A letter from Deborah, our recently departed Reading Resources Intern, who has shared her experiences with The Reader.
Before we jump straight in to the story of my three-month internship at The Reader, let me tell you a little about myself first.
I love being surrounded by books – even if I haven’t read every single one yet; I’ve been told by friends that they find it daunting to be surrounded by their ever-growing ‘to-read’ list. For me, however, books just start to become a familiar and comforting presence after a while, regardless of whether I know their inner workings or not.
I decided a few years ago that I would become a librarian, and after playing with the idea for years – being warned off it with phrases like ‘Oh but you won’t earn much money, what if you have to support a family!’ – I went and got an internship at a public library, anyways. I’m such a rebel at heart.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” as my father likes to say.
I handed in my undergraduate dissertation a week before my interview with The Reader for a Reading Resources internship, and I’d moved to England from Germany only about two days before the interview. I’d had very little to do with the organisation at that point – except for sampling the odd ice cream at the Parlour.
I was asked to bring a favourite book to the interview, with a little explanation as to why I like it, which was a little difficult because of my recent move (bringing all my books with me seemed a little excessive), but if there’s one thing I can talk about, it’s books. Discovering that the author of my book was also one of Grace’s favourite authors was a nice surprise.
I’d only just come home after the interview when my phone rang, but I was so happy when Grace was on the other end, offering me the internship position. I’d get to work with books and help people access novels, short stories and poems for the next three months! I love helping people, especially when books are involved in the process.
What I absolutely did not expect when I started my internship at The Reader was that every single person who works here would be this bloody nice. I am still constantly surprised by how gracious and kind everyone is: no matter how trivial my question or problem, I’m given an answer and the person helping me makes sure I understand what I’m meant to be doing (I will forever be thankful to those explaining to me the different functions of the printer/scanner/copier).
I have enjoyed immensely the opportunities I’ve had to sit in on Shared Reading sessions, as well as reading poems together at team meetings and catch-ups. The most memorable group for me was helping out Katie with her Reading with Nature group; which invites residents from care homes, mainly older people, some of whom are living with dementia, to a specially designed visit to Calderstones Park. As the weather has been sunny we were able to walk to the gardens and have a sit down while reading our poems; it was almost too hot for us!
Thankfully we had some hats to protect us against the sun. The poems we read were all lovely, though I felt that shared experience of reading was just as important as the choice of poems. Everyone reading a poem together as one felt really powerful. In the last session we read The Bright Field, by R.S. Thomas. All group members could connect to the bright field, that precious pearl, that had the treasure in it, but that was passed by – some mentioned that there is a possibility of coming back to that field, though, and that there are second chances at experiencing something great.
I had longer, ongoing projects, like refiling short stories and poems; our paper resources are quite big and tend to get a little chaotic if no one spends a few hours every week on them. I have found this quite enjoyable, as our resources are sequestered away in a space that’s usually quite peaceful and quiet, leading to an almost meditative trance of filing.
Against my expectations, my internship also involved a lot more Excel spreadsheets than anticipated; but I have to say now that I do love a good spreadsheet. Some of the bigger projects included reviewing a recommended reading list for Shared Reading groups in criminal justice settings (prisons, halfway houses and youth hostels), and working on our 100 Women for Liverpool Light Night event at Blackburne House.
Sending out e-mails and making phone-calls as an official member of The Reader to volunteers made me check every e-mail thrice before sending it, and rehearse for the phone calls for a while. But there was also the job of scouring sites for inspiring quotes by women, and sorting through The Reader’s and my own library to pick out our readings for the night. Attending the event and seeing all the volunteers read aloud the words of those women who have come before us and who live alongside us was wonderful, and a brilliant payoff to weeks’ worth of work of collecting quotes and extracts and organising the schedule of the readings.
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
Just like in D.H. Lawrence’s The Piano, the first poem that Tom, Grace and I read together during a meeting, I will look back on my time at The Reader with fondness and nostalgia, as something to be treasured.