Friday, March 1, 2019

Scientific proof of darkness

I hate shelving items on the bottom row. It turns a 2-step process into a 4-step process. On any of the other shelves I merely need to 1). locate the correct location for the book I'm holding, and 2). insert the book into that slot. But for the bottom shelf, due to my long history with back injury, step one (locate the correct location for the book I'm holding) is now followed by 2). in a controlled squat with my back held straight, lower myself down. Then is 3). insert the book into that slot. Which is finally followed by 4). carefully raise up, keeping my back vertical, into a standing position.

Prone, as I am, to a slightly over developed sense of injustice, I am regularly convinced that by some bizarre and slightly hostile trickery of a minor god, a far greater percentage of the books I shelve are on the bottom shelf than on any other shelf.

I was, as a matter of fact, feeling exactly this way about my shelving just a short time ago. And I was quite aggrieved. But then my deep, judicious thoughts cut in.

They said: Seriously, do we

a). exist in a world of small, mercurial gods and fairies where meaningless statistical events are all entirely personal?

Or, am I

b). simply a person who, naturally enough, emotionally reads mildly unpleasant events as being slightly larger than they are in scientific, objective actuality?

Fair question.

So I decided to run a test. I would shelve 20 books and keep track of how many were on the bottom row.

There are five shelves of roughly equally occupied books. A statistically normal account should produce four out of twenty books on the bottom shelf.

I shelved the 20 books. It was a lot of work! Eight of them were on the bottom shelf. I'll admit to a level of disappointed surprise. I was hoping for the sane, scientific explanation. Better that than how it turned out:

They really are out to get me!

Though fortunately they're not too serious about it.


  1. I share your pain re bottom shelves, though my issue is knees, not back.

    For extended work at low levels, like pulling the floor-level book drop or "reading" shelves (do you have to do that?), I'd use a small adjustable-height stool with casters. My nemesis was the gremlin that kept adjusting the stool to its lowest height, a height from which my knees were VERY reluctant to unfold. This went on for years. I would occasionally ask about it, but nobody ever owned up.

    My favorite libraries either don't use the lowest shelves at all or use a slanted shelf that at least makes the spinal text easier to read.

    1. I feel we've discussed lower shelves before! No, the stool would be great as you say, but none of this is extended low shelf work, it's top, middle, middle, bottom, top, bottom, bottom, middle, bottom work.

      Even though part of me loves the no bottom shelf solution, another part of me wants to cram the library as full of books as possible and so hates the idea of the lost space! Ah well.


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