ASSOCIATES (vol. 6, no. 1, July 1999) -

Editorial: "When Life Hands You Lemons"


Wendee Eyler
Editor, Associates
Library Assistant
Rivera Library
University of California, Riverside

      On July 1, 1999, I celebrated 30 years at the University of California, Riverside, Library. I've gone from manual typewriters to computers; from hand-typed book fund ledgers with 3 carbon copies and no errors to machine-generated lists; from electric erasers to liquid paper to spell check. The library has been reorganized and re-reorganized, centralized and de-centralized, merged and split, moved and then returned to the same spot. The current journals have been shelved by title, then by subject, and then back again so many times that I've lost count.

      July 1969 was turbulent. The boys from high school were being drafted for the Vietnam conflict, astronauts landed on the moon, and my friends spent all day at the beach while I worked full time. It seems like yesterday that I had the interview for a typist-clerk position in the Circulation Department. (That turned out to be my first and only interview for a job!) The most pertinent questions were about my personal life: Do you have a boy friend? Will you get married soon? Will you have children right away? Apparently I aced the interview, because I got the job.

      The job was, well, turbulent. Circulation departments were then, and still seem to be, overworked and understaffed. Things quieted down in August, when summer session ended. Half of my day was spent sitting at a lonely checkout desk in a vacant lobby, checking bags and purses as the few patrons left the library. Little did I know that one of the library regulars, who wore a black trench coat even in August, was stealing books in the false bottom on his briefcase. He would be caught about 20 years later. To my joy, the bound issues of Time, Life, and National Geographic were shelved near my isolated lobby station. I thoroughly enjoyed sneaking these out to the checkout desk and reading them all.

      At 3 months I had my first verbal performance evaluation and was doing outstanding work. Things were looking good until I realized I would go crazy in that job. Being new, I had the wickedest schedule imaginable. At least twice a week, one of my co-workers would have a breakdown and cry about something. There was a job opening in Acquisitions and I asked the Personnel Officer if I could have it. She talked to the head of Acquisitions and I was to be transferred on January 1, 1970. I didn't even have to talk to the head of Acquisitions; I met her on my first day in my new job. Sounds too good to be true. Well, when I told the Circulation Librarian that I was transferring, she blew up. "You promised you would stay or we would not have hired you!" My innocent yet sincere response was, "But I'm still in the library!" This didn't appease her at all and I left Circulation with a performance evaluation of "needs improvement" and "not recommended for release from probation."

      My beginning Acquisitions experience proved to be that fire you jump into from the frying pan. I loved Acquisitions work and was again (verbally) doing outstanding work. At 3 months, though, my supervisor had to give me an evaluation and decide if I should be released from probation. Apparently she then read my last evaluation from Circulation, and overnight I became a bad risk and troublemaker. She had me in tears at least once a week. I realized I would go crazy in that job, too. But, the library is always reorganizing, and when life hands you lemons...

      So yada yada yada...I went a labyrinthine route and ended up in the Cataloging Department for about the last 20 years. I love cataloging because there is always something new: new cataloging rules, new subject headings, new classifications, new MARC tags, new technology, new books, new ways to do things, new problems to solve.

      But I'm still in the library! And, I just love sipping that library lemonade!

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