Friday, August 29, 2008

Grand Opening (Moving Days L)

After nearly three blissful, patron-free weeks of preparation, it was at long last time to stop stalling and open the doors on The New "Liberry." Opening day was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon and the "liberry" went all out with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a cookie and leftover cheese from the wine & cheese reception reception. State officials came by, speeches were made, the Board of Directors and Mrs. A were thanked for all their work in making it happen, we the staff were thanked for helping them, and the man who'd spearheaded the whole project for so many years, Mr. Kreskin was mentioned and honored as well. To further cement this, the previously unnamed street which the new library building had been built above was named after him.

We opened the doors and the public began piling in.

A good many books circulated on opening day, but by and large people were there to see the place and get a whiff of that new "liberry" smell. For our part, we were doing double-duty running around making sure the cookie and cheese tables were full and also running the circ desk. The desk was only running at half capacity because despite the fact that we now had two circ desk computers we still only had one barcode scanner and none of us felt like typing 14 digit barcode numbers all afternoon.

The coming week brought lots of business as word spread that we were at last open and the usual suspects began to trickle in. It was a pretty major time of transition for the patrons but especially for the staff, as we not only had our regular duties to attend to but also some new roles as defacto tour guides. Because the placement of library materials on the shelves was still somewhat in flux, we didn't want to put up any sort of permanent signage denoting where things were located. Actually, our architect was dead set against signage of any sort because it just offended him for some reason. Mrs. A tried to explain that our patrons needed to know where things were and signage was the most efficient way to convey that information, but he was unmoved. (He had some other odd and dangerous ideas about how public spaces should be run, which I'll get to later.) Now, we all understood that it wasn't his decision to make and Mrs. A did declare that we would eventually put up some sort of signage, but we couldn't even stick temporary paper signs to the wooden shelf ends (even the shitty ones) because tape allegedly would ruin their finish. (Never mind that I'd affixed Post-Its and masking tape to most of them already to denote their shittiness.) Mrs. A's decision was to treat it like a study and see what sort of signage our patrons truly needed. After all, from years of experience, we already know that patrons NEVER read signs.

So we got to play tour guides, which wasn't bad because with the new building came more hours for the staff so we'd always have at least two people on the desk in addition to any directors who were present. (And who on the board that brought the new building to fruition was the person who insisted we always have two people on the desk? Why, Mrs. Day, oddly enough--the very woman who always complained bitterly that we had too many people working whenever she visited us before.)

One of the major misconceptions we had to combat, primarily over the course of the first few weeks, but occasionally beyond, was the misconception that the new library meant everyone had to get new library cards. Uh, no, cause we did that four years ago and it suuuuucked.

Another major misconception is that because we had a brand new library, we therefore must also have purchased brand new books. Some patrons were downright offended to browse our shelves and find the same books from the old library staring back at them.

And a third major misconception was over the layout of the building itself. Our new building, you see, was built into the side of a hill with the main floor and entrance on the upper level. However, for months, patrons would come to the desk and earnestly ask, "What's upstairs?"

"There is no upstairs," we would respond.

(Blank look. Blank look.)

"This IS upstairs," we would clarify. "We have a downstairs, but there are no other floors above us."

(Blank look. Blank look.)

Initially after the grand opening, we let people pretty much have a free run of both floors of the building. This was because we had plenty of patrons who (after we'd explained to them the whole upstairs/downstairs thing) really wanted to see the downstairs portion. Fine. Go. Knock yourselves out. But after a month or so of this, we decided everyone had seen the downstairs who needed to see it and everyone should stay the hell out of it unless they were otherwise renting the space. This may seem like a bad thing for a public library to do with what is ostensibly public space, but it was not set up to be a public area to begin with. It's a big empty room, a kitchen-like area, a story hour room and mechanical rooms and storage with nary a book to be found and no comfy chairs to sit in. More importantly, it's not under the observation of the staff. We were frankly of the opinion that anyone who wanted to be down there was probably up to no good. And often they were.

We tried to keep the lower floor policed as best we could, and though the elevator and stairwell to get downstairs was within sight of the circulation desk, it wasn't always possible to catch everyone. Oh, it was easy enough to catch the lazy ones who didn't want to take the stairs because our elevator has a loud and annoying chime that sounds whenever the door opens (which we thought was a real nice feature for a library elevator to have). But if we were away from the desk and didn't hear the stairwell door slam closed, they could get past us. Usually, the offenders were simply people who "wanted to see what was down there." Sometimes, though, they were repeat offenders, like the skatepunks I had to bust on two consecutive days who claimed they thought I only meant they couldn't go down there on that first day, but it was okay to head down there (and skate) on other days. Uh huh.

My major fear was that someone like Chester the (potential) Molester would realize there were places in the building he could not be easily seen and do something horrifying down there. No one had seen him in months and that was a very good thing, but we didn't know how long that would last. And, indeed, it didn't. One afternoon, I spied him coming up the walk through the glass of our front door.

"Aw hell," I said in a low voice that only Mrs. B could hear. She looked up and saw him too. I began preparing my face for some serious stink-eye beamage.

Chester walked in and gazed about at the expansive room. Oddly, he didn't cast a second glance at the family approaching the desk, featuring pre-teen girls. He just stood and looked around. Then he looked over and noticed me.

"It's a nice place," he said.

I didn't respond verbally, but continued to stare death at him. As usual, he seem unaware of it. Then, as quickly as he'd arrived, he left and didn't return for many more months. And even in the two other appearances he's made in the past year, we've had none of the previous problems we've had from him at all.

And then, of course, there was the innanet crowd to deal with...

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fund and/or Temper Raising (Moving Days K)

As you have probably guessed, Mr. Crab did not donate his stuffed animal heads to our new "liberry." I'm afraid I don't know the story behind his decision not to, but I suspect he didn't like our proposal to sell them for cash. I do know that at some point he did donate some amount of money to the new "liberry" project (most likely $200, but possibly more) for he was among the people invited to attend a donors only wine & cheese reception in the new "liberry" building, a few days before the place officially opened. (And on that subject, I must say, the public support for the new project was quite astounding. While there was a lot of grant money secured and state funds allocated toward the construction, a great deal of our funds came through donations from the public at large. In fact, a full two thirds of the fundage was in hand before ground was broken and the rest quickly began coming in afterward.)

