Visiting Mom in Kailua is always a great vacation for me in many ways: she’s 97 years old, and still capable of finessing control over her children and home caregivers. There’s also no Internet connection at her house, so I’m forced to take a vacation from universal connectivity. This year, I really needed that vacation: the pressure at work was insane! I decided to take three weeks, my longest vacation in the nearly 20 years I’ve worked for Sacramento Public Library. It took me 10 days to relinquish the responsibility I felt for checking and responding to my e-mail, but once I did, I was able to truly slow down and enjoy the break.
But, that said, because Mom has full-time care during the days, I usually have a lot of time on my hands. Last visit, I offered to put in a few hours of volunteering at the Kailua Library, and that worked very well. This time I did about 8 hours over four days, weeding the biograpies and shifting the entire fiction collection.
It was the shifting that brought back waves of memories for me: my first regular, non-summer job was shelving at the Kailua Library. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shifted that fiction collection! In fact, I’d been reading nothing but horse and dog books, until I began my shelving job, and moving those books around introduced me to Victoria Holt, Sir Walter Scott, Paul Gallico, Margaret Mitchell and many others that, um, are still on the shelf! (along with the newer authors, of course.) Brought back vivid memories of the training I received from Eleanor Aylett when I was 17: do your best to keep works by an author on the same shelf, fewer books on the top and bottom shelves, and spines lined up with the edge of the shelf. Oh, and never packed too tight. Mrs. Aylett would use a ruler to check the spines, but she would also pull random books off the shelf. If any book also pulled its neighbors out of alignment, it meant a reprimand for the shelver and an extra truck of books to put away.
My first shelving job, though, was in high school – I think it was for tuition assistance, so I received no pay for the year I worked in the school library. It was Mrs. Anne Harpham, the school librarian, who inspired me to look at getting the job in the public library, and Mrs. Katherine Goodhue, the Kailua Branch Manager, who allowed me to stretch by giving me out-of-class tasks when I was in library school.
It was an invaluable experience for me to be able to test classroom theories against the real world and get mature feedback from librarians in the field. I hope I am able, one day, to inspire a young person the way those wonderful librarians inspired me, and be as solid a role model as they were.