i miss librarianship sometimes

I was a library page through most of high school - for those who don’t know, pages are the ones who re-shelve books and keep the stacks in order. And I can guarantee you, by the end of an eight hour shift of carrying stacks of books around and facing shelves, you find yourself singing the Alphabet Song. At first you fight it out of embarrassment, but eventually you give in to the inevitable.

And yes, patrons do this. Most of the time they’re not aware that they’re in the way. Other times…

anonymous asked:

40 lbs on your wrist?! Ow! No wonder you're having problems. How'd that happen?

Librarianship can be very dangerous.

I worked as a Page in a library through high school and the first two years of college. A Page is someone who re-shelves the books, faces (straightens) the shelves, and reads (organizes) the stacks. The library I worked for was an old Carnegie.

Here it is. Isn’t it pretty?

Very little had been changed since the build was built in 1904. The Circulation desk was original to the building. So were the windows and the stained glass skylight. An elevator goes between the basement (Newspapers, Genealogy, Cataloging, Mending, and Administration), main floor (Adult / Teen Fiction and Non-fiction, Current Periodicals, and Reference), and the second story (the Children’s Deparment) and there’s a book lift (a little dumb waiter elevator) between the three floors. Trouble is, the first floor has a mezzanine accessible only by a wide, metal staircase behind the Circulation desk. Neither the elevator nor the book lift went to the mezzanine. I’m not sure why, likely something to do with the structure of the building.

So, Pages were used to re-shelve the library as well as retrieve books for patrons unable to access the mezzanine.

All of us Pages - there were five total, four on the main floor/mezzanine and one in the Children’s department - were high school to college age. Meaning we didn’t start our shifts until the afternoon. By that time the four main racks behind the Circ desk, as well as two to four extra metal book carts, would be filled with books waiting to be shelved. We’d organize the books by call number on the racks and begin the shelving process. Books on the main floor were easy since we could use the rolling book carts to carry the loads around.

The books on the mezzanine were a bitch.

The mezzanine books had to be carried up by hand, in stacks. We’d pile up a stack of books on the main Page table behind the Circ desk and carefully slide the pile towards the edge. Then, bracing the base with our forearms, we’d lift the pile using our chins to act as a second brace, lean back a bit so most of the weight rested against the chest and abdomen, and slowly walk the stack up the steps.

Once on the mezzanine we’d maneuver through the stacks and various patrons to the back where a small table - slightly wobbly and likely also original to the building - sat. There we’d drop our current stack and head down to pick up another batch. Once all the books to be shelved were up on the mezzanine, they were sorted into smaller, more manageable piles based on the call numbers of each aisle then carried into their proper row and shelved. Once the re-shelving was complete, the maintenance work of reading, facing, and cleaning was done, along with the occasional weeding (removal of damaged and unused books).

Sounds rough but it was actually pretty fun.

One day I brought up a pile and put it down like normal, another Page following close behind. We were good friends and were chatting quietly, not really paying much attention. I had my hand resting on the mezzanine Page table when she walked into the table - you couldn’t see over your pile very well, so walking into things tended to happened now and then - dropping her pile in the process. Her pile landed against mine and both landed on my wrist.

There was a lot of loud cussing after that.

The Assistant Director, who was manning the Circ desk at the time, came up to see what we were doing. When he found out what had happened we were told to leave the books and head back downstairs. My wrist was iced while an incident report was written out.

The wrist was sore, bruised, and a little swollen, but not broken or sprained. So, I went back to work the next day. Eventually the bruising and swelling went down, but the soreness never quiet went away. Things I used to do with little trouble - lifting, pulling, grabbing multiple books at once, and drawing - were doable, but difficult and often a little painful. But, as far as anyone could tell, nothing was wrong. So, I adapted how I worked, changed my career ideas, and learned to live with it.

This happened when I was sixteen. I’m currently thirty-five. So, I’ve had nearly twenty years to get used to constant wrist pain. It was always in one spot, the inner side of the wrist under the thumb where the books had hit, and it was familiar and normal.

As I aged I did start to have a few complications, little signs that were not normal. Stiffness especially. At the advice of a friend I started seeing a chiropractor who was very good at extremities (hands and feet) which helped a lot.

Then last year things started to change. I began to loose my grip, my hand would swell in areas it never had before, it would tingle like there were ants under the skin, and it would grow cold. Like ice cold.

So, I went in to get things checked and found out it seems to be a combination of Carpal Tunnel and something up in the neck/shoulder area impinging nerves and tendons. The Carpal Tunnel isn’t far enough along to make surgery worthwhile and there’s not much to be done about the neck/shoulder thing. So, I’ve been sticking with the chiro and trying to do some things to improve wrist and shoulder strength as well as general overall health. It seems to be working. So yay!

Are the old injury and the current problems related? No, I don’t think so. On days when the current issues are calm I can still feel the old, normal ache where it’s always been and there’s no real difference in the way it feels. My folks both have similar issues with their wrist, including the loss of grip and strange cold and tingling sensations, so this is likely something that would have developed eventually anyway.

I’m quickly getting used to the new ways the wrist and elbow feel and behave. For the most part can ignore what’s now becoming normal. The crawling ants feeling and the cold is still a little unsettling, but I’ve found a few minutes under the heating pad takes care of the cold. The ant feeling still makes me look to make sure there actually isn’t a bug on me, but once I see there’s nothing there I can ignore it. If I end up missing an update it’s because I’ve lost my grip and as of yet I haven’t found a way around that. I’m working on it.

So yeah, that’s basically it. I loved my time working at the CPL, even with the accident. I almost went back to work there after graduation. The Cataloger was planning on retiring and the current Director, who was the Assistant Director when this all happened, knew I was getting my MLS. He said the position of Cataloger would be open for me after graduation if I wanted it. While enticing, I decided to move out to the East Coast to be with Matt instead. Best decision ever.