Though the "liberry" now has its own set of wine glasses (stored in the staff breakroom--NOT the kitchen) we didn't own them at the time of the donors reception and had to borrow some from a couple of area restaurants. The cheese and wine were likewise donated by area restaurants and area vineyards, respectively. The cheese was high quality; the wine, not so much, but there was certainly a lot of it so only a few people complained.

Naturally, the "liberry" staff had to work the reception, along with members of the Friends of the "Liberry" group and members of the Board. The board poured the wine and hob-nobbed with the rich & powerful while the rest of us canvassed the room, picking up the empty plates and half-drunk wine glasses people kept leaving on every exposed surface, before someone had a chance to come along, knock them over and spill them on the brand new carpeted areas. In between cleanup missions, we had time to nosh on some of the goodies ourselves. During one such cheese break in the workroom, I heard the unmistakable sound of a wine glass shattering somewhere. Fortunately, it had smashed on the tiled floor near the foyer and not on the carpet. Unfortunately, as I quickly saw, it had been Mr. Crab who'd dropped it.

I'd like to think that most human beings, after having dropped a wine glass in public, would actually attempt to do something about it. I'm not saying they should go find a broom and dustpan themselves, necessarily, but at the very least they should tell somebody about it and perhaps try to pick up the broken glass before someone else steps on it. I'd also like to think that most human beings, after someone comes out to clean up the broken wine glass THEY had just dropped (and not told anyone about) would at least have the decency to assist in the smallest way possible by, say, getting out of the damned way. Not Mr. Crab. No, Mr. Crab refused to acknowledge the glass he had just dropped despite the fact that it was very clear he had been the one to drop it being as how there was glass and wine all around his feet and on his shoes. Instead, he went right on talking to the man he had been talking to as though nothing at all had happened. And when I came out with the broom and dustpan to clean up his mess for him, he remained planted in said mess as though the glass and wine weren't there at all, continuing to talk and hindering my efforts to sweep around his feet. This was very, very annoying to me, but not surprising coming from a known colossal asshole such as Mr. Crab. Ultimately it would have been okay as I would still have been able to sweep up most of the glass despite him. What Mr. Crab did next, however, made doing my job without having to first render him unconscious very very problematic.

You see, the reason Mr. Crab was refusing to acknowledge his broken glass was that he was embarrassed about having broken it in the first place. (My guess is that his self-image as the Great White Hunter would not allow for such clumsy accidents as dropping a glass in public.) Being embarrassed about it, he didn't want me calling any more attention to his accident by trying to clean it up. I feel fairly certain on this point, because shortly after I bent down and began attempting to sweep up the glass, Mr. Crab began kicking the pieces away from him. His kicks were quick, rather violent and aimed at sending the glass beneath the cover of a nearby leafy potted plant situated around one of the floor vents. He gave no regard to the fact that I was there at his feet, nor that his kicks were connecting with my hands and very nearly knocking the broom and dust pan from my grasp. Nope. He just kept right on kicking away.

"Mr. Crab," I said, but got no response. "Mr. Crab, please stop that!" I said, but again got no response. I knew he knew I was there because we'd made eye contact as I walked up, so I must assume his refusal to acknowledge me at that moment was just as intentional as his continued kicks.

It was at that moment that my brain flashed red and it occurred to me that Mr. Crab would no longer be able to kick the glass nor ignore me were I to impale him upon the end of my broom. And as absurd as actually doing that might seem, I knew with dire certainty that if I didn't get away from Mr. Crab RIGHT THEN, our little situation would escalate into a physical confrontation and might very well lead to headlines, such as: Elderly Library Donor Given Beat Down at Fund-Raiser by Crazed Staff Member. Retracts $200 Donation. Says Ass "Very Sore."

I grabbed my broom and dustpan and retreated through the crowd and took refuge behind the circ desk where I snatched up a glass of wine and downed it quick before pouring another. Mrs. A saw my face and asked what had happened. I told her.

"What an asshole," she said.

"Yeah."

Mr. Piano, one of our newer board members, saw us talking in hushed, angry tones and also asked what was up. I told him too.

"What an asshole," he said.

"Yeah," Mrs. A and I said in unison.

I remained behind the desk for several minutes, drinking more crappy wine and eating more soothing cheese. And every few minutes, other staff members, having heard the short version from Mrs. A, filtered over to hear the detailed version from me. Even former board member, Mrs. Emm, came by to confirm the details. I told her the story and my embarrassment theory. She shook her head knowingly, patted me on the shoulder in sympathy and walked away. And it was at that moment that I realized I had just achieved the ultimate revenge against Mr. Crab. Mrs. Emm is one of the biggest gossips I know and is probably tapped into the rumor and innuendo stream of the well-to-do crowd of our area more than anyone outside of Mrs. A herself.

Oh, so you don't want anyone to know you dropped a wine glass, Mr. Crab? Well, good luck with that, cause now Mrs. Emm has the play by play and there's no way in hell she's keeping it to herself. It might not have been all that big a deal in the first place, but your actions to cover it up have now assured that it's a small deal being spread to the winds.

After this realization, I had another glass of wine and felt much better about the evening.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mr. Crab, the Third Grumpiest Great White Hunter in All the World (Moving Days J)

JANUARY 7, 2006

I rarely know anything that goes on in our monthly meeting of the “liberry’s” board of directors and that’s fine with me. What does trickle down to me often pisses me off and I would just get myself in trouble by opening my yap were I there to hear it first hand. This is particularly true when it comes to matters of our proposed new “liberry” building. (And I’ve kept my yap mostly shut about it online for two years now for fear of drawing the wrong attention to myself.) Friday’s meeting of the board was different, though. I might still have been in trouble, had I been there, but it would have been for laughing my fool ass off. My boss, Mrs. A, told the staff about it afterwards and assured us that it was a tale that will be retold for months to come.

Some time before the meeting, Mrs. A received a phone call from our eldest and longest-standing board-member, Mrs. Day. To date, Mrs. Day has not been at all wild about our campaign to build a new library. In fact, she voted against it for quite some time before Mr. Kreskin, our former board president, was able to convince her that it looked bad for one lone board member to keep voting against everything, so she jumped on board to save face.

