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The British Library Reading - Humanities Reading Room

I often write in the British Library, especially when I have to research at the same time. I've 'shared' on here before how, unlike my bog standard public library, it's a naturally studious area, which means people are necessarily quiet without having to be told. However, whilst I know of plenty of other people who have found the issue counter staff unnecessarily hostile, I've never really paid that much attention. I ask for the books I've ordered, and I queue and return them when I've done. But this week I was left absolutely fuming when I was 'barked' at to 'get behind the sign' - the sign being the one that asks you to 'wait here until called forward'. There was no queue and there were four issue staff sat behind the counter doing diddly squat - is it ok to assume that one can just go up to the 'sacred' desk and return borrowed book without too much of a drama? Actually, no. A woman barked: 'back behind the sign!' She sounded like a prison warder saying, get behind the line, come no closer or we'll shoot! I told her there was no need to be quite so rude about it, which elicited even more aggression. I left the Humanities reading room vowing never to return which, after eight years using that one particular room - one in which I wrote most of my novel - is saying something. What I get confused about is understanding how staff in public service positions have bad days - sometimes every day is a bad day - and how that gets distorted into a daily confrontation with the 'service-user' who becomes 'the enemy'. And whenever the 'service-user' speaks out is told to 'calm down' or gives the member of staff the opportunity to say 'I don't get paid to deal with this!' It is a regular ocurrence on the phone to call centres where a perfectly valid complaint can often end up in the operator or 'call-centre operative' saying if you don't stop being rude I'm going to terminate the call, which basically shuts down another avenue of complaint not just about them as employees, but about the company and its products/services too - which is great for the company but not so great for either the (often low-paid) staff or the customer/service-user. Anyway, whilst trying to understand all this I also did the Disgruntled of Tonbridge Wells bit. I stormed out of the reading room and, suitably 'outraged', collared the reading room manager and made a complaint - which made me feel a tad better. A tad! What would be even better would be for the reading room staff to stop treating the reader as the enemy - and if the staff are pissed off with any part of their jobs to please take it to those above, and not take it out on those in the direct firing line.

Pissed Off, London

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