So yesterday was the day. Finally I got to meet my fellow campaigners from Voices for the Library. And how do I feel after the event? Enthused, motivated, excited but most of all proud. Proud to work with such a great bunch of people who are fully committed to doing what they can to promote libraries and fight disproportionate cuts to the service. How can anyone not be proud?
Who would have though just 5 and a bit months ago that we’d all be getting together reflecting on where we have been and planning the way forward? It has been an amazing journey (how cliché is that?!) and I am so glad I jumped onboard when I did. Whilst I always hoped that this would be more than a rough plan that had good intentions but not necessarily the legs to carry them, you never quite knew where it would end up. The fact that it has grown into something substantially more than a rough plan and something that will grow and prosper, is testament to the hard work of all involved, from day 1 until day 150 (or something, you do the math!).
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what I would make of today. Originally I wasn’t expecting to be able to attend but, thanks to some cunning scheduling by the Spanish, I was able to show my face (a scary prospect sure, but it’s my face and there’s not a lot I can do about it). I was certainly glad that I was able to make my merry way to London, but I was also a bit nervous. I had never actually met any of these people before. Sure we’ve exchanged emails and I’ve even spoken on the phone to one of me colleagues, but I’d never actually met them. I have a weird thing about crossing between the virtual world and the ‘real world’. Somehow, whilst I know that they are real people sitting at computers or tapping on their iPhones (or even Android phones would you believe?!), there is somehow a gap, a distance, that makes people in the virtual world almost seem ‘unreal’. Whenever I meet someone I have interacted with on the Internet I am always uncomfortable, nervy and a little freaked out.
So whilst I was excited about today and eager to finally put names to faces (or names to weird avatars in some cases), I was also worried I would go into a full nervous meltdown. Sitting quietly in the corner whilst all these amazingly talented people set about planning the way forward, desperately wishing I could contribute and not be so damn intimidated. I know, seems a bit out of character when one reads some of my tweets at times (or engages in conversation with me). And yet, here’s the weird thing, I’ve just written several hundred words of a blog post that appears to have no point other than for me to big up my colleagues and bang on about how shy and uncomfortable I am when meeting ‘real’ people (let alone how I normally ‘perform’ in meetings – there is a reason I am the cake monitor…). I guess I feel more comfortable writing stuff down then saying them out loud (unless I have had a few drinks…). When writing I don’t really worry about how I am perceived. I don’t really mind that people are now reading this thinking ‘what a load of self-indulgent piffle’. This is my comfort zone and I am happy with it.
Yet, despite all this, I have never felt more at ease with a room full of ‘strangers’ as I did yesterday (he says frantically checking if he is writing this in present or past tense before now…). I felt able to contribute and engage in a way I normally find difficult and uncomfortable in other circumstances. I think that is testament to how fantastic the Voices for the Library team are. You do not feel uncomfortable, out of your depth or like an imposter who has blagged his way in. Instead I felt inspired and, dare I say, ‘energised’ (sorry). If only all meetings were like this. Perhaps it had something to do with the cake…