On Friday morning, Mrs. Day phoned to inform Mrs. A that she had a major and exciting announcement to reveal at the board meeting. She wouldn’t give any indication what it regarded, but said it was something huge. Naturally, Mrs. A’s mind wandered to the possibilities. And while waiting for Mrs. Day to turn up for the meeting, Mrs. A and the other four board members—Mr. Eggs, Mrs. Emm, Mrs. Aitch and Dr. Watson—plus our press officer, Mrs. PR, mused aloud as to what the big news might be. Consensus of hope was that Mrs. Day had found someone to donate the remaining funds we need for the new building (around a cool million), but they found it more likely that she was merely going to take credit for securing a rather large donation a neighbor of hers had recently made that everyone already knew about.

Mrs. Day eventually rolled in for the meeting and after much smiling and excitement on her part, she finally revealed her big news. It seems that Mrs. Day has been in contact with everyone’s favorite cranky patron, annual $200 check-donator, frequent $200-donation revocation threatener, and third grumpiest old man in all the world, Mr. Crab, regarding what he might like to donate to the library’s building campaign. (All together now, “$200!”) Mr. Crab claimed that due to obscure IRS laws, he could not donate any actual money to the project because he had “already donated over a million dollars.” (I assumed when I heard this third-hand quote that Mr. Crab meant he’d already donated a million dollars to the library over the years, in which case he would have to be 5000 years old since he only ever gives us $200 at a pop. Now that I’ve thought about it, though, he probably meant he’d given a million dollars to various charitable contributions over the years—no doubt in $200 increments.) Instead of giving us any money, Mr. Crab said he wished to donate something far more valuable: an extensive antique German train set he’d collected and two, count em two, stuffed animals. And when I say "stuffed animals" I’m not talkin’ about Teddy bears or MonChiChis, I mean actual dead animals from Mr. Crab’s collection of animals he has shot, killed and had stuffed, taxidermy-style. According to Mrs. Day, Mr. Crab specifically wishes to donate two stuffed dead animal heads to be hung above the two fireplaces in the proposed new building.

From the way Mrs. A described it to me later, Mrs. Day couldn’t have been more thrilled about this donation. She beamed at the members of the board as she told them, barely able to contain her joy. This, to me, is merely proof that Mrs. Day's mind automatically defaults to the 1930s and 40s, when men such as Ernest Hemingway went around cheerfully blowing the hides off whatever creatures struck their fancy, for fun, then hung their corpses up for all to see and there were no activist groups to raise a stink about it. (By the way, while I think hunting for sport is abhorrent, I’m all for blowing the hides off of creatures you intend to eat, provided they are in season and/or the ranger isn’t looking. "Yeah, take my pic-a-nic basket again, you f*ckers!”)

The board’s reaction to the news was far more modern. I’m told Mrs. Emm and Mrs. PR began laughing openly at the absurdity of it; Mr. Eggs and Dr. Watson sat dumbfounded—Dr. Watson, particularly so, as this was his very first meeting as a board member; Mrs. A just shook her head in full knowledge of the kind of shit storm that would rain down on us from the local hippie-activist community should these heads actually make their way anywhere near our new building; and Mrs. Aitch was furious, but mostly at Mr. Crab’s assertion that there was some kind of million-dollar lifetime donation cut-off.

Between bursts of laughter, Mrs. Emm managed to ask what kind of heads Mr. Crab wished to give us. Mrs. Day wasn’t certain, but said that Mr. Crab has an elephant head above his own desk so maybe that would be one of them.

(It should be noted that Mr. Crab reportedly also has an elephant-leg golf-bag. You heard me... Elephant. Leg. Golf. Bag. When Mrs. A told me about it, I said, “That’s just awful. I mean, I can see an elephant-foot umbrella stand, and all, but a golf-bag is just excessive.” Mrs. A then said she really wished I had been at the meeting, because that was exactly the kind of running commentary that the board members began making around that time. Go board.)

For her part, Mrs. Day seemed oblivious to the ridicule the rest of the board was heaping on her major announcement. She must have thought their tearful laughter was out of joy at such a golden opportunity to turn our new library into some sort of big-game hunting lodge. She even further suggested that one of the heads might, in fact, be that of a polar bear, which Mr. Crab reportedly also owns.

Eventually, Mrs. Emm was able to compose herself long enough to suggest that we agree to accept the gifts, but only with no restrictions as to their use, so we would be free to sell the items to raise money for the project. Mr. Crab will most likely hate this, grump about it at length, retract his offer of donation and then threaten to withhold his $200 again.

“Well if he doesn’t stop acting so crappy to our staff, it’s going to be his head up above the fireplace cause they’re going to kill him,” Mrs. A reportedly told the board.

Soon the room calmed down a bit and the board began discussing such possibilities as a road trip to Mr. Crab's home in order to view the items proposed for donation. Immediately, various board members began vocally noting that they were likely to be out of town on that day, whatever day that should be, but Mrs. A insisted that such a trip could be delayed until all of them were able to attend.

After Mrs. A finished her tale for me, I advised her that we really did not want to be AT ALL beholden to Mr. Crab or we'd never hear the end of it until the day he died, and even then he'd probably have it set into his will that his heirs must continue to lord it over us until the end of time or be cut off from his reputed massive fortune.

Then I realized that it might be worth accepting Mr. Crab's animal heads, if only to piss off Mr. and Mrs. Smiley, who are among our more vocal militant animal rights types in the area and who have, in the past several months, continued desperately trying to torpedo this new building project using any stray hope they think might float no matter how ludicrous. Seeing an elephant head above our new fireplace might be just the thing to finally remove the remaining Grinchy vestiges of sanity they still possess.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Either I'm Itching to Tell Another Tale or I've got a Really Bad Case of the Crabs (Moving Days I)

Back in December, I alluded to an incident in which 3rd Grumpiest Old Man in All the World, Mr. Crab, and I nearly came to blows at a wine & cheese reception. I've been itching to tell that story for over a year now but couldn't do so without first explaining the whole bit about us moving into a new library, which I didn't want to have to explain at the time of the occurrence for reasons which I will eventually explain.

