if that means that they don’t give me much work out of this. I think my ideal scenario would be a month or six weeks of working several days a week to organise the library followed by a temporary-but-long-term job going in one day a week to retrospectively catalogue the existing collection and tidy as well as dealing with any questions and visitors, which I could then continue alongside any other work I look for (library, proof-reading, tutoring, writing etc.).
It does all seem daunting and a bit scary, especially as I’m not used to pitching for work and worry about setting my price too high or too low. Likewise I worry about pitching for business that could be done by a volunteer or alternatively passing over work that I genuinely could meaningfully do in the mistaken view that it does not need a trained librarian. I am very honest about these things. Writing this down helps me to clarify things in my head, more so than discussing it with my parents earlier, but I am still confused about a lot of things.
Yesterday I gave in to the inevitable and watched a James Bond film with my parents. I hadn’t seen one since 2008 and even that was as part of a group that I was with (a Jewish mental health sufferers group); I hadn’t watched one entirely of my own volition since I was about eighteen. I had avoided them on the grounds that I didn’t approve of the franchise’s values of sex and violence, but then recently got nostalgic for the films I saw as a child rather than the recent ones. To this end, I suggested watching Live and Let Die yesterday, a film which absolutely terrified me when I first tried to watch, aged probably about seven: first one British secret agent is electrocuted (? it’s not clear), another is stabbed, then a third is tied up and bitten by a snake (or “bitten” – the clearly (to my adult eyes) rubber snake’s mouth barely touches the poor fellow) and then the title sequence cuts between pictures of women and skulls (again, not too proficiently by modern standards). This short sequence, which probably only lasts three or four minutes absolutely terrified me so much as a child that it would be some years before I would be able to watch the rest of the film. It’s weird the things that scare us as children. As with several scenes from Doctor Who, my memory is far more terrifying, not to mention technically accomplished, than the reality (no rubber snakes there, only the real thing).
Roger Moore was always my favourite Bond, which I suspect does not make me popular with true Bond aficionados, who I believe say he, and many of the films he starred in, were too tongue-in-cheek and comical (I have the same argument with Doctor Who fans regarding the late seventies). To me, this is the point; Moore seemed to occasionally wink at the audience to show an awareness that this is very far-fetched escapist fantasy, nothing at all like real intelligence work. I think I can only take a violent, womanising character like Bond seriously if he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Moore’s Bond was probably at spy school with John Steed of The Avengers; it’s the same level of proto-postmodern knowingness and polished manners.
Having agonised on whether to watch the film over its values and the effect they would have on me, it would be tempting to claim that today I was involved in three fist-fights, a car chase, two explosions and a couple of flirtations, but this would be untrue. The only real difference was that I got the Bond theme in my head on the way to my interview, which may even have been beneficial in boosting my confidence. I am tempted to re-watch some of the Bond films of the sixties, seventies and eighties, although I’m less interested in the more recent Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig stuff. To be honest, I probably have films or TV with as much sex and violence in my DVD collection; the original Star Trek arguably had as much sex and violence than Live and Let Die had, although I think the recent films have attracted criticism for more realistic violence.
Despite my comments in the previous section, I do feel that I’ve been slipping on things religiously lately, more serious things than watching James Bond. There are some small things that aren’t worth going into here, but I have noted my struggles about getting to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat (Saturday) mornings – admittedly that is as much to do with depressive sleep disruption as religious devotion. Nevertheless, I haven’t got back in the habit of going to shul regularly in the week since that got disrupted by Yom Tov and going to Israel. I feel less worried than I used to be about not doing enough Torah study or davening (praying) with kavannah (mindfulness), although whether worry correlates to improvements in these areas is questionable; I have improved kavannah a bit recently, but I’m not sure how much worry about it contributed to that.
I’ve seen it suggested that being an “older single in the frum (religious Jewish) community (which is basically over 26 and single) leads to a decline in religious observance. People say that they don’t have a spouse/children who want them to be frum so why bother? I suspect that feeling cut off from the community is an underlying issue; if they were just being frum to get a spouse, why not stop being frum entirely and widen the dating pool enormously? So I suspect there is a tension there between wanting to be frum, but also feeling that the community has not fulfilled its side of the bargain by providing the social integration of marriage. I feel like that sometimes, although I’m not seriously considering stopping being frum.
There is doubtless more to say, but it is very late and I am tired, so goodnight.