On Wednesday 2nd March we enjoyed a presentation from the local librarian-cum-author, at The King’s Arms in Oxford. Thanks to Matthew Henry for writing this blog post.
Outi introduced her presentation by explaining her background. She is Finnish and moved to England just before the turn of the millennium after completing an MLIS at Åbo Akademi. She had previously worked for a library supplier and in adult education, and had studied English and Italian for her first degree, specialising in Scottish literature. She also admitted to having been writing from childhood.
Since 2000 Outi has been assistant librarian at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Warneford Hospital in Headington and it is, perhaps, this environment that has provided a rich source of inspiration for her book, which describes a service forever under pressure from “the powers that be” yet is always being asked to do more with less while accommodating constant user-survey feedback.
To set the scene, the fictional library has recently – and accidentally, of course – been relocated into a broom cupboard (literally) and is staffed by characters such as Simon Pendrive, Mimosa Macaroon, Vladimir Logoff and Claire Twinsett, suffering from syndromes such as COCRAN (coffee and chocolate-related aggressive nervousness). My personal favourite is Fiona Fatica (Outi’s Italian coming in handy there).
The NHS Trust in question is, naturally, in Cardigan Bay. Without giving too much away, the book is chock-full of clever coinages (‘health-scare library’, ‘nil by mouth’, 'only buy a book you can classify easily’) and scenarios that would have anyone who’s ever worked in an office environment chuckling with recognition. For librarians, it’s almost too close to the bone.
To finish, Outi read us a preview of the next installment. It wouldn’t be surprising if some enterprising TV producer decided to make Two Point Five Cheers for the Library into the next The Office, so get on-board before it takes off.
Two Point Five Cheers for the Library is published by Olympia Publishers, ISBN 9781848976146. £8.99 in paperback.
Matthew Henry, library assistant at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. Twitter: @matthew1001001