However, in order to properly set up the tale of the hurt locker I nearly stuffed Mr. Crab into--which, by the by, would have likely involved cramming a broom handle up his ass, so the one he has up there already would have some company--I will first have to tell a different tale, one which I have also been itching to tell for even longer than the wine & cheese hurt locker one. Fortunately, I had the foresight to write this setup tale back in January of 2006, but for similar reasons as those of the previous omission, never officially published to the blog.

See ya next week.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Damages (Moving Days H)

As our intended opening day approached, we still didn't have all the furniture we'd ordered months before. Though we didn't yet know for sure, it would still be a few weeks before we had received and installed all ten of our patron computers. And, there was also the matter of the toilets that weren't quite up to snuff when it came to actually flushing their contents (though we did have a urinal that would take your arm off), thanks in large part to shoddy sub-contractors whose work hadn't been checked after by the main contractor. But we could certainly operate without all that stuff for a while. The major thing we'd been waiting for was the delivery of our shelf-ends. For those not in the know, the shelf ends are basically thick, monolithic slabs of stained and ornamented wood that are affixed to the ends of our metal library shelves ideally to add some aesthetically pleasing quality to otherwise institutional shelving. Unfortunately, the very first one I looked at, and, as it turned out, many others, looked as though they had been assembled by a blind, paraplegic rhesus monkey, in the dark.

You see, the ornamentation on each shelf end amounted to two sections of allegedly squared off molding with fancy curls at their corners, which were glued one above the other to the overall surface of the shelf end. I say "allegedly squared off" because both of the molded pieces on the first shelf end I looked at were not at 90 degree angles within the overall shelf end, nor were they at all parallel to one another. As I mentioned, this was one of the worst examples, but was by far not the only one available. Of the 35 some odd shelf ends in the building, 22 of them should never EHEHEHVER have passed through quality control. I was furious. And after I'd pointed them out to Mrs. A, she was not real happy either.

This brings up a none-too-pleasant retail concept I've been developing called: Give the Library the Broke Ones. It's a concept similar in nature to the "They F*CK you at the drive through!" syndrome, so commonly experienced at french-fry-serving fast food restaurants worldwide, and phrase-coined by Joe Pesci in Leathal Weapon 2. (I myself once returned to a McDonald's from which I had purchased a super-sized value meal to-go, and came up to the counter brandishing my half-full box of fries. "I'm sorry," I said, "but it seems I've been given the incorrect amount of fries. I was supposed to get a super-sized order of fries." The girl at the counter looked at it and replied, "That is a super-sized order of fries." I smiled and said, "No. That's a super-sized box containing a medium-sized amount of fries." Having absolutely no grounds to make an argument, she took it away and filled it to its proper level.) In Give the Library the Broke Ones, retailers of furnishings for libraries, schools and nonprofit agencies requiring furniture low bid a job in order to get a contract with said organization, then will supply them with remaindered furniture that they couldn't otherwise sell to businesses that can afford to pay more. My evidence for this is based on our experiences with two separate companies that supplied us with furnishings of such shoddy workmanship that it took our breath away. I've already covered the extreme shittiness of the 22 shelf ends. We also ordered ten tables of varying sizes to fill out our reading areas from a completely separate company. Out of those ten, six came pre-scuffed for our convenience. That's four full-sized tables and two coffee tables that were so obviously damaged that I cannot see any way that they could have been supplied to us by accident.

Now, I'm not going to name names of the manufacturers who tried to unload their ass-stock on us because in both cases they did (albeit nearly a full year later for the shelf-ends) replace their damaged goods with no additional cost to us. In fact, the table manufacturer was very quick to answer our complaints and we had new table-tops in a matter of weeks. Until then, though, it ws my job to photographically document all the shoddy workmanship. In addition to photographs, I went around and put post it labels on all the shelf-ends with notes showing how exactly they were flawed. The most severely damaged ones we put out of sight, against brick walls, and at the end of lesser-traveled aisles. Some, though, just stood out. Unfortunately, Mrs. J, not realizing the nature of my notes, came along and removed all of them, forcing me to do them all again. Then, again, she came behind me and removed all of them because she's so OCD that she cannot stand for such obviously out-of-place notes to be there. I considered alerting her to the lack of right angles demonstrated on some of these ends, but feared the knowledge would destroy her. Instead, I decided to not put any more up until closer to replacement date, at which time Mrs. A ordered Mrs. J outright to leave them the hell alone, which she did.

This was, of course, not the last problem we would have with the quality of the materials within or the construction of our new building, but it was still a great place to be.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Settling In (Moving Days G)

Meanwhile, back at our branch(es), we were hard at work boxing up and transporting the contents of the lower level of our building to the new place, not to mention some of our furniture, which was to serve as furniture in the new place until the comfier chairs and sofas we'd ordered months previously were to finally arrive. (It was around this time that former board member Mrs. Day began her unfortunate refinishing of the "liberry's" tables, ultimately resulting in Ms. D having to redo them all and then redo one of them yet again later.)

Most of the actual moving was accomplished withing a couple of days and most of the unboxing and shelving was done in a couple more. And with books finally starting to be shelved, the prospect of actually working in such a cool new place began to seem more real.

The new place truly was awesome. It sat high on a hill and offered great big windows,with possibly the best view of Town-A in the whole area. Not only that, but with the new place came far more space to operate in, offices for both Mrs. A and Mrs. C, a staff workroom with a desks and computers for both me and Mrs. B (that we technically had to share with Ms. M and Ms. S, but whatever) and actual counter space upon which we could accomplish such tasks as processing and covering books without having to be hunched over a tiny, rickety table. Mrs. A had even ordered task chairs for us, making sure that they were both backless and uncomfortable to sit on, precisely so that Ms. S wouldn't stay on her duff the whole time. And within that staff workroom was a private restroom for staff only! Oh, sure, we had a private restroom for staff only back in the old library, but it was in Mrs. A's office and was inconvenient to use when she was actually IN her office, plus patrons often used it, too, whenever she wasn't in there. Now we had our own "facilities" away from prying patron eyes and ears, complete with a column of lockers in which we could stash personal items. We were amazed.

The new circ desk was also a thing of beauty, with plenty of storage cabinets and drawers to fill. We had so many, in fact, that I eventually declared one of them The Barcode Drawer, and stored in it one sheet of barcodes which I used for magazine processing. This eventually lead to conversations such as:

ME-- Why are there totebags in the Barcode Drawer?

