I think I have just rediscovered shelving.

I’ll explain. When I first became a library assistant as a student shelving was kind of theraputic. At about eight o’clock at night it was dark outside and warm and bright in the library (or dark and spooky in Founder’s, depending

on where I was working) and there weren’t too many people around (When I started work in 2008 the students were much less studious than they are today ;)). You could wander around your own little realm of the library, exploring hidden corners and looking out of windows at the reflection of the clocktower’s great white clockface and the dingy night sky, imagining the world outside as it would have been when the university was founded, and occasionally reading books. And all the time – and this was the important part – I was doing a service! Reshelving books is crucial to a library service and I was being paid to have this little fantasy of a Victorian library while all the time being of use.

Come 2009, when I had to get there for quarter to seven and not close down at eleven, the library ceased to be my realm. It was somewhere I spent a brief amount of time, stuck behind the desk while shelving assistants got to have all the fun. That, and after a year of it, shelving gets quite tiresome. You know which bits are easy to shelf and lament the 338.9’s with a passion as you know the books will mostly be on the floor rather than neatly ordered as you would like.

And then this year, once I was elevated to the lofty heights of Information Assistant, there was very little shelving to do. In the day I was either in the office or working on the helpdesk, and again; shelving was for the shelvers – or Stock Management Assistants as we have to call them now. (Whether the increased length of job title came with an increase in pay, I’ll never know…) Also, I worked 9am – 5pm, so it wasn’t dark – unless it was raining, and that brings a kind of misery all of its own – and the library has much less mystery when full of loud students all confused by the new printing system and the concept of Dewey classification.

But then, this morning: an epiphany. I came in late, took myself away from the office with my iPhone and bright white headphones and instead took a trolley of history books downstairs where it was still quiet and the shelves towered above me. It was spookily dark, nice and quiet, I was all alone and my music played. The iPhone was nice to me this morning, a good blend of quiet acoustic and unconventional lyrics. It was utterly peaceful and I concentrated on the classmarks, the tidy shelves and my own thoughts. Something I wouldn’t have got to do if I had been in the office.

As a result I have decided that shelving isn’t all bad, and can still be an enjoyable experience. Definitely still theraputic, allowing me to consider things other than looking busy or answering emails. While – and this is still the most important part – performing a service, being useful and getting paid!

Of course, come next week it’ll all be over as term starts, the hordes descend and the SMAs return to have all the therapy of shelving to themselves. Still, for this moment of tranquility, it was all worth it. They’ll make a librarian of me yet, it seems…

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