Do you dare risk a Library coffee break? This Panopticonic hotbox of deceit and CCTV, every move must be calculated… But you know the Library Gestapo will get you in the end. You may get away with it once, smugly sitting in the Library Café supping loudly on your well-earned latte. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for days, but sooner or later they will get you. The fateful note left on your desk: “we are watching you and your wasteful ways.”
It is always at night – the arrests invariably happen at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the desk, barking delight into walkie-talkies. In the vast majority of cases there is no trial, no report. Laptops simply disappear. The humble librarian revels in the power his leaflets grant him.
And then there is the noise. ‘We do not care for your studious buzz here.’ Cough too loudly and they’ll be there – the Library Gestapo tapping you on the shoulder, summoned by an unknown complainer, stewing quietly in a corner, too engrossed in work to cross the room and politely ask for quiet. But then who would risk leaving their desk, even if only for a second? They are watching.
It was Monday night when I saw my first arrest. The JB Morrell – gentle whispers of steam rose from a Cup-a-Soup. The innocence of a slice of bread being carefully unboxed from its Tupperware, before being dipped in the evil substance. People glanced around: “what is he thinking?! Hot food in a ‘Quiet Zone’!” And lo They were there. Another unseen complainer has succumbed to Library Hate and texted the Hate Line. My Cup-a-Soup-drinking neighbour’s Library Card revoked, he slunk off across Library Bridge, an exile from Library Society.
You’re not obliged to take part in Library Hate, but it is apparently impossible to avoid joining in. Whether it’s talking, tapping or smelly feet, a hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, flows like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing lunatic, sending angry messages to @OverheardYork, drilling and humiliating your neighbour on ‘Spotted in the Harry Fairhurst’, even texting the Library Gestapo themselves. And yet the rage that one feels is an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one library user to another like the flame of a blow lamp. Gaspers, raspers, coffee slurpers, foot tappers, those with bad breath, those who breathe. No one is safe.
What will be next? A drooping eye lid and you may be moved on. Facebook use is surely out – what ever made you think that Library bandwidth should be used for such frivolity? Library danger sex is all that remains, the final bastion of non-compliance and rebellion…