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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!).



Monday, May 23, 2016

Precision & Pride and Mail Fraud

One more library story before I get back to binding and conservation. I feel I need these posts as a warm up so that I won't pull a finger muscle when I get up to speed with "real" posts.

After I graduated from Washington I continued on in graduate school for a quarter, until I realized that a master's degree in Scandinavian Studies probably wasn't going to really do anything for me.  Or anything I really wanted anyway.  So, instead I got into a program to get a teaching certificate, also at UW.

But I was no longer at the Reserve Desk (mainly because none of my friends worked there any more so it wasn't all that much fun), but liked working in libraries and applied for a job at Government Publications.  It was in Suzzallo Library, a church of a library on Red Square, just across from Odegaard.

(It was the same building where I ended up fixing books for several years about ten years later.  In between I taught high school social studies for a bit, moved to Boston and was on my way without having any idea where I would end up.)

At Gov Pubs I had the job of checking in publications that came from around the world.  It was pretty hard, actually, because stuff would come in from around the world with 15 word titles but really the title was "Report" or "Newsletter" or something like that.  It was easy after a few months of questions but a bit frustrating at the outset.

The best part of the job was meeting this guy.  If you look up "nicest guy on the planet" in Wikipedia you will see a picture of him.  I still talk to him fairly often (and I had this job in the early 80s) and, frankly, think the world would be a better place if he lived next door to us.  I give you a picture of Andy (in the middle) with Robby, his husband.  Robby is very, very nice as well, but somehow Andy ended up with the Wikipedia entry.  You'll have to ask him how he aced Robby out of that recognition.  Andy was one of the librarians, specializing in Washington state documents.

After going to the Torchlight Parade in Seattle one year, and seeing the police motorcycle drill team, I came up with the idea for a Library Book Truck Drill Team.  It didn't exist, of course, but I would tell other student employees about it and asked they wanted to be part of it. It took a few hours of practice every Saturday morning, I'd tell them, but it was really fun doing the parades.  It was hard pushing a cart in formation for a few miles without books falling off, but we modified the carts with better wheels.  The challenge was remembering all the formations and weaving we did during the parade.

Many of them were interested, actually MOST were interested, and I would tell them go to talk to a librarian in Gov Pub.  They would go ask about it, find out it was a joke and everyone would get a good laugh.  Somehow I hope that joke carried on.

That was fun but there was something better.

Anyway, the job was checking in stacks of stuff.  Including lots from Norway who was publishing voraciously because of their oil money I heard.  Lots and lots from Norway.  Like, a lot.  But stuff came from everywhere.

In the envelopes were cards that came with the publications.  "Courtesy of the National Bank of Zambia"  "Compliments of the Republic of China"  "Gift from the Department of Commerce of Guyana"  We got stuff from most countries in the world, and most annouced with cards.  In all honesty I could never figure out why they felt it necessary to include the cards.  Were they afraid we would be confused why we were receiving them, or that we would think we had to pay for them?

I was told I could just throw them away, but instead I kept them.  Then I would go buy a pack of gum or some candy, or find a half used pencil. Something not worth buying, let alone mailing.  Then I would put the insignificant item in a padded envelope, add one of the cards, type out the address and return address, and then mail it to a friend. So they would get a worn out pencil "compliments of the Reserve Bank of Mauritania."

Fortunately they'd toss the envelope before thinking about checking the postmark.

It was almost as much fun as the phone calls, but not quite since it lacked immediacy and I didn't always hear about it.  What's nice is that I still have a few of the cards still kicking around.  Maybe you'll get a half used pad of post-it notes from the National Bank of Norway.  

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