MRS. B-- I dunno.

ME-- No, you're supposed to say "The question is: Why are their barcodes in the Totebag Drawer?"

(Long pause)

MRS. B-- Oh.

No, my fellow employees don't watch as much Scrubs as I do.

Another major innovation was the installation of a new phone system so that when Mrs. A received phone calls we wouldn't have to walk all the way to her office to tell her; we could just transfer the call. And another phone line was also installed to allow us to take multiple calls from multiple phones.

We also had a staff breakroom on our lower level complete with a full sized refrigerator, a microwave, a stove, a double sink, a dishwasher and loads and loads of cabinet space in which we could store... well, groceries, I guess. Sounds a lot like a kitchen, right? Nope. Not a kitchen. Not a kitchen at all. And, sure, while people who eventually were going to rent out our multi-purpose room, located there on the same level, could use it AS a kitchen, it was most certainly NOT a kitchen. This was mostly because if we'd called it a kitchen the health department would be duty-bound to come round and inspect it once in a while. They didn't have to inspect staff breakrooms, though, so that's what it officially became on all plans and signage.

Back upstairs, we had a far bigger children's book area, with sections for juvenile and easy readers. It practically took up an entire wing of the building. And we located the young adult section to the other side of the building, since many of the young adult patrons we'd had before looked down their nose at having to browse in the "children's" section. (They also got the comfiest furniture in the entire building, not that they appreciated it, the little turds. The Coot often camped out there to sleep his way through the afternoon.)

With no one there but the staff, our workdays were pretty leisurely. We'd roll in wearing shorts and flip flops and work on individual tasks with headphone and podcast accompaniment until lunch time. Then we'd go get food and cart it back to enjoy in front of the big window. (We figured it would be the only time we'd be able to eat with that kind of view, so we might as well enjoy it while we could.) And every few days would bring a delivery of some new furniture that we'd get to try out. Yep, those days were pretty sweet.

As for the books, we had ample space available so that we didn't even have to use all the levels of any given set of shelves. We separated paperbacks and hardbacks, even trade sized paperbacks that had formerly been shelved with the hardbacks because they wouldn't fit on the old spin racks. Now the spin racks were a thing of the past. The trouble was, once we put stuff on the shelves, we quickly saw more efficient ways to shelve things, so we had to rearrange entire sections to suit the new plan. Mrs. C warned us early on that we'd probably be making adjustments for the first year, so we should get used to it early. She was indeed correct in her prediction.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Moving the Innanet (Moving Days F)

After nonfiction was moved, we decided to go ahead and shut down the old "liberry" altogether, as we knew moving everything else would negate most of its usefulness to patrons until we got the new place open. We didn't know how long it would take to reopen, because we didn't know how long it would take to organize everything, nor how long it would take the last items of necessary furniture to arrive. We guestimated two weeks and crossed our fingers.

Of course, the group of patrons most inconvenienced by the closing of the library was the innanet crowd. Keep in mind, back in the old building, we only had three public access computers because that's all we had room for, but there was still plenty of competition for those. We knew that once word got out we were closing for a couple weeks there would be gnashing of teeth when patrons couldn't get their daily or even hourly fix from the innanet teat. The complaints began before we'd even closed. We answered them by informing the complainers that when we reopened we'd have ten computer stations and by suggesting they try one of the four other library branches in the area, most of which had more terminals than we did to begin with. From their reactions, you would have thought we'd suggested they drive to Abu Dhabi rather than five minutes down the road.

During the weeks we were closed, we heard from these other branches about the shenanigans of some of our regulars who began to darken their doors. Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine was chief among the displaced offenders. He chose to relocate to Town-C's branch where he began to spread his usual Gene-idiosyncrasies, such as telling anyone who hoved into his field of vision the suicide-inducing (or perhaps homicide-inducing) details of his geneal0gy research, printing reams of geneal0gical records and complaining bitterly about how much it cost him to do so. See our branch charges 10 cents per page for prints, but Town-C's branch charges a full 25 cents for both prints and photocopies. This royally torqued Gene and gave him cause to complain each and every time he came up to pay for his prints; which was often. Just like he did at our branch, Gene drove Town-C nuts by printing and printing and printing and coming up to pay for each batch of prints as he printed them. You wouldn't think this would be a big deal, but Town-C's branch is wildly understaffed in comparison to ours, with barely two employees on their best day. Add to that Gene's penchant for long-ass stories about all the people he's related to with each print pickup, not to mention an accompanying complaint session over the price of each page and you've got yourself a damned nuisance. Finally, Town-C's director, Mrs. S (no relation to Ms. S) told Gene that she would charge him only .15 cents per page if he would simply wait to pay for his prints at the very end of his computing session. Gene outright refused, and went right on paying a quarter per print as it was printed and complaining about the cost every time.

I've been itching to tell that story for over a year now. I got a few more such itches left in me and soon, oh, very soon, they shall be scratched.

For our part, the lack of innanet crowders was pretty blissful, except for the few that would turn up and bang on the door to get in despite the gigantic WE ARE NOT YET OPEN sign we had outside. Sometimes, when we'd left the front doors unlocked to allow free access for the staff, the patrons would just saunter right in and would even ask if they could go ahead and use our computers anyway even after being told we were not open to the public. I gave those people a complimentary kick in the teeth and sent them on their way.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Typical Day (Moving Days E)

The first thing we did to facilitate the move was to spread the word far and wide that while we weren't accepting any help with the move itself, patrons could help with it all the same by lightening our load. To that effect, we had removed all limitations on the number of books patrons could check out at once and encouraged them to take as many as they could, the caveat being that they had to turn all those books in at our new place when we reopened. Furthermore, all fines would be waived until such a time as we were firmly ensconced in our new facility, so there would be no fear of zapping people. Our patrons, thankfully, complied and checked out a great many books.

The second major thing we did was to hire on someone whose job it would be to help plan the move itself and make things run as smoothly as we could. Her name was Ms. D. Yes, the very same Ms. D we eventually hired to replace eternal newbie greenhorn Ms. S. See, Ms. S was still with us at that time, but was, as you would expect, of very little help with the move itself. Her schedule with her fast food job suddenly became very very busy and there was just no way she could break away during the times of day we were doing the major portion of our moving (i.e. mornings, when it wasn't so butt-ass hot) so she was unavailable to help us much with that. Her schedule only allowed her to roll in in the afternoon, after most of the heavy lifting had already been done. While we were not surprised by that turn of events, we weren't too put out by it either, cause we knew she'd be useless at actual work anyway. Instead, Ms. D stepped in and helped get us moving.

