Walking around singing a song: what the week brings in.

Walking around singing a song: what the week brings in.
15 February 2011

I've been here a little over a year now, and there are some days when I walk along the corridors thinking : "Wow, I work at the NATIONAL library!"  How did I ever manage to get into such a large institution? I suppose for long time Canberrans and public servants this might sound naive at best, but coming from a small country town and library, it is quite amazing that I ended up here. This is such an enormous building; I can see it all the way from the northern entrance of Canberra. I don't think about this on a daily basis, but when the thought hits me, it is quite impressive.  What the public doesn't see is a maze of corridors. Unfortunately there are no paintings or decorations on the walls, so some places look very similar, and not a little boring. Every Wednesday I take my trolley for a stroll around various floors of the library, collecting books in various states of disrepair, while delivering the week's work back to the various departments. So I get time to muse over things and quietly sing folk songs to myself. In my very first few weeks here I got lost in the Mills and Boons section of stacks. Sometimes interruptions can be welcome; sometimes they can be a pain. On this particular day we had a regualr  fire drill/alarm, and after the kerfuffle, the fire doors decided not to stay open. This was of course a Wednesday, book run day.  Dave wasn’t here, so I went on my own, to make my way through the maze that is the stacks area. A year on and I'm ok to walk around on my own.  But with only a few weeks experience and without the open doors, I didn’t recognise anything. Nor  did I find anyone.  I actually hit a dead end, and wandered around the Mills and Boons section for quite some time.  I did believe I might need rescueing; of course I didn’t have my mobile on me (it wouldn’t work down there anyway),  and I ended up down some corridor I had never been before…. What a relief it was to get to the lifts! To get back to the trolley. We work towards getting as many books back onto the shelves as possible. Our average trolley load is around 35; some weeks smaller, others larger. Between Dave and I, we manage to return more than we take in. Our largest client is document supply (docsupply), as they service the interlibrary loans (ILL) and the copies direct. More often than not we get really brittle items. Acquisitions on the first floor also keep us fairly busy. At the moment we have a large selection of Ethel Turner books whose covers need repairs and mylar jackets to protect them. I never knew she wrote so much! The last floor to which I travel is Asian collection: down a long blank corridor into which my singing echoes. It is amazing how many asian books come in western style binding. I am thinking about learning Japanese purely for the purpose of making sure I have the odd asian-stuyle binding up the right way. Once back on the 4th floor, I sort the books into work groups: easy 5min jobs - this includes single section sewing of the many pamphlets that pass through us, stab sews, spine repairs, Dave's pile of rarebooks and formed collection material, and my favourite, the pile for the paper lab girls - the sticky tape or paper repairs I don't dare touch. Throughout the week items come up to us from Maps or Pictures and Manuscripts. These are invariably for the paper lab, and sometimes we are called in to make a box or two for special items. We have urgent items, items that are going out for loan or need to be filmed, and we have 3 business days in which to do them. There is definately no shortage of work for us!