Friday, September 28, 2007
Tonic Effects of Shelving Books
Maine rose hips
Vitamin C in its natural form on a wild rose bush near Casco Bay, Portland Maine.... bit of a stretch, but as good as vitamins are (at least the right vitamins at the right time), that is how good shelving is for my librarian soul.
I began shelving library books as a volunteer in grade school, and was happy to get a job as a library "page" at my hometown public library as soon as I turned 16. I am three decades into my librarian career, and still relish shelving books. Perhaps it is the physicality of the act -- the bending and stretching, the act of making order out of disorder, the rich sight of the multicolored book spines -- which does me such good. Shelving acts as a balance against time spent pounding a computer keyboard.
Also, in a small library, when we are short of staff or volunteers, I have no choice but to shelve. I enjoy visiting old friends on the fiction shelves: Hello Larry (McMurtry), greetings to front porch Baltimore (Anne Tyler), cynical regards to small town upstate NY (Richard Russo). Nonfiction is a little different.... but the Dewey Decimal logicality of the subjects is reassuring as well as serendipitous. Sometimes I come across just the right book I need for a project, or get tempted by cookbooks, etc.
The good thing about shelving is that you are out in the collection, accessible to customers should they need assistance. You get to hear conversations among readers. Some of our more gregarious customers like to give book recommendations on the spot to other customers. I enjoy listening to such naturally occuring Readers' Advisory moments.
The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night. – Isabel Allende