So, one morning, we began boxing up the nonfiction. It was slow going, with each of us taking one shelf column at a time, boxing up the books according to how best they fit in the boxes while still attempting to maintain as much order as possible. Size concessions had to be made, though, in order to have boxes that would be full enough to be stable when stacked. Very quickly it became apparent that even after we got the books moved, we'd be reading the nonfiction shelves for order for quite some time to come.

With our original building being as ancient as it was, we had to be careful to stack our newly boxed books along the edges of the room and directly beside the shelves on which they had resided. Part of the reason for needing a new building, after all, is that the weight of the books had been causing undue strain on the support structure of the second floor itself for a number of years.

The next major problem was actually moving the boxes downstairs. With no elevator to speak of, we had to be more innovative. So we rented one of those long metal box conveyor platforms that I don't know the real name of. Whatever it's called, it's the kind with rows and rows of metal wheels that allow boxes to slide along horizontally, only, we tipped ours up and ran it down the stairs. What we did then was to haul hand-truck loads of boxes to the top of the stairs and slide their contents down the conveyor contraption at very dangerous speeds. Each heavy box of books would then be caught by the catcher (fortunately not me) and passed to someone loading a handtruck at the bottom of the stairs (often me). Once loaded, each hand-truck would be trucked out to the UHaul. It wasn't the most elegant of systems, but it saved a lot of knee and back strain going up and down the stairs. Within the space of six hours, we'd pretty much boxed everything up, moved it into the van. Another hour later and we'd unloaded the boxes at the new place.

For some reason, we decided it would be wise to stack all of our boxes of nonfiction in the aisles of the shelf sections that corresponded to where we thought they would need to be shelved. This was a bad thing. Once the boxes were stacked in the aisles between shelves they were then in the way and became an enormous hassle to try and work with. The box you needed to unpack was always on the bottom of the stack and we were forever getting them out of order as we tried to unbox and shelve them. We quickly determined that for all future shelving, we would have to pile the boxes outside of the shelving area, preferably in order, and haul each box into the stacks as needed. Lesson learned.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Construction (Moving Days D)

The new "liberry" was pretty much the daily topic of conversation, at least from our patrons' standpoint. As the structure grew and grew, we'd be asked our thoughts on it, how we planned to move into it, could we use help, etc. We really had no idea how to respond to most of the questions, as none of us had ever done anything like this before. In fact, we continued to tell patrons that we would be hard-pressed to even believe any of it until we set foot in the building ourselves. And, again, it was difficult to argue with the thing growing on the hill nearby.

Mr. Kreskin, our former board president, was delighted with the progress. Though he'd stepped down as board president a couple of years before ground was broken, he had been on the committee that generated much of the funds needed to get the project to the ground-breaking stage. His health had taken a few turns here and there, necessitating his departure from all committees. But he was there on the day the ground was broken to see his dream come to pass. All of us on staff knew his days were numbered, but we were betting he'd hang on like the Bluesmobile until the day we finally opened the doors to the public. We also joked that, like the Bluesmobile, he would then spontaneously combust. We were wrong. Several months before work on the building was completed, Mr. Kreskin passed on. And even though we knew it was an inevitability, his death still came as a shock to us because we'd all been so certain that he would hang on `til the building was finished.

And, at long long last, just over a year ago, the building was finished. I'd taken my first tour of it back before it had carpet, lights or furniture, but could see the potential there. By the time I set foot in the more or less finished creation, things looked really really nice and I began looking forward to working there. The place had SO much more space. For one thing, the entire staff would be able to fit behind the circ desk. For another, we'd have two--count `em TWO--circ computers with which to better serve patrons. There would be ultimately ten public access computers, compared to the three we previously had. Sure, none of them had arrived yet, nor had the long computer desk to put them on, and when the computers finally did arrive they did so sans monitors and it was another week or two before we could order some from a supplier who wasn't fresh out, but they would eventually come.

Which brings me to a very important point: despite the fact that all of our furniture, shelves, wooden shelf-ends, computers, and other essential "liberry" materials had been ordered many many months in advance, with a very specific due date on delivery given, you'd be amazed at the amount of things that failed to show up on time. Most of it arrived during our down-time as we did the actual move, but some of it we wouldn't receive for months after we'd opened. And when it did arrive, some of it was damaged, half-assedly-constructed or just outright wrong. More on that in a bit, though.

We the staff kept plenty busy making preparations for the move, right up until the time we were scheduled to accomplish it. We'd been hoarding boxes for weeks, but the idea of filling them gave us pause. Books, particularly nonfiction books, which was the section we were starting with first, are not always of uniform shape; they come in all sorts of dimensions, from tiny to over-sized and they don't lend themselves easily to being boxed in their proper order. But boxing things in as close to proper order as possible was exactly what we wanted to do. We weren't so naive as to think we wouldn't have to do rearranging, because while our new building offered far more square footage than our cramped and ancient original location, it was space we weren't entirely sure how best to fit our comparatively small collection into.

In the name of "getting it right the first time," we decided to refuse all active help from our patrons in the move. After all, they weren't trained to get things in order and would likely be in the way more often than not. (We already had enough problem with one of our employees falling into that category as it was.) Instead, we decided to let our patrons help us with the move in a far more passive manner.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Smiley's Ballgame (Moving Days C)

Mr. Smiley's first time at bat against the new "liberry" project was to claim (via fliers and letters to the editor of the local paper and an article written by Mrs. Smiley, published by another local paper entirely) that our new building would destroy specific examples of an endangered species of tree, the 0sage 0range, that he felt was historically significant to the area. At first everyone at the "liberry" was confused, for we'd never heard of 0sage 0ranges before and certainly didn't want to destroy endangered examples of them. Then a city worker brought us an example of the fruit of the 0sage 0range tree and we realized that we did indeed recognize the green and brainy-looking fruit, except we all knew them as "horse apples". Not only are they NOT endangered but they are in fact quite plentiful to nuisance levels throughout the state. Strike one.

