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COMMENT: Prying shame of library survey
CAN somebody please explain to me why a tweedy, bespectacled librarian needs to know my 13-year-old daughter’s sexuality before she orders a book for her?
I don’t know how much money was spent on a recent Hertfordshire Library Service survey into borrowers’ “needs”, but however much it was, it was too much.
Surely, when calculating what to stock and what to chuck, all a librarian needs to know about children’s preferences is how many Harry Potters or Tracy Beaker novels get borrowed each week?
Instead, my daughter was asked whether she was heterosexual, homosexual, bi or “other”.
As she didn’t know what the first three things meant (or so she tells me), she ticked the last box and wrote “straight” on the form.
Silly girl. I wish she’d written “transgender”, if only to give some pen-pusher at County Hall a nervous breakdown trying to reconcile a library customer (or should that be end user?) who has undergone gender reassignment, with someone whose birth year is 2001.
Don’t get me started.
I’m cynical enough to believe such surveys are merely job-preserving exercises in self-aggrandisement for people with nothing better to do, but then I suppose someone has to keep the self-serving “diversity-awareness” industry going.
All this prying into “lifestyles” has been thrown into sharp focus in our house this week as my husband, who has just been made redundant, is currently looking for a job.
He won’t mind me telling you it’s a shock to his system to have to “sell” himself for the first time in a legal career that spans some 30 years.
In fact, the last time he applied for jobs, either speculatively or in answer to a specific advert, he was writing his applications with a quill pen.
Now though, Him Indoors is discovering job applications are even more complicated than taking a book out of the library.
On paper, he sounds great.
Team-player, self-starter; attentive to detail; able to see the big picture; good at delegating; someone who likes to see a project through from start to finish; good at motivating others; works well on own initiative; straight – and why don’t you mind your own ruddy business?
Yes, my exasperated husband pretty much wrote that last bit on one particularly intrusive and badly devised application form.
For a start, it doesn’t take much grey matter to work out if an applicant claims to offer every one of often mutually exclusive qualities described above, they are either lying or they have a multiple personality disorder.
And as for the question about sexuality . . .
“I treated it with the contempt it deserves” was my husband’s lofty reply when I asked which box he’d ticked.
Well darling, I guess you won’t get that job, but at least you’ll give the person sifting through the replies something to talk about at the water cooler.
I’m all for fairness and for giving people a chance, especially if they come from a group that met prejudice in the past, (I’m a woman after all), but does an employer really need to know your religion or sexuality if you’ve got the right qualifications and experience?
Still, if even libraries want to know which way you swing before they lend you a book, how long will it be before they ask which way you vote before they let you take out an Enid Blyton novel?
The library questionnaire about “needs” reminds me of an intriguing sign I once saw promoting “sheds for all purposes”, which I’m sure was supposed to read “all-purpose sheds”, though the former sounds much more fun.
Similarly, a friend tells me she once spotted a hoarding bearing the words “for all your bouncy castle needs”.
How on earth do they know what my bouncy castle needs may be?
Perhaps they asked my library.
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