Thursday, March 17, 2005

File under "things they don't tell you in library school"

The university I work at is on Spring Break this week. We are a commuter campus, so we still have quite a few students who come in to get some work done since they have assignments due next week. Overall, things have been slow in the library. Our Assistant Director for Reference Services has proposed that we do some tidying up of our Reference Office area. In theory, not a bad idea as the place could use a little sprucing up. In practice, it became a handiwork project. I don't recall anyone telling me during job interviews that manual labor skills would be required. Not that I am afraid of rolling up the sleeves and getting some work done, but putting up window liners and such was not something mentioned in library school. Either that, or I must have missed the session in the basic reference class where they said "and by the way, you may be called upon to do various office improvement projects." Hmm.... It should be noted that while she brought in some cleaning supplies, the AD for Reference Services actually took the week off, so she is not here to see the progress. I am not saying she intentionally ducked away or such after setting us up for the task, but again, hmm....

At any rate, things have worked well so far. Our Reference Office is located next to the Reference Area, and it is walled like glass. The sensation is pretty much akin to being in a fishbowl, and more often than not students will wave at you if they make eye contact when they want attention. The privacy other academic librarians would enjoy at a larger institution of a small office, or at least an enclosed area is not really an option here (we have severe space issues, but that I can write about later). So, in attempt to address this lack of privacy along with making things look nicer, our AD suggested we try this glass liner she saw at one of the chain hardware stores. In addition, our Interlibrary Loan Paraprofessionals had an array of old posters on the wall, and in one case, an extensive array of family photos that had accumulated for years, that it was decided had to be at least trimmed. Actually, it had to come down; the pictures would not be trimmed. The Interlibrary Loan Librarian, who supervises them, went around, cajoled a little here and there, and got their cooperation (in the case of one), or at least a path of least resistance (in the case of the other, who nice as she is, can be a bit on the grumpy side. I think serious would be more accurate. You rarely see her smile, but when she does, it is a nice sight to see). For the lady with the photos, I heard she had them for over a decade at least. They were pretty much taped up, one next to the other, and I am sure there was some rhyme to the madness in the placement, but I can see where they would look cluttered to visitors. Being someone who likes stories, I could not help but wonder what stories were behind some of those family photos, what special occasions did they commemorate? Her work area is on the outside wall of the inside office the Circulation Librarian now occupies. She had placed her photo display over the glass of the Circulation Librarian's Office. So likely, that was part of the issue for the Reference AD to want the photos to come down. However, to keep the privacy, we would line the glass with the frosted liner, making for a nicer, neater look. The ILL Librarian did offer to buy for her a nice scrapbook, or a nice frame, to put them in, so we'll see.

Our enterprising Interlibrary Loan librarian went out and bought the rolls along with the necessary items to attach it. The item itself is called "Privacy Frosted Window Film." It comes in rolls of various sizes that you can cut to the size you need for the surface to be covered. This is how it works. It is a film that is placed over glass, and it gives glass a "frosted" effect. The result is a frosted glass that actually looks quite nice, and it adds some privacy since the students can't look in as easily as before. Then again, we can't see out as easy as well (is this something to be concerned about? hehe). On the outer walls, we have placed some of the liner on half of a glass wall, so the upper half is still transparent. The effect is that the ILL Librarian, who has the desk closest to the glass, will now have some privacy and a sense of a "real" office. The whole contraption gets a bit messy and sticky, but once you cut the liner to size and set it up, it works well. It does require a bit of muscle. The way it works is you clean the glass. Then you spray a solution to it, wetting the glass, and then you apply the liner after you peel its backing off. It adheres to the glass, and then you have to "squeegee" it to the sides so as to get out any air pockets. It is the "squeeging" out part that requires a bit of elbow grease. For the half glass set ups, two people could work. We also did one of the windows of the Circulation librarian's office. Now, she has an office inside our area, so it was a larger window we did on one side, and that required three people: one spraying, one peeling back the liner and one "squeeging" what was already placed (that was my job). I have to say we made quite a little team as we put up the liner. At the time though, as I was smoothing one end, the Circulation Librarian was spraying the solution on the other end as the ILL Librarian was placing it, which meant I was getting sprayed during the process. I don't think the solution is lethal, but I would definitely recommend washing hands when one is done using it, and avoiding it fall on the eyes if possible. And as I sit on my desk now, and I turn in my chair to look at how nice it looks so far, I have to say it was worth the effort. The ILL Librarian needs to do at least one more half glass panel on her side, but we may end up doing most of them. We'll see.

Then, there are the sign holders we recently bought that we have to hang up. We even bought a laser level to help make sure they go up straight. But those sign holders are another post. The lesson for all you future librarians out there, it would help if you know a little bit of home improvement and similar skills. You never know when they may become handy.

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