Thursday, February 16, 2017


It is a frequently acknowledged truth that nearly all good library workers have a touch of OCD. My own deep need to get everything lined up just so, to check just one more time, is something of an asset when it comes to a fussy, gigantic filing system in state of constant, pulsating flux and reorganization. A single transposed number or letter, in a stream of a dozen, can effectively bury a whole series of books into a pocket of total unfindability. If a person files downstream from a wrongly shelved book one can end up with a sequence that looks like: 1,2,3,4,5,6,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. That kind of counting is fine for Republican Economists, but it has no place in a practical world.

So there I am making what I like to think of as a special guest appearance, shelving. And because I like to surround my shelving with a great deal of snacking, alternatives to working, cappuccino drinking, and chatting with people, when I actually get down to shelving I like to run a masterclass in it. I can afford to apply this razor sharp intensity because I have paced myself. I have prepared. I have taken two hours of shelving and condensed it into a more proper 20 minutes. I am shelving at a smooth and beautiful pace. I am alert. My focus is preternatural. I am fixing all errors as I go. I am making fabulous time. And then it happens.

"Wait, did I just shelve that under "Douglass" or "Douglas"?"

So I go back to where I just shelved and I check. It would kill me not to. Things have to be right! It is that small touch of OCD I've been talking about.

Fortunately I did indeed shelve it under "Douglas", as I was supposed to. I happily move along.

But was it "B. Douglas" or was it "R. Douglas"?

Oh, okay. I got it right, I see this when I go back. It is under "B. Douglas." I then straighten the shelf it's on so all the bindings line up with the front edge of the shelf. Then I double check. "B. Douglas". Looks good. I'm ready to move on! But wait. There is a book among the "B. Douglas" that is out of order by title. It's not my fault, but it surely won't do. I fix it and move on. This is just the sort of attention to detail I'm talking about. I have helped to, wait, but what was the title of the "B. Douglas" book I just shelved. That other one was wrong, but was the one I filed correct? I go back and check. 

Yes, it's fine. I can now move on to other things knowing that I have... wait, let me just make sure before I say it. Okay. It is in the correct place. Now I can move on knowing I have made no mistakes and everything is perfect. Sure it's all a little obsessive, but the key thing is that it's not too obsessive. Importantly we know that it was accurate, and accuracy is every bit as important as speed! Maybe even more so.

Which is why I'm just going to hop back upstairs and make sure I got it right. Wait here.

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