Monday, January 9, 2017

Closing announcements

When my library was expanded and completely reconfigured many years ago we scrapped our recorded intercom system. In the days of that earlier library a set of reasonable, well spoken announcements would begin at 20 minutes before the library closed to let people know what was coming. At ten minutes to close we had some music start that sort of changed the air in the library and acted as a more pressing, but pleasant cue. But when the new version of our library opened our upper management (just one person in this case), under a confusion about the nature of reality, emphatically mandated that we were to be a more quiet library. We would have no recorded system, and we should never use our intercom system at all.

"What about emergencies?" We asked.

"Well, okay, but only very serious emergencies" She relented.

But having an intercom system we're not supposed to use, at a large, busy library, is like scattering a bunch of hammers around a construction site and insisting that the workers let them alone. Eventually people's thumbs and fists will start to hurt so much that they say "Fuck it." and start picking up the hammers to whack the nails with.

And so, long ago we resumed announcements, including the closing ones, but because we have no automated system, and no way to play recordings, some one of us staff just has to wing it. Our closing announcements thus get a little strange. One of our librarians likes to give "On this day" messages, like "On this day in 1768 Philip Astley staged the first modern circus in London." and then he, with a kind of odd, poor transition, connects it to our closing. "And if Philip Astley were here today he would tell you that the library will be closing in just ten minutes!" These are pretty fun.

Once or even twice a week I am called on to do these announcements, mostly because there are an awful lot of people who really hate doing them. I'm not exactly wild about doing them myself, which is a kind of license for me to get pretty avant garde with my announcing. I am always partly hoping someone important will decide we have strayed too far from professionalism and that I no longer should do closing announcements. To both my delight and dismay it turns out there isn't actually anyone at my library who is particularly important. So I soldier on.

My most recent closing included saying all the normal closing things, but then adding on a quasi Sci Fi, semi military procedural announcement. It went something like this:

20 Minute:

The Library will be closing in 20 minutes. If you need to get a library card please make your way to a service desk at this time. Librarians commence early lockdown procedure "H", code bravo-seven-setpiece-alpha.

15 Minute:

The Library will be closing in just 15 minutes. Computers will shut down at that time so please leave enough time to save your work, print out what you need to, and check out your items. Librarians report to standard, non emergency stations "Hope" and "Altimus" and set countdown for alphabetization sequencing T minus 9-5-2.

10 Minute:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, the Library will be closing in just ten short minutes. If you still have items to check out we strongly recommend gathering your belongings and making your way to our self check out stations. Again, the computers will shut down in ten minutes so please back up your work and remember to remove your flashdrives and make sure you have everything with you. Librarians please initiate the jump code sequence at this time on my mark: Julep-Olive-Yesterday. Please hit the yellow button, we are a "go" on drive.

3 Minute:

The Library will be closing in just three minutes. That is not very much time. If you still hope to check out items please do so as quickly as possible because the library will be closed in just three minutes. Librarians decouple hydrogen tanks and hoses. Register monitors please release the compression system seven alpha eight, entering niner niner eight. Do not take your gloves with you!


The Library is now closed. We will reopen tomorrow at ten a.m. Have a safe and warm evening. Librarians initiate cryogenic freeze with late staff at monitor protocol seven. Late staff to cold stations, orange button and code Blister-Yellow-Eagle. Shutdown system complete. Goodnight.


  1. Hey, not have to tell your admiring audience what happened when you did that admirable sequence of announcements. I was known to elaborate on the basic announcements from time to time at SV, but I never was as clever as you!

  2. I'm glad you like it. I'm not actually sure our patrons listen to the announcements exactly, and I have yet to encounter a reaction from them. My co-workers sometimes say they enjoyed them, which is nice.


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