Monday, December 19, 2005

A Devotion to My Favorite Job

In college, I worked at the Michigan State University library. It's a huge library, with two full wings of approximately four floors each of books. The summer before my senior year of college, I decided that I needed to work there. My sister had worked in Interlibrary Loans when she was a student, but I just put in my application and said I'd work anywhere. My sister being what she was, though, a genius, her department grabbed me. Document Delivery (the "out" side of loans). I also worked in the Maps library, but that didn't require the sort of running around that Doc Del did.

So. Loans. I worked my way up the ranks, with the following.
  1. Going to find books based on the records printed off by our supervisor, which the "searchers" then labeled with call numbers. This required running around the library and finding all kinds of books, fiche, magazines, etc.
  2. Making copies of pages and stamping them, and mailing them to schools.
  3. Scanning pages to send electronically to schools with the capabilities (this was 2000-2001).
  4. Mailing books and films to schools.
  5. Opening incoming mail and delivering to the relevant locations.
  6. Preparing books and whatnot to be delivered via the Lanter system (similar to Ohiolink).
  7. Helping newcomers learn the ropes
  8. Scanning delicate Special Collections material (truly, a special job, and it involved comic books)
  9. Finding difficult material that was misplaced or missing
  10. Then, at last, I became a searcher. My primary job finally was to sit at a computer and look up the requested material in the OCLC system and write down the call numbers or whatever required to find the material. It was like a huge jigsaw puzzle that involved books, and it rocked.

Part of what made this job my favorite is that it was something I was undeniably good at. Sometimes I used to blitz through the huge stacks of requests we got (it being a well-stocked library) and have time on my hands, so I'd go find stuff the level 1 folks couldn't find. If I couldn't find it, it was genuinely missing. Sometimes, though, I'd actually find stuff the library thought was missing. How cool is that?

I realized/was reminded of three things with this job, which were a: I like to find stuff (i. especially when other people can't find it; ii. because it gives me deep satisfaction and a sense of order; iii. because it gave me a chance to be by myself and run around); b: I love huge masses of books, which is one of my favorite ways to find things to write about (and will be pissed if such a time ever occurs as we get rid of actual libraries); c: Job satisfaction is vastly more important than pay. I was good at this job, and I was Very sorry when I graduated and my two week grace period was up and I had to quit. I had the feeling I would never find a job that quite so perfectly fit my abilities.

Why, you might well ask, did I not then go into library science? I learned a lot about research in school, and about libraries at this job, and I saw the direction librarians were going in. They aren't really doing the types of things I want to do the most. I'm kind of waiting that out, seeing how the winds go. So many libraries are getting rid of books in favor of electronics, and I don't think I could ever dedicate myself to that kind of effort. There's no passion in it.

Sometimes I feel like I should find some monastery or convent somewhere in need of a librarian or acquirist, and go for that. Maybe that can be backup plan number 3. More on backup plans another time.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I don't think I knew you worked at the library. MSU's library has me spoiled; I didn't fully appreciate it when I was there.

Anyway, I'm quite jealous you worked in Special Collections. I freakin' loved that room. I once used a Ceaser Chavez coloring book from Special Collections as an actual source for a Spanish paper. (I probably shouldn't be proud of that...)

Congrats on the blog, by the way!