Saturday, July 28, 2018

Enobling library work

Just this once, in one of these library stories, let's start with the punchline:

"I don't know how anything gets done around here!"

Now that that's taken care of we can get down to our real message.

I was shelving in Non Fiction, which on the hour was supposed to switch to me shelving in Fiction. But I'd been reading and writing in the stacks so much that it was 20 after the hour by the time I had an empty cart to bring down for a new Fiction one. In the pre elevator room one of my colleagues was standing with a full cart of books, talking on their cell phone, having a particularly intense discussion with one of their children. I dashed into the elevator and pressed the down button several hundred times until the door finally closed.

Downstairs the automated check in machine was entirely abandoned. I suspected what this meant and confirmed it with our posted schedule; one of my managers was assigned to the machine. Only the managers would treat that responsibility so cavalierly and leave so much work for the people to come. This manager was off in their office while the machine either idled or cranked off towards some disaster. I went around straightening bins with the real motive of causing them to fill up so that the machine display would light up with lots of alarming red boxes.

The person on phones was doing nothing and staring vacantly into space in a vaguely alarming way, but, hey, I've been there. Another co-worker, I'm not sure where she was assigned, probably Non Fiction, was watching some inscrutable, corporate looking video with sound so low I doubt she could properly hear.

One other person was also shelving in Fiction with me, meaning I'd want to try to carefully choose a cart that kept us from shelving in the same place. But since I'd seen on the schedule who that person was I knew there was no way in hell he was upstairs shelving. He was either smoking in the parking lot or off on some secret mission of his own, and I could take whatever cart I wanted.

Upstairs in the elevator anteroom my co-worker was still there on the phone, just wrapping up the discussion. I rolled my cart out into the public area, behind where two librarians were aimlessly surfing the Internet, looking very bored, and I wheeled into the quiet respite of Fiction. I shelved for about ten minutes and then wrote most of this.

Maybe I really belong here after all.


  1. Where I worked, before they went to scheduling everyone by the hour, it really seemed to me that it went pretty well. Carts to be shelved were in the areas where they belonged, and if it was slow on the desk I'd look for the oldest cart and shelf it. If the desk got busy, whoever was there would page me. Perhaps this bothered other people. It suited me very well.

    I did read some in the stacks, of course, but care was called for because between the circ staff and the librarians, almost every row was a sight line.

    I also read in the stacks of the public library when I worked there as a teen. It was very educational, because I was allowed to shelve books that teens weren't allowed to see. They were on another floor, and you needed permission to leave the main floor. You would not have liked it, I think.

  2. I bristle at the nefarious word "librarians" in your account. You know, insiders perspective. And yes, I find material restrictions the most horrifying aspect of the older library, but am glad you got around it.


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