ASSOCIATES (2004, November, v. 11, no. 2) -

Rainbow's End

Chapter 6


Tinker Massey

Moving seemed to be the way one got pay raises, so after training someone to handle the new reading room, I moved to the Main Library. Sorry to leave the new facility which gave me a chance to visit with my father every day, but happy to arrive in another venue that allowed me to catalog materials.

The monographic unit was four of us providing the descriptive cataloging for specific subject areas. Andrea cataloged nothing but education materials, Terry the math and science, Linda the social science and I got the languages, literatures and humanities. Since I was more familiar with the science area, the humanities were more of a challenge. I remembered from my old days of filing cards, that there were many problems with humanities materials. Our supervisor was a young man just out of Library School. He seemed very shy and a little uneasy at teaching us the ropes. His frustration became so great that he asked if the assistant head of the department could handle our problems for awhile. One day he was just gone. Never knew what happened to him, but I felt he was probably getting help somewhere or just holed up in a monastery. Ms Finch, the assistant head of the department, was quiet and stern, with gray hair pulled tight against the back of her head in a bun. When she closed the door to her office, we were not supposed to bother her. I was told that she cataloged all the pornography and “off-color” materials in that locked room and then hand carried them to Special Collections, where they were kept locked up in a cage or vault, respectively, for the intensity of the guilt of their offense.

Once she finished her task, the door opened again and I snuck in quietly for the answers to my questions. Books neatly stacked, grouped by their types of problems, I tried to ask my questions. Ms Finch cut me very short saying she had no time for this. Just leave the books and she would write answers and leave them for me at my desk. I never knew whether she waited for me to leave on particular work missions or lunch, but the books always appeared on my desk without any personal contact from her. I would open the books and look at the “little green notes.” I always believed that if the library ever ran out of little green slips of paper, called “p slips,” she would have gone out and bought her own. The woman was definitely a creature of habit and very secretive. I often surmised that she was a member in good standing of the CIA or some other intelligence organization. She had all of the correct habits, looks and manner of the best operatives around. Well, the “little green notes" never answered the questions I had. There was one phrase that wore thin after the third book, “Look in the manual.” I had already looked in the manual and the index to the manual, but could not find a scrap of information about the problems. After several days of this, I just made up my own answers based on the closest rules I could find and went on to other cataloging. No one ever rejected my work for inaccuracies and I continued to get passing evaluations, while never establishing a passion for the work.

More than six months went by and I heard of a serials unit being formed in the catalog department. There was a new young lady from the North Country, here to light some fires under us. Nellie was already working for her and was the lead LTA in the group of two. Now they wanted to add another person. I literally ran into the department head’s office and asked for a change to this unit. All of my experience in the branches was in serials and I really loved to work with them. I knew their various problems and felt secure in being able to handle them. Nannette was delighted that I wanted to work with them. With some other slight roadblocks, I was ready to begin. My first chore was getting settled at my desk. When I opened the large bottom left drawer to my old solid oak desk, I found a stack of yellow binding slips from Engineering and Physics. I had sent these over six months ago and they hadn’t been added to the shelflist yet. I showed Nellie and she just laughed. The previous worker was lazy and had not wanted to do this massive project, so just stored them in the bottom drawer. What a mess! No wonder no one knew what we owned. Well, nothing like the present to get them done, so I did. Nannette was encouraged by my fortitude and productivity. We went on to more gratifying things, like learning to catalog serials. Our sessions were loud and fun and we learned fast. Nellie and I became fast friends and roared through the work Nannette gave us. We even began to do some maintenance work in the catalog and finally converted to the computers and a much dreamed about online catalog on NOTIS, our local system being termed LUIS. There seemed to be a union between the three of us and especially between Nellie and me, almost surreal. We could be seen wearing the same Rock T-shirts every day even though we never verbally communicated that pattern. The telepathic conversations were so good, that only a glance gave answers and communicated questions or need for consultation. Nannette seemed to be aware of this, but never bothered us. Teaching one was teaching both. What efficiency! The relationship and camaraderie always fascinated me. We only had one uneasy day when we were both filing in the serials catalog and I communicated that I was very happy to be working in the group, and so glad I badgered the department head for the position. Nellie was shocked. She had been told that I would be working with them, but the insinuation was that she was incapable of doing the work, so I had to be added. We both began to understand the psychological pains they were inflicting on us and vowed to never take them seriously again.

Our unit became very well known for its productivity and fun. Remember, we were still in those years of dictatorial rule and complete separatist attitudes from the administration about fraternization between the ranks of staff and supervisors. Our unit was accustomed to taking breaks together, and occasionally lunches too. The lounge was a large rectangular room full of circular tables and odd chairs, relegated to their last breath before removal and extinction. On one special fall day, Nanette treated us to a session of reading her favorite children’s book, “Make Way For Ducklings” by McCloskey. We got quiet and listened intently. I looked around and discovered that the whole lounge was now quiet and listening too. Each of us enjoyed the reading in our own way. It was a time when the heavy oppressive airs were lifted and we were all carefree children again. Some days after that, Nanette told us that the administration gave her a dissertation on separatism and how it was unwise to consort with her staff. She was incensed and let them know that her lunch hours were her own time and she would not be directed how she could spend that time or with whom. Breaks were a little iffy on that point, so she did not force the issue. They left her alone after that, but I am sure there is a black mark in her file somewhere. Nellie and I were unsure what any of this meant, but we all decided to ease off the loudness for awhile. When our togetherness resumed, we had decided to bring in jigsaw puzzles. Many decisions were found in the midst of those look-alike pieces. Somehow the mind loosening activity of searching, allowed us to sort facts and find solutions to serial cataloging projects. We never hired anyone after that who could not joyously work on puzzles. Soon, we found a number of other puzzles appearing in the lounge and swaps going on. Much grumbling could be heard whenever we had to put them back in their boxes during a library wide party, like Christmas (the only recognized party time-Library wide). We went so far as to tie a puzzle board up to the ceiling when we were working on a ten thousand piece puzzle. How extraordinary to have “The Night Watch” above their heads. Amazing how “family” activities continue the family bonds in spite of administrators.

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