Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oh, How I Love Librarians! (Part 2)

One of the most boring jobs I'd ever had was at the Hiram College Library, fall 1962. It was also one of the most interesting jobs I'd ever had.  (Clue: It was the first job I'd ever had.)  The head librarian then was Thelma Bumbaugh; the assistant was Stuart Stiffler; another assistant was Helen Cline, an older woman who worked there early on Saturday morning--my shift.  I never addressed any of them by their first names--it was always Miss Bumbaugh, Mr. Stiffler, Mrs. Cline.  Always.  Miss Bumbaugh terrified me (she could fire me--and should have but didn't).  Mr. Stiffler gave me a very interesting job (in my "spare time"): typing cards on individual art prints in books he would set aside.  I learned a lot about artists and their works by doing that--and have, of course, forgotten it all.  And Mrs. Cline ... more about her below.

Let me say this: Until college, I'd forgotten there even WAS a Saturday morning.  Throughout high school I'd always slept very late on Saturday--as late as my farm-boy father would permit (he was always up at five, even though there were no cows to milk).  He could not understand why his adolescent sons seemed to find the arms of Morpheus so appealing, so impossible to escape.  He would tolerate it as long as he could, then roust us out and invent some chores for us.  This was manifestly not the behavior of my father that I recall most fondly.

"Old" library, Hiram College
Anyway, at Hiram College my parents wanted me to have a work-study job (such cruelty!), and so I went to work at the Hiram College Library, then housed in the "old" building now occupied by the computer center and other enterprises.  In those days, the tennis courts (all three of them) were adjacent to the library, and there I learned (from watching my coevals) that when you are angry about your poor play, you hit a ball onto the roof of the library extension.  I played poorly a lot, so I had to be judicious and not hit a ball up there every time I missed an easy return.  (By the way: I just remembered a bad tennis joke: What is the only tennis joke in the Bible?  ANS: Jacob served Laban seven years and got no return.)

My job comprised only a couple of tasks: working at the desk (checking books out and in, collecting fines--2 cents/day, checking out attractive co-eds: I was lonely, a frosh with no hope).  Occasionally--  rarely--hardly ever ... I would ... "borrow" ... a ... little ... cash ... from ... the ... fine ... drawer--money I always returned on payday (well, usually).  I do not write about this with pride, but it remains one of the guilty reasons I contribute every year to the Friends of the Hiram College Library.  I'm more or less paying back a debt.

Do you think less of me yet?  Is that even possible?

The far more odious task at the library was shelving books.  Lord, I hated that!  Alone in an aisle with a book cart, looking where to place some volume with 323.09192845 on the spine (in white ink).  The only good thing: I learned the Dewey Decimal System, which did me little good in grad school: KSU converted to LOC about the time Joyce and I were taking classes.

But the best thing about the job (besides, of course, the, uh, "interest-free college loans") was on Saturday morning--yes, those Saturday mornings.  I was living at home that first year, so I not only had to drag my Lazy Ass out of bed by 7:15 or so (on a Saturday!), but I then had to drag my Lazy Ass up the hill on Rt. 700 north of Hiram and arrive in time to check in at 8.  Supervising me on Saturday mornings was Mrs. Cline, whom I grew to adore.  She had a very laissez-faire management style (meaning I could goof off upstairs), and a little before ten (my shift was 8-12) she would give me a dollar and send me down to the Co-Op (the little Hiram grocery store) to buy four glazed donuts.  I would set a World's Record in Dilatory Errand-Running every time, shuffling my feet in sullen slowness, down to the store.  I'd buy the donuts, shuffle my way back to the library, where Mrs. Cline--who never commented or complained about my "speed"--had a tea kettle singing.  And we would drink tea and eat donuts (she had one; I had three).

I soon quit that job, though.  I could not stand those Saturday mornings, Mrs. Cline notwithstanding.  So I got a job in the dining hall, figuring I'd work in the kitchen at lunch or dinner.  Civilized hours.

But my assignment?  Breakfast, every day.  Deep sink.  (Meaning: I had to clean to big pots and pans, all caked with God-knows-what.)  I had to be there at 6:30 a.m.  What an improvement!

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