ASSOCIATES (vol. 2, no. 3, March 1996) -

Table of Contents

                       VIEW FROM THE BACK ROOM


                            Jim Johnston
                         Binding Assistant
                    Stephen F. Austin University

               "The majority of clients are normal people."

             "The majority of our clients are normal people."

           "The vast majority of our clients, including the

                    students, are normal people."

           "The vast majority of our clients, including the

          students, are normal, sane, and law abiding people."

That above is my work mantra.
I'm in charge of the binding department here at the university
library and that is the mantra I recite to myself as I work.
Sometimes more than once an hour.
What can I say..."Ommmh" didn't cut it.  Trust me, my work mantra
has really helped me.
For instance, I've managed to accept that any magazine or book
that contains a nude figure - male or female, art, ads, article,
or whatever - will have that nude ripped out by someone not
covered by my mantra.  OK, I'll have to find a replacement copy
and fix it up.
I've also come to accept that, if a nude image cannot be found,
these selfsame individuals will settle for any figure clad in
underwear.  So...okay, I'll find a replacement page.
I've even come to accept that any printed work that contains
any information deemed useful (or humorous or just interesting)
to the individual reading it will - in spite of the plethora of
ten cent copying machines scattered throughout the library - have
that information torn out by someone not covered by my mantra.
Again, by someone not covered by my mantra and, again, I'll
somehow return the damaged to semi-pristine condition once
Thanks to my mantra, I've come to grips with all of
(Well...okay, granted that I was the fellow who submitted the
proposal to arm the shelving students and to have them shoot on
sight anyone caught abusing any of the volumes...but I was just
kidding [mostly]...and I only recommended that they carry .22
caliber at best...and only shoot to least the first
What I've had a great deal of trouble accepting is that anyone
actually reads some of the magazines we carry.
Take "World of Wood" as an example.
This magazine is published by the International Wood Collectors
Society.  It's not aimed towards carpenters (although there are
carpenters in their society) and it's not geared for
environmentalists (although some members are environmentalists).
This magazine is for people who collect ... wood.
Scary thought, ain't it?
I've always been of the belief that a person's hobby is,
generally speaking, more exciting (either physically or mentally)
than his or her day-to-day life.  I also believe one can tell a
great deal about a person's life by his or her hobby.
Collecting wood, though...
Can you possibly imagine just how boring someone's life would
have to be for them to get excited about collecting wood?  The
mind - or at least my mind - boggles.
(As a matter of fact, discovering this publication led to my new
personal worse case scenario.  My old one, for reference sake,
involved being locked in a jail cell with a six foot eight, three
hundred pound convict named "Bubba", who kept smiling at me and
saying "You're my little puppy now!"
Compared to my new one, that would have been a piece of cake.
Now it's being locked in a Greyhound bus, on a long trip, with
one of the International Wood Collectors Society chapter
presidents, who just happens to have his traveling collection
with him.  The miles simply whiz by as he smiles at me and
says, "Look!  Knotty Pine!"
(This is the sort of situation that drives many of our animal
friends to gnaw off a leg or two, y'know.)
Here's another interesting magazine: "TV Guide".
Normal enough, right?  Well, maybe in a grocery store check out
line or on a coffee table, but...
This library also subscribes to "TV Guide".
Oh, I suppose there is a really good, rational explanation as to
why the library has its own subscription (like the subscription
agentbeing somebody's brother-in-law, wink-wink) but it still
tends to bother me.
Is there really somebody, anybody, who would make the trip to our
library just to check out the latest issue?
"Honey?  What time is 'Chicago Hope' coming on?"
"Gee...I don't know, Cupcake.  Say!  I'll just run over to the
university library and find out.  They have a subscription!"
"Thanks, Honey!" gets weirder.  The library has roughly six months of
this publication sitting on the shelf at any given moment.  Six
months of "TV Guide".
"Honey?  What time was 'Chicago Hope' shown on October 23rd?"
"Gosh ... I just can't remember, Cupcake.  Hold the fort, I'll
run over to the university library and find out.  Back in an hour
or so."
