Friday, December 21, 2007

Walking The Stacks or Why a Librarian Appears to Wander




Occassionally, I walk the whole area which I am in charge of. This is to make sure the books are neat, nothing is out of place and everything looks right. Sometimes I get the question why are you wandering through the stacks.

Mainly I pick up books which are left on top of other books, scraps of paper, hidden soda cans, and other minor garbage. Occassionally, I will find a few books tucked in the corners on forbidden subjects like sex or abortion. These get put back in the sorting room.

I take notes in my mind spot checking for which places need to be rearranged, shelf read or neatened by the library aides (it is impolitic to call them "pages" like they did in the old days). Occassionally, I'll find something odd. Maybe, one of the patrons (library customers) has decided the books look better if they are tilted sideways or pushed in four inches, or has decided to stack large amounts of books on the floor. This really is not predictable.

There is a recurring fantasy which I have heard from many people that they would like to run through the library and knock over all the bookshelves so all the books fell on the floor and the shelves tipped over like dominos. I heard that the gangs when they were really bad where I worked used to run through the library throwing books on the floor.

The teenagers sometimes like to hide in the stacks and talk to each other about forbidden things, or chase after each other when we are not looking.

Sometimes little kids like to run their hands along the shelves like they are running their hands along a metal fence pushing the books in. Books have a nice feel to them. But, this has to be discouraged.

Mostly things are in order where I work. I check to make sure all the stuff is put away behind the desk.

Then if time permits, I scan through the new books both fiction and nonfiction to see what has just come in. This often works better than searching on the computer when people come up to ask for new books. Customers are confused and often don't remember the exact title of a book which they are looking for. They remember the title was in Ebony, The New York Times, Military Times, or some magazine or other. Having a vague idea of the new stock is a good idea.

A lot of people think checking to see the order of books, or shelf reading should only be done by the library pages or shelvers. This works only if you check their work on occassion. It is very easy to transpose letters and make slight mistakes in order.

Also occassionally reading sections of books which are not in your assigned areas gives you a better idea of what is inside a large collection of books. I can picture the location of many of the books in my mind because I have seen and read the shelves closeup over the years.

We have two floors below us where I work. These are actually fairly well organized. It is a huge last copy repository for the system. There are a lot of very strange old books some of them dating from the 19th century. Just looking through the old books is very entertaining.

You get to learn about what books people value because we keep books by circulation. There are a lot of really weird things which keep their relevance, old circus books, tattoo books, books on the maritime trade, old railroad books, human freaks, woodcuts and a lot of really odd things.

Many people want to go downstairs to look at the items, but we only allow people to look at things in the stacks if they are accompanied by a librarian. We have a couple people who come in and ask to see the World War II books, many of the books we have were written close to that that time period. We usually go downstairs to get them for people.

If I have time, I will occassionally go look at the old science fiction and fantasy books in the stacks, there are a lot of the less popular titles by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells as well as some of the classic science fiction or fantasy writers like Andre Norton, L. Sprage De Camp, and A.E. Van Vogt. It is interesting looking at these in their library bindings.

I couldn't think of what to write about exactly today, so I chose something a little more free form.

6 comments:

chica said...

Guilty. I've done the pushing the books in too. Though I can see why they aren't pushed in to begin with. I feel this itch to push them in every time! You won't want me in your library :).

ROTUS said...

Hey man, you're blog of the day! Now get back to work straightening those shelves.

Book Calendar said...

Wow, I didn't even catch that. Thanks for letting me know.

Alan said...

At my library, we are still called Pages. Official job title in our union contract. And between us the pages who close each evening walk All of the stacks and public areas picking up materials left behind and straightening as much as possible.

Alan

Book Calendar said...

It is funny. Some libraries are including pages as union employees. Others are not. Pages are not covered under the union contract where I work.

There is a reason why we want to keep all the books forward. The more visible the spine of the book is the easier it is to find. Some of the books if they are pushed in on the lower shelves or top shelves makes it hard to see the labels on the spine and locate the books.

It is one of those weird little things like you are not supposed to pack books too tightly on a shelf because it breaks the spine causing the book to split in half. Or if you turn a book sideways the spine is also more likely to sag and break

astrogalaxy said...

Nice post.
Merry Merry Christmas to you too !