ASSOCIATES (2005, March, v. 11, no. 3) -

Rainbow's End

Chapter 7


Tinker Massey

Some days were better than others. I had a particularly troublesome search problem for OCLC and was contemplating my decisional attack at the keyboard in our computer room. (In the 70’s and early 80’s the computers were clumped together in one room so that more people had access to them) I looked at the screen to begin typing and a phrase popped up that said “Message unclear.” I continued to sit there and look at the screen, closed the journal, stacked my papers and pencil together, rose from the time worn secretarial chair and left the room. Since I had not been there very long, Nellie asked if there was a problem? I just responded that I was not going to play with a machine that could read my mind. I would try later at a different computer. She snickered under her breath and I wondered if she had set that scene up. She was a bit of a prankster, so I never knew.

Nanette called us to a meeting at her desk. We were disturbed to find out that the manual of rules we used, AACR, was going to be changed to AACR2 within a month. That meant there would be many more rules and some 70-80 rule changes, especially for the serial documents we cataloged. Nanette had talked with the Government Documents staff and found they had a backlog of items they wanted cataloged. There were some enormous sets of materials, like the Arbitron TV ratings, she felt could be done quickly if we established a template for the cataloging. She asked Nellie and me to work on this project and get back to her the next day. We studied the materials, saw the similarities and differences and developed a template. With one minor addition, Nanette approved the template and set us to work. There were several thousand items and we worked furiously. We managed to get all of the forms done by hand, typed into the computer, and processed all the materials inside of a couple of weeks. In those days, you could not input your originals directly into the computer. You had to make a paper workform for a second pair of eyes and then inputting by a third person. Perfection was the order of the day! Other documents came flying at us from our boss, and on the very last day before AACR2, we managed to finish the titles with the most difficult changes. We were all smiles and very tired. It was a team effort. No one needed to know that we beat the deadline or how we did it. The days after that settled down to almost boring routine.

A new serials librarian appeared one morning and we were all introduced. She was a recent graduate from an MLS program and a stint on a retrospective conversion team in the north somewhere. She seemed eager to learn and do what she could. She appeared to suffer a little as she was put in our care for part of the day learning about serial adds and telling differences between monographs and serials. The other part of the day was spent with Nanette learning the basics of serial cataloging. It was slow going, but she was ok. She was soon released to do cataloging on her own and spent copious hours pouring over serial problems. I could never figure out what took her so long to do things, but figured she was just trying to be perfect with her attempts. Nanette would make frequent checks on her progress and also seemed unsure of her work habits. Nellie did the group statistics for the month and came to me a little puzzled. Andrea had only completed three serial titles in that month. Well, it was her first month, so maybe she was just treading softly, I ventured. We waited through another uneventful month and the same thing happened. There were only three marks on her tally sheet under new titles. The other categories were not anymore enlightening, with about six shared titles and a dozen DLC copies completed. Now, I’m no whiz, but Nellie and I both were able to complete over two hundred DLC titles and over two hundred shared titles. What was going on? In addition to the statistics, we found that Andrea was becoming more and more condescending to us. We had not registered a complaint with Nanette, but we were thinking about it. One day, I had delivered some work to Andrea, as I sorted the work for the unit. She became very ugly to me. I turned and politely and quietly asked if there was a problem. She remarked that I should be more polite to her, as she had an MLS and I didn’t. Since I was a little touchy on the subject, I politely asked how many masters’ hours she had. Andrea told me that she had obtained the 32 hours her MLS required and she was qualified more than I was to do the job and thought I shouldn’t be cataloging at all. I turned from watering the plants on the window sill and told her that I had over one hundred master’s hours in a much more technical field, had courses in three languages and would match my hours and intelligence with hers anytime she wanted. I could see Nanette’s one sided smile in the corner of my eye as she turned away from the discussion. She would have interceded if the situation called for it. Andrea decided to let it go. I asked her if she was so very unhappy working with us. She thought about it for awhile, then decided that her problem was probably in being so far from home. I understood and commiserated with her, pointing out that she was welcome to come to my home for Christmas dinner. We would be glad to have her. She tried to be reluctant, but I painted a clear and pretty picture of the lake and our tree and told her what the menu would be. Mom and I always had folks over that were far from home. Andrea accepted. She had a good time at Christmas and I hoped she would calm down. Her statistics increased some, but she was only a marginal cataloger. Perhaps she was more suited for other activities. Over the year, she tried a relationship, but could not ever find compromise in her vocabulary. I was talking with her quietly about a year from the last explosion and found that she was truly depressed. Was she still suffering from homesickness? Yes. I suggested that instead of remaining in this state of depression, she should look for jobs closer to home. She decided that was fully appropriate. I pointed out that if the job was more to her liking and she was closer to home, she would probably enjoy life more. No one should purposely make themselves unhappy. In less than three months, she was gone. We heard later that she was a very productive and happy person back in her Bronx home. I was glad. Nellie and I took up the slack and Nanette had us doing original cataloging in no time, much to the disgust of the administration. Don’t think they ever cared about the work getting done as they were in maintaining propriety in the ranks.

There was a generous amount of money spent by the Legislature to appease the public near voting time and we all looked at each other. Who did they think was going to do the work? The answer came back that they didn’t care if we processed all of the books or not. They just had to make sure the public knew they had given them to us. Wonderful! At the same time, they were merging subject disciplines in the state universities and we suddenly ended up with all of the Astronomy books and serials from the University of South Florida to transfer to our collection. Nothing was being transferred from our university elsewhere (thank goodness). Time, space, and rushing the work were priorities. I felt sorry for the Departments who were having to find room for those extra people. Space on the campus was very tight for all of the Departments at that time. We loved the flurry of new and different work. Life was again full!

Soon, a new face appeared in our room. Bea was a delightful serials cataloger full of fun and willing to try anything on a moment’s notice. We found that she was an accomplished cataloger and was versed in Spanish, her native language, which helped the rest of us spread to other languages of need in the cataloging arena. Her production was excellent and she soon took on other tasks. Nanette and Bea became NACO serials catalogers and were looking at the US National Newspaper Project with determination. Florida had so many old newspapers, and the University had the majority of complete runs in our special collections. The project was designed to catalog all of the old newspapers and then produce microfilm that would also be cataloged. I was asked to help design a template for the microfilm cataloging, especially the subjects we would include. Everything had to be perfectly designed before we began. There were so many people involved, but we proved to be a very formidable team and got the job done. I became the expert for cataloging newspapers on microfilm. It was fun. The job so consumed me that I hardly noticed additional staff being added to our team. A couple of new people helped us plow through so much of the backlog in a hurry.

Suddenly, Nanette was whisked away from serials to become our NACO person and took on the added responsibility of SACO. She was very involved in the Newspaper Project and retained that interest after it was over. There was a giant move to change things. Our group had begun to be so large that they decided to tap our unit for splits. I was suddenly asked to join a unit that monitored all of the changes to the catalog records and materials in the system, the Database Maintenance Unit. There were four of us and we worked hard too. I was the sole serials person and worked on the reclassifying of that collection What a turn of events. Then, along with the reclass project, I was given the command to withdraw 50,000 volumes of materials from the campus collections in about two months. Whew! What a demand! I received one student part-time and began the project. It was like a whirlwind! We worked till we dropped each day and then worked some more. We were done in the two months, but I am still unclear as to how we did it. Had to be very well organized and tightly run, but everyone cooperated and we managed. Life had become very fast and full! Just can’t remember any “thanks” for the work. After all, it was a part of our work schedule, wasn’t it?

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