Over Spring Break, I spent a couple of afternoons helping set up the library at the Boston Teacher’s Union School. It’s but 3 years old, a toddler of a school. The old library was as small as you’d expect. But thanks an unfortunate event as well as a fortunate one, that’s about to change. Boxes of books eagerly awaited their spots on a slew of new bookcases. Some were from a book drive held by Simmons (that’s the aforementioned fortunate event) and others were reassigned from a school that had recently closed (yep, that’s the unfortunate one). Enter us, the humble volunteers.
‘Twas our job to help those boxed books to find their home on the shelves. We had fiction, non-fiction, biography, reference, E, and ER books. The first four are pretty self explanatory but the last duo took some explaining. I’m not sure what it stands for but “E” books turned out to be introductory kinds of books. Not quite board books (think “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”) nor Easy Reader books (think the Amelia Bedelia series) they’re written for the still-novice reader but one with a little reader in his (or her) belt. And they were the first batch we focused on. The ER books, did indeed, stand for “Easy Reader” and it was only later that we made that distinction and walked them to their home shelves. But after a only an hour or so of helping alphabetize and shelve the ”E” books, I was tasked with putting up the non-fiction books. There I was greeted with a misleadingly simple task.
This books were already classified with their Dewey number, and boxed accordingly, so all I had to do was pull ‘em out of the box and put ‘em on the shelves…or so I thought. Whether the books were shelved incorrectly at that dearly departed school or they were haphazardly boxed up, I soon found the order wasn’t quite correct. Sometimes “345.211 Ana” came after “345.111 Bab”, sometimes “567.111 Ana” came after “567.211 Bab”. So my task was slowed down as I reorganized the books first based on their Dewey number and then on their author’s last name.
The second day, we had a gaggle of volunteers and made some pretty great headway, but alas! we were far too outnumbered to finish the feat of shelving all the books. You see, the school bought shelves based on an estimated 1500 books. So when over 4800 showed up, we were overwhelmed. Too many books, while it is a problem, it’s definitely not a bad problem to have! So when the second day ended the 900s, a hodgepodge of “E” and “ER” books, reference, biography, and then entire fiction collection were still in their boxes. Not to mention some books need to be classified or reclassified and the catalog needed to be fleshed out. To paraphrase Frost, we’ve miles to go before we sleep.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was the Boston Teacher’s Union School library. At least another day is needed. I look forward to getting back at it and hope that I get to do some classification and cataloging this time. I fear that my day job will prevent me from doing an internship and I see this as a way to get some hands on experience that I’ll miss because of it. The way I see it, this whole thing should prove to be mutually beneficial: the BTU School will get a library and I’ll get experience.