Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Evidence that I have been here before

Despite the fact that Rincker Memorial Library at Concordia University Wisconsin has undergone two major renovations since I graduated, the marks of my more than four years as a student employee are still to be found. This is most noticeable in the books themselves. The collection was bar-coded between my freshmen and sophomore year. Just as my sophomore year was ending and I was gearing up to work in the library full time for the summer, a terrible discovery was made. All the smart barcodes (smart meaning they had the title and barcode of the book printed on them) started with the wrong digit. The barcode wand would not read them. The best the programmers could do for us was to change the first digit in the system and we could key them in by hand changing the initial 3 for a 2. So it began. For the next two and a half years (full time in the summers, 10 hours a week in the school year) I spent my time in the stacks and ripped out those smart barcodes, replacing them with the dumb barcodes (dumb because they did not have a title or call # on them) that started with the correct number. The books were then loaded on carts taken to cataloging and the barcode was corrected in the system so that it could now be read with a wave of the wand. (Wave may be a poetic extrapolation-more like a swipe and several before it takes-but still so much easier than typing 2505400...The work of my hands is on almost every book purchased before 1991.

Today I discovered another place that my presence left an enduring mark. When I lecture students I often make use of visual aids. I grab a drawer out of our shelf list (we still have one-that's the card catalog that is in call number order and thus only useful to catalogers and librarian types. No it's not current-we stopped
collecting new cards long ago) and a volume of the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature and explain how when I was a student we used one for books and the other for articles as a way to impress on them that there was and still is a different way to get at each. (You'd be surprised how many students despair of finding journal articles in our catalog and resort to Wikipedia.) Anyway when I was a student worker the shelf list was current and we used it to track our progress in the rebar-coding process. You had books without cards, books without any barcode, (smart or otherwise) and tragically cards without books. Those were pulled and gathered into an empty drawer and so we would know what those cards were about I labeled the drawer "Missing books." Today I happened to notice that my hand written label of 15 years ago is still there. I doubt than anyone but I would recognize it as my hand, but for me it was like a time capsule. This library is so different from the one I worked in, but there are still impressions from the past if you know where to look for them.

lhg edited and approved

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