(Needless to say, Honey really needs to learn how to tell Cupcake
to look it up herself ... but that's beside the point.)
The entire "TV Guide" strangeness takes a vicious left turn on me
every time I recall that this is a university library...and, as
such, is here primarily for the students.
This combination of thoughts leads me to believe that one of our
professors is a sadist who - for twisted pleasures that you and I
can only guess at - forces his students to actually use their "TV
Guide" as a research tool.   Perhaps making them find out exactly
what international recording star David Hasselhoff had to say
about his "Baywatch" co-stars?
Equally baffling to the "TV Guide" question is the fact that the
library also has, at any given time, around six months of
"People" sitting on its shelves as well.
Okay, I might buy someone coming all this way to check out "TV
Guide" (if Cupcake threatens Sweetheart with a frying pan or some
such) but to read
(Sorta makes the wood nut on the bus seem somewhat normal.  Well,
make that 'somewhat more normal than he did a paragraph or two
Although, now that I consider it..."TV Guide" - pound for pound -
might actually have more useful information than "People".
Maybe.  It would be a hard call and someone would have to pay me
an awful lot of money to find out.
I guess the bottom line of all this is that I really don't have
any desire to meet Cupcake, Sweetheart, the sadistic professor,
anyone who would even consider coming out this far for either "TV
Guide" or "People" or - and this is definite -  anyone who even
knows that "World of Wood" is in publication.
(International recording star David Hasselhoff would be a toss would depend on what else I had to do at that moment.)
Now, I don't want you to think that our library is some sort of
light-weight establishment, carrying only fluff and bizarre
periodicals.  No, indeedy!
We have many, many fine professional journals in the stacks, I'll
have you know.
Publications with loooong titles that feature several
multi-syllabic Latin words!
Publications written by, and for, people far smarter than you,
me, or all the folks who read "people" rolled together.  Specific
publications for those who intently study everything they can
about, say, the third toe from the right...on the left foot...of
pygmies...and then, only those that have hangnails.
Big, thick, scholastic as hell publications.  Publications that
nobody would dare tear pages from, even if they had totally nude
pictures of international recording star David Hasselhoff and all
of his "Baywatch" co-stars.
I know that nobody messes with these babies ... I'm the guy who
checks them out before they get bound into books, remember?
I'm also, to the best of my knowledge, the first and only person
to open these particular periodicals.  (I can tell by the
creeeeak and slight crackle of their spines.)
As a matter of fact, I tried to confirm the fact that nobody else
was opening them, by hiding dollar bills between their pages.
Twenty bills in twenty different periodicals.  I even left the
money there for a month.
When I went back, I found forty dollar bills.
(I can only assume that the money, being in intimate contact with
such massively intelligent articles, somehow increased in
intelligence, enough to have learned how to clone itself.  Who
know what would have happened if I had waited another month
before checking.  Heck, they might have actually developed
a thriving civilization of their own!
I have no idea what they would have used for currency,
though...but I digress.)
The bound volumes of these periodicals do not fare any better.
If anything, they are even more ignored than the single issues.
Which is not all that bad, really.
Once I realized that these bound volumes generate some sort of
massive "disinterest shield", I was able to save myself the cost
of a safety deposit box.
That's right, I keep my important documents (will, bonds,
professional papers and so forth) between the pages of various
bound professional journals.  Not only are they as safe as if
they were still in a locked bank, but it's free and I can get at
them at more convenient hours.
Am I worried about someone accidentally finding my stuff?
Naw...the students are happily searching for underwear ads to
paper their dorm walls with, the wood freaks are comparing
samples of Slippery Elm, and the rest are gently lowing as they
graze through the piles of "TV Guide" and "People".  (Perhaps
while listening to international recording star David Hasselhoff
over headphones and wondering when would be a good time to
leave/divorce/kill Cupcake).
But spite of all this, I still maintain that the
vast majority of our clients, including the students, are normal,
sane, and law abiding people.
(It's the staff and faculty that I'm beginning to worry about...)