What it’s like to be a short librarian

Books on shelves at UWI Library, Trinidad and ...

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At my lofty height of 160cm (5’2″ and a bit), I am considered by my considerably taller friends to be Vertically Challenged. Little. A shortarse.

I work in a library. I plan to do so for a number of years.

I was once told – tongue in cheek, I should add – by a library superior that tall shelvers are preferable to short shelvers. Which begs the question, how does a midget such as me manage to work in a library for real people of Height?


  • Shelves are tall. Especially downstairs in Bedford where the 940s plus are kept. Having said that, anywhere in Bedford is a bit too tall for me. And Founder’s. OK, so shelves are tall and I am not. I need a kik-step stool to reach the books on the top (two) shelves.
  • I am ambitious. Having been described as “a little thing that thinks it’s a big thing” I have been known to stand on tiptoes and lean into shelves in an attempt to get books out from the top shelves. On more than one occasion this has lead to a cascade of textbooks.
  • Theses are heavy. This might have less to do with my being little, rather just my being weak. I had the bright idea that carrying a box of ten print theses (each approximately 300 pages thick and hardbound) between libraries was do-able. In fact, it was totally impossible to get them from the loading bay to my office. And I used the lift. Three or four at a time is more like it. Although, ow.


  • The gaps between rolling stacks are small. We have movable shelves downstairs in Bedford and being of the tiny persuasion it’s just as easy to cut through them to get to the other side of the library as it is to go around. As yet, I have not been trapped between them – so fingers crossed!
  • I work in e-resources.Thereby, the objects I deal with don’t really exist. This means there is little carrying and little shelving. I can always reach the top shelf in the online repository, by virtue of the fact it isn’t actually there.
  • What should be a positive is that people always offer to carry things for me. I say should because I am, in fact, rather stubborn and so tend to refuse help. Apart from in cases such as the aforementioned theses.

All in all, as you might have guessed, it’s not entirely bad to be a short librarian. It has its advantages, but mostly its disadvantages. Though, I am stubborn, and so I have managed to work in said library for a good three years so far. Here’s to a long (and short) future!


One thought on “What it’s like to be a short librarian

  1. “Here’s to a long (and short) future!” 🙂

    You should get a little trailer to drag around with you, like Matilda when she goes to the library – if I’m remembering it correctly. By the sound of it you could do with packing a small step ladder and a helmet in it too! And maybe a first aid kit…

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