Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Work! (Remember Maynard G. Krebs?)

The work I'm doing at the park is plentiful. I'm happy to say there's a lot to do. I wouldn't mind if it were more of a challenge but I know I'm helping because it's work that's been piling up since time began.

I'm almost embarrassed to say how simple it is. They didn't need a librarian, just someone fairly bright with some library experience. One thing I'm happy I don't have to do is catalog because they, like the entire National Park Service, use cryptic and complicated Library of Congress catalog numbers. Unlike Dewey Decimal Numbers that can be as simple as 123 ABC (just think of the shelves at your library), LC numbers look like $(87@\|fGY. Not really, but almost. If I had to catalog I'd spend my entire day thumbing through books, trying to figure it out. I had a very good cataloging class in my masters program, taught by the supervisory cataloger at the National Library of Medicine, but it's like learning a language; you'd better have plenty of practice and I didn't once the class was over.

My work includes converting VHS tapes to DVD; inventorying all the periodicals at the issue level and moving/boxing/purging them; and scanning and converting to PDF their entire holdings of research papers on the Triassic era; I'm going to say at least several hundred papers and manuscripts if not into the thousands. I'm also updating the shelf list, another name for the book inventory, organized by catalog number, by comparing the books on the shelf to the list generated by the catalog. This lets you know what's missing, whether mis-shelved or gone, and forces you to look at every book to assess its condition and if you even want to keep it. While I'm at it, I'm moving all the books that are on one wall of the library to another. Yay!

It's hard to say which of these tasks is the most mind-numbing, but it's necessary library work and they don't have anyone to do it. I've also taken it on myself to create a spreadsheet of their accessions book, a handwritten register of supposedly every book that's come into the library since 1950. Line by line, book by book, handwritten scribbled note by whited-out mark, all transcribed to Excel. I can't believe it's still being done by hand or that they even keep a book like this. All of the information in it should be part of the catalog record in the computer, but mine is not to wonder why.

Are you asleep yet?  

What I'm salivating over is the possibility of working with the collections manager on his records. It will be more like the archives work I did at the museum in DC (no, not the Smithsonian). The collections are the "stuff" held for the museum: pottery, arrowheads, taxidermied critters, skeletons, fossils, petrified wood, everything having been found in the park. The collections manager gave me a tour of his lair, opening cabinets and pulling out drawers, and using long Latin words to describe it all. I kept saying, Oh! Oh! and wanted to touch everything but of course you can't do that. I didn't realize how much I missed museum work until I was crouching in front of those open doors. I'm taking my camera the next time I go but what with the poor excuse for the Internet here it's doubtful there will be enough bandwidth to upload anything.

I look at the grunt work in the library the same as having to eat canned peas as a kid before I could get any dessert, so I'm choking it down posthaste to keep time available, before I leave in the fall, for the collections. I'd love to breathe museum air again for a while.

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. (Theodore Roosevelt)