Next up, he claimed that our new building was going to be constructed on a historically significant Civil War campground. Mrs. Smiley herself wrote a newspaper article about it, detailing how the parking lot of the new building would utterly destroy this valuable campsite. I'm all for preserving archeology, so I began asking questions about it too. Turns out, you pretty much can't build ANYTHING ANYWHERE in the greater Tri-Metro Town-A area without disturbing a Civil War site, being as how the entire town and surrounding area was the site of some pretty major Civil War activity. Beyond that, though, the campsite in question was, according to historical record, in existence for exactly one night and our state's historical preservation organization had already surveyed the site in question and had declared it of no historical significance. Strike two.

After that, one of his followers claimed that our new building and the construction thereof would somehow affect the wildlife within the inaccessible system of underground caves that run beneath the area and indeed the entire region. How anyone could tell this, being as how the caves are, again, inaccessible, was not elaborated upon. No one cared. Strike three.

Instead of heading to the dugout like a good player, though, Mr. Smiley and his crew brought out several more excuses that made even less sense and which no one cared about anyway. In fact, one of his people, who worked for the aforementioned another local publication, published a top ten list of things Town A needed more than a new library. The list had very little to do with the new library, but was basically a wishlist of stuff that would be helpful to have. ("10: Traffic lights that go `ping.' 9: A publicly viewable clock that's actually set to the correct time...") I proposed we write our own top ten response list in our library's weekly column, give it a topic and then proceed to list ten completely random things that had nothing to do with anything. ("10: Guacamole. 9: A handjob from Nicolette Sheridan...") Mrs. A declined my proposal, though she did find it funny.

When all of these efforts failed to result in public revolt against us, Mr. Smiley's crew resorted to actual physical sabotage--or monkeywrenching, as I believe it is also known. After ground had been broken on the site and construction was very much under way, the foreman at the site happened to be wrapping up a few details after the rest of the men had gone home when he saw a car pull up outside of the mobile-site-office. A woman got out of the vehicle, walked over to the silt fence that surrounded the site, used scissors to cut through it in two places, then get back into her vehicle and leave. Fortunately, because everyone involved with the project was fully aware who was behind the hubub against the new library and knew what his tactics had once been, cameras had been issued to the foreman and others on site and he had been able to snap a few pictures of the woman and her vehicle. Then, instead of leaving for the day, the foreman waited there for the inevitable phone call from the county building inspectors detailing they'd just received a report that the site's silt fence was broken in two places.

"Yep, it's broke," the foreman reportedly said. "I saw who broke it, too."

The police were informed of what had happened and supplied the authorities with the necessary photos. I do not know if Mr. Smiley's crewmember was confronted with the evidence, but I suspect so because all further trouble from Mr. Smiley and his crew ceased after that moment.

Some still wonder why Mr. Smiley felt so strongly that the area did not need a new library building. Certainly a case might be made, but none of his or his followers reasons ever held any water. One might presume that he did this as revenge against us for the time we nearly kicked him out of our book sale for hoarding books. And while I'm sure that incident didn't make him any happier with us, his campaign against us was already well underway before that little incident.

No, what we now believe was the real reason behind his efforts--you know, beyond the whole really really needing something in his life to rally against, to maybe let him relive a bit of his youth, and we were just the unfortunate souls who happened to be a convenient target--came down to a simple matter of convenience. The hill our new building was to be built upon was one of the only public places in the area that a) had a wonderful view of the area, b) was within walking distance of Mr. Smiley's house, and c) secluded enough that he, Mrs. Smiley and their friends could go and smoke pot there with little fear of being caught. We know this because they were caught doing this very thing by workers at the site.

We've not seen anything at all of Mr. Smiley since that time. Oh, he'd already been scarce due to the book sale incident, but after that sightings of him were limited to other parts of town and never the "liberry" itself.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Smiley's People (Moving Days B)

The idea of building a new library building had been in the works for years before I started working there, but it gained momentum only a couple of years after I came aboard. Not that I had anything to do with it, as this was all in the hands of our board of directors, led then by the now late yet still infamous Mr. Kreskin.

Yes, Mr. Kreskin has passed on. Not long after I'd started at the "liberry," I learned that he had been diagnosed with a couple of different slow-growing yet ultimately terminal forms of cancer. And it was not long after this diagnosis that plans to build a new library building were put into a higher gear than they had been running at. I believe he saw that he had a limited amount of time on his hands and decided to make the new "liberry" a reality. From what Mrs. A has told me, Mr. Kreskin saw the project as his legacy to the Tri-Metro area.

There had been a couple of false starts to the project in the past, such as the proposal to buy up existing buildings in the area and convert them into a new library, but time and time again the issue of lack of parking reared up and we were forced to return to the idea of simply building a brand new facility, with triple the space for books, a gigantic multi-purpose room that could be booked for use by the public, much improved story-hour and craft facilities, handicapped access on all levels and, naturally, adequate parking. Grants were applied for and attained, outside donations were sought and came pouring in, century-long leases were acquired with the owners of the land on which the new building was proposed to be built, architects were hired, meetings were had and everything seemed on track.

Once a design had been accepted and approved by the local historical preservation society, a number of public viewings were arranged for the plans for the new building. And since it was still early in the process, these viewings were also forums for anyone with differing opinions as to the validity of the project to voice said opinions and become a part of the process. One such soul with a differing opinion was a long lost rogue of ours, Mr. Smiley, the Second Grumpiest Old Man in all the World. Mr. Smiley attended each of the public meetings regarding the new "liberry," looked at all the plans, heard all the explanations, ate the provided hors d'oeuvres and said nothing whatsoever yay or nay. Then, as soon as contracts were signed and ground officially broken on the building project itself, suddenly Mr. Smiley couldn't make enough public complaints ag'in' it.

Now, keep in mind that this is a man who, according to Mrs. A, spent the previous twenty years complaining bitterly about how inadequate to his needs our library was, how small it was, how there was never any place for him to find a moment's peace within it without being disturbed by the voices of children or--and I'm not making this next part up AT ALL--the ticking of clock hands, etc. You would think, therefore, that a new facility that offered a respite from all that would have been of great interest to him. Not so.

