Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Ghost of Western Bank Library

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On the night of 2nd March 2016 at precisely 11:47 p.m. a terrifying warning surrounded the silent dark room on the 4th floor of the Western Bank Library. ‘Leave because if you don’t the WBL ghost will haunt you for the rest of the night,’ resonated throughout the space.
Sometime in mid-November 2015, I came across a job opportunity – little did I know that this would turn out to be a chapter of my university life that I would never dare to forget. ‘Na├»ve’ as I was, I applied for the post and then successfully went through an hour long interview to land my first job as the facilities assistant at the Western Bank Library. The timings worked well with my university schedule as I had to work later in the evenings rather than to compromise my study time.
On a Friday afternoon, I met with my supervisor who first asked me if I would like some tea. I politely declined because I had never tasted tea in my life – yes shocker of the year! He then explained to me the role and suggested I come for some observation sessions before I can undertake the role by myself. Part of the job included locking up the facility after ensuring that all library users had vacated the premises. That meant I was going to be the only person lingering around the empty library in darkness once I switched off the main lights.
I had never used the facilities at the WBL – after all who would want to leave The Diamond anyway? On my first day, like any other good new employee would, I showed up almost 30 minutes earlier. I met up with another senior from whom I was to take over the shift when time came. Again, the first thing he asked me was if I would like some tea. We chatted for a while until Chris, the senior I was supposed to ‘shadow’ for the evening, showed up. The first question he too asked me was – yes, you guessed it right – ‘Would you like some tea.’ Clearly, the British love for tea is as real as it can get.
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Once he had emptied his hot cup of tea we got to business. He took me around for a quick tour of the facilities. For those who say the Mappin building is the mother of maze buildings, I’d like to say I just met her favourite son. The WBL is filled with 5 floors of endless racks and shelves of books. While walking through the second floor I momentarily recalled the scene from the famous Harry Potter series where the trio walked through the Hall of Prophecy. The library has everything – from Japanese newspapers from the 1980s to books on modern technology. It is like a catalogue of knowledge that simply awaits being read.
One of the best parts about the University of Sheffield is that here the students and locals integrate into each other’s lives so effortlessly and the WBL is it best example to give. The library is open to both the university students and the locals. In fact, many a times, you can find the students having a nice chat with the locals in the lounge area.
Anyway getting back to my story…
Before I knew it, all the ‘chilling’ was over and it was time to start the hour long routine that ensured the safety of the premises and more importantly, the precious books it has beheld for all these years. We jumped floor to floor in a rather complex mechanism; the details of which I will spare you. After ringing the last alarm at 11:45, we made way to the fourth floor; the most popular floor amongst students. Surprisingly though, it was as empty as my wallet before pay day. We had just finished closing the curtains and switching off the lights and were making way towards the central door when my eyes caught a glimpse of something strange.
Within a split second, everything we had done in the past hour quickly flashed through my mind and I also did a quick mental check to ensure that no one was missed out while vacating. Then a sudden alarming sentence rang in my mind as my eyes moved left to right reading every word that I saw in front of me in the dim light coming from the hallway.
‘Before you leave, shout into the room to ensure that no one is left back,’ were the instructions my eye had just caught onto from the lock up procedure written on the paper I was handed earlier that night. I immediately turned back rolling my eyes.
‘Leave because if you don’t the WBL ghost will haunt you for the rest of the night,’ I shouted sarcastically into the pitch black void. Chris who was quietly observing me since I had made a sudden stop while exiting the room burst into laughter and commented on how hysterical I was.
I know this is such an anticlimax for all you thriller lovers. However, the point of this story was not to waste your time but to rather share yet another amazing chapter of my university life. Here at Sheffield, all that I could ask for, except for the cold weather to disappear, is being served right into my plate. I wanted a job that fitted around my university schedule and to work with some fun loving individuals. All my needs were matched exactly thanks to the array of services offered by the university. Further, my supervisors and the people I work with are warm – just like their tea – and welcoming. I didn’t need to worry a single bit about how I would manage the role because I received first hand on-the-job training from experienced peers. Lastly, the job is within the campus which makes it more credible and my safety is kept at the top of the priorities with the women night safety bus that drops me right at my door step at 0030 when my shift gets over.
Now, if you ever happen to come to Sheffield or to come across this ‘big fat’ rumor about the ghost that haunts the WBL you know how it started – then again, who knows?

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