Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Amazing feats of shelving

I am willing to confess that shelving is not the place where I am most prone to apply my elbow grease (metaphorically. The books, sadly, tend to come supplied with their own layer of grease). I'll do my share, but my pace is mellow, and while I am thorough and meticulous, there are few side interests of mine that I am unwilling to indulge, in moderation, during that time.

But for some reason, today, during two hours of shelving, I rather applied myself for awhile. Rolled up the ol' sleeves and all that. The first hour was in non-fiction, with its awkward, extra interesting books and its overwhelming Dewey Decimal numbers.  I plowed through a whole cart of the stuff, went down for my afternoon cappuccino, and switched to the easier fiction collection.

It was amazingly easy. I rarely had to pause as I pulled books off my cart and fluidly shelved them in their place one after the other. I didn't pause or break, I think just from the enchantment of it all being so smooth and simple. As I worked through shelving the last of my books it bogged down a bit, but I kept at it, finished, and was delighted to find that I had shelved a whole cart of books in less than ten minutes.

If you are not familiar with average shelving speeds, let me assure you that that is freakishly fast, far faster than any of my normal shelving. I attribute it to what I call the backpacker's effect. If one is hiking up into the Sierras, in California, for instance, all uphill for miles, with a 60 pound pack on, when one takes the pack off one feels like one is floating. Baseball players employ this effect by putting weights, or "doughnuts" on the end of their bats as they warm up on deck. With the weight removed they stand at the plate and their bat feels extra light and quick. So it was for me shelving in non fiction. The books are heavy and need to be shoved about. The spines are hard to read, one has to make lists of numbers in one's head for matching as they go. The number of the book one is trying to shelve may be three books away or seven stacks away, and one must track the 343.65453's for as long as they go. Intuition gets a shelver in non fiction almost nowhere. But do that for awhile and then head to fiction. Wow. It's like the spaces where your books need to go glow, and your hands are like birds, rising to meet them.

Sadly, the effect wears off after a short while, which is why I bogged down toward the end of my magically fast cart of fiction. So I finished up, and then I read something interesting for awhile, a long while. There's invariably something good in either section.

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