Saturday, November 24, 2007

So have I ever really talked about my job?

As I've said, it's a library in a museum in a gorgeous Victorian mansion. It's in a park where I often take K, since it has a really good playground. As it turns out, the park, the museum and the library are all the gift of Robert Ryerss, a rich man who died in 1910. He was a Quaker, the descendant of someone who came over with William Penn, and believed strongly in public service. So when it was clear he was going to die childless, he left his summer house and the land around it to the city to make a park, museum and public library. His wife (his former housekeeper) decided that there wasn't enough stuff in the house to make a proper museum, so she went on an around-the-world shopping trip, bringing back anything she thought was interesting. She wound up bringing so much back that they had to build an addition on the house (a lot of that was because there were some big Buddhas that wouldn't fit in the original house).

So the museum consists of the first floor, which is set up the way a Victorian house would have been set up, two gigantic rooms full of a fascinating variety of stuff, and then the library on the second floor, where the bedrooms used to be. The library is just like a small public library - popular fiction, a wide variety of non-fiction, some local history and a children's section.

It's not intentional, but the library is a bit of an antique just like the rest of the house. We do pretty well keeping current with adult popular fiction and some adult non-fiction, but there isn't any regular purchasing for the children's section, which means it's more than a little bit dated. And speaking of dated, we still have a card catalog.

I have several goals for this job. One is to try and get more people in, and younger people. We're a well-kept secret with a small core clientele, who tend to be on the antique side themselves. I think we really need to get younger people in, and the best way to do that is try to attract children. We have a bunch of prepared children's programs, so I'm probably going to start trying to run them in the new year. I may try to start a storytime as well. I'm going to state for the record that both of these projects are so far out of my comfort zone that I can't even see it on the horizon, but at least now that I'm a parent, I feel like I'm marginally capable of this. I've been to a lot of storytimes recently, which gives me a much better idea of what works well.

My second project is rearranging the children's section. It's broken up into a lot of smaller sections, but none of the books have spine labels, which means I tend to spend a lot of time wandering around trying to figure out where books should go. In a library, not knowing where the books go is, what's the term? Oh yes, incredibly, stupendously, horrifyingly bad. Bad bad bad. And did I mention bad? So I'm going to put spine labels on all of the books so we know where they go. Before I do that, I need to make sure all of the books are where I want them to be, so I'm slowly shifting and rearranging.

And as I'm doing the spine labels, I'm going to be working on my third project - moving everything to the computer. I'm not talking about getting rid of the card catalog, but there's no reason that we can't do the cataloging on the computer and then print out cards for the physical catalog too. Right now, all of our cataloging (typing the cards and the labels) is done on the typewriter and it's absolutely unnecessary. All of that can be done on the computer and save us a huge amount of time and tedium. I'm not sure what's worse - having to type out five cards for the same book (one each for author, title, subject headings and the shelf list), or discovering at the end that you've faithfully reproduced the same mistake on all five of them. We don't have a correction ribbon either, which makes typing a much more hazardous proposition. You never quite realize how bad a typist you are until you have to use a typewriter and can't backspace to erase your mistakes. If I were doing this on the computer, even if all I were using was Word, I could use copy and paste to only have to type out one card and then make the minor changes for the other cards.

I'm sure I don't even need to talk about the advantages of having the catalog on the computer. Besides the better searching capabilities, it would solve the problem I've been finding of catalog cards that aren't always in the right order. Argh. Pardon me while I go whimper in the corner now. Once the cards are out of order, all is lost. Quite literally.

So! Clearly it's going to be a while until I'm bored at work. These projects are all in addition to the normal work of checking books in and out, helping patrons and all of the sundry other things librarians do. Lately, it's been printing out seasonal decorations from the web for new displays as we move rapid-fire through the different holiday seasons. I have to admit, my graduate school classes never really prepared me to spend the afternoon cutting out paper snowflakes. And even enjoying it, which is weird because that so isn't me. I'm not the artsy-crafty decorating type, but I seem to be discovering my inner kindergarten teacher.

So that's my job. I go to work in a gorgeous mansion, in a room with beautiful molding and two marble fireplaces, doing work I really love. If only it were more hours a week, it would be perfect.

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