Can you believe that staff at Grey Gables have had to attend training sessions about professionalism and the correct dress code because of a single complaint about a librarian wearing a hooded top? Tory councillor, Nigel Piglet-Smith, found himself getting all excitable with a lardon sticking out of his bespoke trousers and decided it was time to crack down on crime and the causes of crime and the depravity of single mothers and err… staff wearing hoodies (although the hoodie was ironed and the hood was down).
‘In my day all staff wore three-piece suits,’ the complainant wrote in a leaked letter, ‘and a timepiece attached by a 12 carat chain to their waistcoat… In today’s diverse and exciting multicultural environment, I am prepared to accept timepieces may be attached to piercings in the face or navel but only during Ramadanadingdong of which I wholeheartedly approve… some of my best friends are Mohammedans…’
Piglet has siezed this opportunity to crack down and flex his untattooed Tory biceps. Give the voters what they want: librarians in uniform. Except librarians never wore uniforms, eccentricity in dress was quietly encouraged. In Grey Gables glory days men wore spotted cravats and mustard yellow knickerbockers.
The result is that in these cash strapped times frontline staff are being pulled out of libraries for day long debates to discuss dress codes and professionalism. The vexed question of whether it is unprofessional to tell borrowers to fuck off during quibbles over 50p reservation fees is still ongoing. Or does one say ‘Good Morning?’ to everyone. Eye contact may be threatening to people with mental illness. People with mental illness may be threatening to librarians like the Herbert Lom lookalike who came into Grey Gables last week and, during a routine chat, took a pair of scissors from his blazer pocket and began slowly snipping off his blazer buttons. But the point of the entire training exercise, the whiteboards, the squeaky pens, the goody-goody staff (none less simpering and goody-goody than myself) was to broadcast it loud and clear: no hoodies in the workplace.
A woman next to me called Becky sighed and adjusted her bifocals. She works in the cavernous and chilly Janet Adegoke Memorial Library, where the vaults and punched ceiling panels are more appropriate for a staging of the Ring Cycle than issuing books.
‘It is so unfair!’ she wailed. ‘I have worn a hoodie for over twenty years and I have never once put my hood up. Not once!’ I looked across at the horror and devastation on her face, more in keeping with a terminal diagnosis than the outlawing of her beige top.
‘I will dispose of my hooded top forthwith…’
Well, I suggest a hoods up campaign in defiance. Hoods Up Against Piglet-Smith. Perhaps it’s safest to restrict the activism to late night reading when one can wear one’s hood alone.