See, in addition to being the second grumpiest old man in all the world, Mr. Smiley is also an old hippie protest-marcher from the `60s who spent a great deal of his time back then fighting against The Man in all his forms via said protests as well as through a hippie protest-marcher newspaper publication of which he and the future Mrs. Smiley were editors. Now, from his age, clothing and demeanor alone, I could have guessed his identity as a former hippie, still bitter over his cause's side having essentially lost. The full details of his story, however, I later learned via a nonfiction work written and self-published by Mrs. Smiley which serves as a history of their time as cause-warriors around the country, specifically the work she and Mr. Smiley did with their publication. And I might have remained unaware of Mrs. Smiley's book and their history had a copy of it not been donated to the "liberry" at the height his campaign against the new building. It made for interesting reading and certainly gave us an idea of what Mr. Smiley was capable of when it came to causes he cared about. It did not, however, shine a lot of light on precisely why he cared so much about stopping the construction of our proposed new library building. This isn't to say that he and his small cadre of followers didn't offer many explanations for why they opposed it, but most of the offered reasons fell firmly into the category of Things We're Pulling Out of our Collective Ass in Order to Derail this Project By Any Means Possible, (which is a pretty standard delaying tactic among cause groups of all stripes).

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Monday, August 04, 2008

The New Place (Moving Days A)

Now keep in mind that while the new place had been in the works for a very long time, we had difficulty believing it would ever happen. In fact, it had been in the works for so long that we used to tell people that we wouldn’t believe it was real until we set foot in it ourselves. However, over the course of the year it took to finally build it, we found it difficult to argue with the presence of that monstrosity slowly rising on the hill.

Everyone wanted to know when the move was and how they could help. We didn't really know what to tell them. None of us had ever accomplished a move of this magnitude, so we had little idea of what would be required. It had seemed that every stage of the project thus far had been frought with important decisions that had to be made, not to mention people standing in the way who didn't understand how enormous the ramifications of making the wrong decisions might become. There was also a small but vocal contingent of people opposed to the project as a whole--people who were silent throughout the process of leading up to the project itself, when commentary from anyone who wished to add any was sought, but who became not only vocal but then also physical saboteurs once the project was officially underway. We managed to leap those hurdles as they came at us, but one could never tell precisely when the next hurdle would pop up.

As moving day approached, we began making preparations in earnest; storage rooms were cleaned out; supplies boxed and pretty much anything else that wasn't essential to day to day activity was packed up. Soon enough, it was time to start thinking about the rest of our stuff and the best way to get it moved. This wasn't going to be the kind of situation where guys and a truck could be hired to come do the job. And despite the offers of help we'd received, we knew we'd have to do most of the work ourselves. Just thinking about it all was enough to make us dizzy. There was certainly no turning back, though. As I said, this had been in the works for quite a while, so we were pretty much committed to the ride. Not only were we going to build a new library, but we'd move into it as well.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hauling it in (Moving Days 3)

My first night in alone in the new house in Borderland wasn't as fun as I had thought. It just seemed very lonely and wrong without the wife there. And our inflata-bed, which had served us well during the many weekends we'd spent in the house working on it, was even less comfortable than usual. I couldn't even let Sadie sleep on it, either, for fear her claws would shred it.

For her part, Sadie wasn't much help in alleviating my mood about being alone in the house. Every time I took her out to potty, she would just sit and stare into the woods behind our house with an expression of intense uncertainty at the night sounds. This caused me to also uncertain, for our new house is a good deal more secluded than our previous one and I have no idea what sort of animals roam the woods at night. Sure, it's probably just deer and raccoons, but our state was also home to the most famous Mothman sightings as well, so who can tell?

The next morning, the movers arrived, though not without first calling for directions. They were pretty much the same guys from the day before, including Bud. With only a few exchanges of pleasantries, they backed one of their enormous moving vans up our steep driveway and began hauling boxes in quick as anything.

Unlike the old house, where it didn't really matter if the movers got dirt on the floor cause we were going to clean up anyway, the new place has a carpet to bare floor ratio that's pretty much reversed from the old place. And unfortunately, it rained overnight. Fortunately, Bud had a plan and put down moving blankets throughout the house to keep muddy feet from muddying my carpet. I don't know why I care so much about clean carpet, what with an ever-growing St. Bernard about, but I hate to ruin it before we have to.

I felt really bad for the guy who had to haul in my comics. I think the boxes of them have actually multiplied on their own over the past few years, for there seemed to be far more of them than I recalled owning. Fortunately, the wife and I had been in the previous weekend and had constructed brand new shelving in our office closet capable of storing 16 long boxes, plus two shelves of assorted graphic novels and trades. It's a setup that's been needed for a long time, for I now have office space that isn't half taken up by my stinking comics.

The new place is really hurting for bookshelves otherwise, though. Sure, we have two big and one little flat-pack press board shelving units, but they're fairly worthless for long term book storage and don't go with anything. We'll have to do some shopping for "real" shelving, or perhaps build our own. We only used about two thirds of our asses staining and constructing my comic shelves, as we knew they'd be mostly out of sight. Maybe if we put our whole asses into it we could come up with something nice.

By noon, pretty much all of the boxes were moved in and stacked in the rooms in which they belonged. As we have only one set of living room/den furniture, we put it in the "den" area and left the living room/dining room area as a fallback position for boxes that didn't really fit anywhere else. We'll eventually get around to furnishing that room. After all, if you have a dining room, you probably need a dining room table. And our tiny, four person table is currently being used in the breakfast nook, off the kitchen. We don't really have any desire for a second living room, so perhaps we can come up with something else to do with that space, beyond a dining area. (A man cave, dare I dream?)

Sadie likes the new place too. Unlike our old house, which was built on the side of a steep slope, and therefore had very little usable yard, our new house was built atop a steep hill and the back yard is open and composed of largely flatish ground. Plenty of room to play fetch and set up a run line for her. Eventually, we might consider doing an invisible fence, or, barring that, a visible one. We'll have to see what our needs are.

In the meantime, it's going to take forever to unpack all of our stuff and find new places to keep it. A lot of what we had packed up and moved was stuff we knew we would otherwise have gotten rid of if we'd had the time to set up a yard sale. Since we didn't have to move it ourselves, it didn't bother us so much to keep it around. Still there's weeding to be done. But that can be said of so many moves...

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.