Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"it's actually kind of meditative"

I've recently begun doing a task in the library that I previously thought was below me.

I absolutely hate shelving books. Especially non-fiction, but really especially all the books. I am rare as far as librarians go, because I'm not hugely in love with books. I love stories, words and characters, but I am not in any way attached to "books". I do not romanticize books. Books are heavy things that you have to pack when you move. Books are things that you have to dust and shelve.

This stubborn stance has wrecked havoc on my library. Last year I had a volunteer that came in to shelve for me, but I wore her out. (She was old, ok.) This year began with no one to help. I have an assistant, but that poor, wonderful woman has her job cut out just keeping me in line. She has as little time to shelve books as I do. But when they would pile up into massive, train wreck heaps, she would give in and spend the day shelving.

Not me. I have important lessons to teach. I have a budget to spend and manage. I am a person of advanced degrees. I am above shelving.

But then, a miracle! I was bestowed the gift of a new volunteer. (He's old, but not as old.) As I set about the task of training him I soon discovered that he hadn't thought he would be shelving books. He thought he would help in more meaningful and important ways, but he seemed agreeable to doing what I wanted him to do. And to soften the blow, this little bit of "wisdom" snuck out of my mouth:

"Oh, shelving books isn't so bad. You will find that it's actually kind of meditative."

uh,oh. Did I say that? Did I actually call shelving books meditative? A job that I refuse to do!

So, because of my little verbal outburst of truth I put aside my "real work" and began to help the help. I have been shelving a little bit every day. It never ends. Just as I put the last one on the shelf, a child scurries in and throws another one across my desk.

My library has never looked neater and I feel like I know my collection better than I ever have before. These are extras. Little rewards that come from thankless work. Thankless meditative work.

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