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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Library Work

When I was an undergraduate at Washington I got hired at the Reserve Desk in Odegaard Library.  Odegaard was a barn of a library built in the 60s out of millions of yards of concrete, but covered in brick to it didn't look as stern as it felt.

In the days before the internet the Reserve Desk was where professors could photocopy articles for students in their classes, or move books to that segregated part of the library. The students could then check them out for four hours, so there was quite the turn over as you can imagine.  It was one more example of The Man trying to keep students from hogging study materials to the detriment of their classmates.  But then this was the 80s and not the 60s so never mind.

I worked evenings mostly. Often from 7 to midnight.  Towards the end of the night it would get rather slow and after nine I was by myself mostly.  It could get rather boring at times.

The phone system allowed for transfering of calls, after all it was a professional establishment where professionals conducted their business.  Except when they weren't there. And when they left students in charge.

 If a call came that needed to be transfered the answerer could click the hook switch once and get a dial tone, could make a call and then hit the hook switch again and the caller could be connected with the newly called number. Make sense?  Actually, all three would be on the line until the person making the transfer hung up.

When things got slow I started calling the weather (one used to be able to call a weather forecast on the phone, you see.  This was some time after electricity was invented and before the cell phone.)  Once the weather was on the line I'd call a friend and then connect the two.  They'd pick up the phone and hear the weather forcast.

Fortunately this confused them and delighted me.  How did the weather forcast call them?  Why was it on the line?  What force had bent the universe resulting in this confusion?

But this wasn't enough after a while.  You know, like drugs always leads to something worse.

Eventually I figured out who took a while to answer the phone and who answered quickly.  I'd call the slow-to-answer friend and, before they answered, I'd call another friend and then sit in the quiet sanctuary of the library and listen to what happened.

The first friend would pick up the phone and hear ringing.  Their response was often, "What the f@*k?"  The second friend would then answer and then they'd try to figure out who called who. (Or is it who called whom?)  Most often they'd spend two or five minutes trying to figure out how the call had happened and then they'd hang up, confused.  I'd sit there and try not to laugh.  The hardest this was on any of the three involved in this was me who was trying not to laugh.

Needless to say I did this a lot, and never let on who was behind this.  A couple figured it out by triangulating who they were connecting with.

It was the best part of that job. By far.

I was too chicken to do this with random people, however.  And I had friends who would not have reacted well with this.  So I was completely responsible with my irresponsibility.

What's really great about this was that it was this job that led me to conservation and binding.  Why?  When I moved to Boston my library experience is what got me the job in the archives, which led to them asking me to repair books, which led me to school, which led me to everything else.

So, prank phone calls directly resulted in my election as President of the Guild of Book Workers. Remember that kids when you folks tell you to behave.

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