ASSOCIATES (vol. 10, no. 3, March 2004) -

Rainbow's End

Chapter 4


Tinker Massey

Seems like so many years ago when I worked in the Engineering Library. That was before all the permanent cataloging days. It was a fair size for a science library with one circulation person (Tez), two reference librarians (Alice and Paul), one head (Mr. Crumly), his secretary (Pat) and me (serials clerk). Our monthly meetings consisted of Alice standing firm about continuing the Dewey classification order for the serials and me trying to convince everyone that title order would best serve the patrons. We did a small test and I eventually won. Pat and I moved all the ranges of shelves ourselves, so that the maze that had been formed years ago now became an aisle straight to the rear of the room. Engineering students came by the droves to watch two females move these long shelving units. The cleaning crews had built up wax so high on the outside of the bases, that we had to literally rock the shelving units to break them out of their bonds. Once released from bondage, we pushed them with our legs, sitting with our backs to the walls. Thank goodness for youth, because my arthritis couldnít have hurt more. The male students were amazed that we could physically handle these shelves and on occasion, they did stop to help. Once we had the serial area rearranged, we built an office for the boss and promptly affixed very fancy "new" issue holders to the outside wall facing the bound journals. We did leave space for fire extinguishers, in the front and back of the room. The secretary had a four foot high wall around her desk area with a small swing door, and my office was just behind her, some eight feet away. That allowed us to actually lock away the incoming periodicals until they were checked in. The next task was more difficult. We got Mr. Crumly to talk with the Civil Engineering student group about a service project. They would come into the library on a Saturday and completely repaint the rooms and put a new drop ceiling in the reading room. To entice them, the secretary and I catered the food and the boys brought liquid refreshment. All paint and materials were supplied by the College and a great time was had by all of the participants. Later, I caught one of the guys admonishing a fellow student for throwing paper on the floor. He made the fellow pick it up and put it in the trash can. So ended our messy room situation! Never hurts for the students to take ownership of their "digs."

We were very proud of our "new" facility and all the patrons appreciated the title arrangement of the journals. Our goal was to have the patron with his needed material in hand--ready to work within five minutes of entering the library. The only complaint we ever received was that we reshelved materials too fast Ö almost before they used it. Had to chuckle at that. We created new ways to deal with materials and ended up setting a record by sending $30,000 of binding out in one month. I think Pat and I lived there that month, but it was worth it. The administration always took money away from Mr. Crumly each year to spend on its frivolous purchases, so this was a real coup. The boss got genuine satisfaction from our hard work and "steal." Now, you may not understand the full measure of our achievement, but remember this was the late 60ís and early 70ís, when manual typewriters ruled and there were no computers and very few Xerox machines. Each binding (various numbers of issues) had to be tied with string and the four copies of the slips had to be attached to the package, then boxed and sealed for pickup. We almost killed the binding man with all the hard work of moving those boxes four flights down to the back of the building. Thank goodness for even clunky elevators.

Just as things began to slow down, Tez came running through the library screaming that he was dying. We got him seated in the lounge and asked why. All he could tell us was that he was a free bleeder and even this paper cut was dangerous. I stopped the bleeding and got him to relax until someone could take him home. He never returned. I think the impact of how dangerous the library was actually hit home. Haile joined our clerical staff and we began to miss overdue funds and other desk items. We could never quite settle on his guilt or innocence until Mr. Crumly caught him removing the funds one evening when everyone else had gone. He never returned. Students helped to cover the desk until Jim was hired. He did a fine job with the routines, training sessions, and social contacts. He was a jewel and we had a team at last.

Seems like libraries are never static. We set up proper shelving in two old classrooms down the hall and organized all the NASA reports in one of them, while setting up the other as an "environmental" report room. The latter was arranged by agency, then number of the document. I guess that was my first understanding of documents and their complexities. We never allowed folks to wander the rooms, but we did a "closed stack" retrieval for them. I think it worked out fairly well, and part of that massive binding was used on those reports. Our microfilm and fiche area was small but filled with literature of the engineering societies. We were able to lease a Xerox machine that made positive paper prints from positive or negative film and fiche. What a monster of a machine! It took up a great deal of space and I was the designated repair person to take care of the machine or call the Xerox regional repairman. We had a great deal of trouble with moisture in the paper, so I rigged a light bulb inside the machine to keep it dry and the machine quit jamming. One day, Chad, the repairman came for the regular cleaning and check of the machine. He was so impressed with my mechanical prowess, that he offered me a repair job for the Florida West Coast Region. The pay was about ten times what I was making, but I was married and going to school, and couldnít do all the traveling required. What a mistake! I would have been the first woman to be a repairman for them, and a regional serviceman at that! Well, I have to live with that one. If I had known that my marriage would end in divorce the next year and that my College would be snarky about my original thesis, I would have surely taken the job "with bells on." Imagine a profession getting all upset because they felt my theory and practical application in therapy would put them out of business. Nonsense! You never seem to know what life is dealing you at the time things happen.

About six months later, we were trying to add more shelves to the book area. One wall still had the blackboard attached to it and we needed to take it down. Pat and I teamed up again to take it off the wall. What we didnít know, was that it was an original slate board about four by eight, and it was HEAVY! When the last screw came out, I was holding the board next to a wall corner piece. Pat lost her grip and she moved forward with the board, trapping my little finger between the board and the corner piece. I knew at once that it was broken. Blood gushed and we went to the lounge for ice and wrappings. I lost a good deal of blood and almost fainted, as I had not eaten breakfast that day. Once I was a little stable, we filled out the accident reports in five different colors and went to the School Infirmary, some ten minutes walk from there. Mr. Crumly was very worried, but I told him it was ok. Boy, was I lying! After almost pounding the doctor in the nose for playing with the end of my broken finger, he splinted the hanging digit and sent me back to work with some Gatorade safely in my rejuvenated system. Needless to say, I was a loss to my softball team for the next four weeks, and all the journals got reshelved by students or a one-handed serials clerk (me). Never lost a dayís work though. Too much to do. With a decent lunch to build my blood sugar back up, life continued.

We had lazy but full days after that. One morning, Mr. Crumly came in late. He was feeling no pain. Seems he had a fight with his wife and went on a short drinking binge. We kept him in his office and took all the calls until Mr. Harold, the Director, phoned to say he would be over to see Mr. Crumly shortly. We ran next door and got "Red" to take him home. Mr. Harold never knew and we would never reveal just how close that call was. We protected Mr. Crumly until the day each of us left the library for other work venues. We had the satisfaction of outwitting the administration again and retaining a truly wonderful person with a small chink in his armor. Gives one pause to smile, doesnít it?

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