Gladstone's Library, Hawarden

The Library at Night

By Rhian Waller - Gladstone's Library PR and marketing

There is always somebody around at Gladstone's Library, even after reception closes and the last meals are served in Food for Thought. As we have residents on site, it is both a safety requirement and good customer service to make sure someone is available. One night last week, that person was me.

My day-to-day work usually sees me sitting in front of a screen doing things with words, photos and videos but I'm trained in first aid and fire safety protocols, which meant I could cover a night shift.

It was a totally different experience being in the building at night. I'm used to daylight and daytime bustle but after 10pm, the Reading Room doors automatically lock and most of the guests head to bed.

There's quite a lot to do during the dark hours. A fully trained night porter is involved in cleaning and maintaining several zones in the Library building. As I have a lot less experience in that area, I didn't get as much done (I was mostly there to make sure the guests were okay, check everybody was safely out of the Reading Rooms by 10pm, do fire door and fire exit checks and lock the front door).

Theology Room at Gladstones Library.

Theology Room at Gladstone's Library.

The receptionist goes home at 8pm, which is when I took over. With my on-duty phone in my pocket so guests could call me if they needed help, I vacuumed the stairs and landing and cleaned and dusted the main corridor.

At 10pm, I entered the Theology Room, which is the one Reading Room accessible in the evenings, and quietly ushered out the last few scholars. Then I checked all the ground floor windows and doors were closed before walking through the whole building on a fire door check.

As the Library became even quieter, I cleaned and dusted the main corridor, cleared out the bins in the Gladstone Room and swept and mopped the kitchen floor before setting up a couple of tables for our breakfast guests. Even with my stripped down to-do-list, I didn't remember every detail straight away: it took me 10 minutes to find the coffee cups and little jam jars to get them ready for breakfast.

In the daytime and evenings, the restaurant, corridors, conference rooms and lounge are often alive with chatter and activity.

In contrast, the Reading Rooms are always quite quiet. Even when they are close to full, which they have been recently with revising students and residential guests, you will generally encounter nothing louder than whispers, footsteps and the turning of pages.

It's almost as though, when the last readers leave and the deep night unfolds, that quietness spreads out through the rest of the building.