Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Camping Out At The Library

Opening a new library is crazy. Crazy fun, crazy busy, crazy weird, just crazy. And I crazy love it. Rather than tell you another woeful tale about current problems, I'm going to tell you fun stories about opening up the new library.

I was hired rather late into the project, actually just over a month before the library opened. Overseeing it before then were the library's development director, the associate librarian (para-professional) for this branch (and we'd had multiple staff members cycle through that position), the project manager for the city (for the facility stuff), branch manager of a neighboring branch, contractors and building types, and other assorted library personnel. It was explained to me that if anything seemed inconsistent or missing it probably was, this project had been in a lot of different people's hands. (Or as the development director said, we've lost a lot of soldiers in this fight.)

When I took over, the associate librarian had been bouncing around branches and only spending part of her time at Mountain View. She and I started working full time at the library (still closed) to get it ready. We were the first official occupants and the building wasn't quite ready for us. Have you ever spent time (serious 40+ hours a week time) in a not quite finished building? It can be fun if you approach it with the right attitude. Like camping there are some inconveniences (in camping lack of running water and a pillow top mattress top my lists) but some great benefits (unlimited time with those you love, great scenery, fresh clean air, s'mores) that make it worth it.

Some of my favorite little things that popped up and made me feel like we were camping out at the library.

Incomplete Furniture
The first few weeks we were here, we didn't have all of our furniture. In particular, we lacked office chairs. I was sitting at my desk in a very ergonomically unfriendly chair bought for the patron floor. Between that and hauling boxes, my back ached every night. It really made me appreciate my office chair when it finally came.

No Janitorial Service
Why pay for janitorial when you have only a few people in the building? We followed camp rules and "packed out what you pack in". That meant that every day I took my trash from lunch (or even any used kleenex) home with me and threw it away there. Considering my recent woes, I'm might be doing that again.

No Office Supplies
We didn't have any of the basics. Every trip to the main library, I'd pop my head into a different department's supply cabinet and "requisition" a few basics. And by a few basics, I mean I took literally 3 ink pens from one department, 2 pads of post-it notes from another. Let me tell you how fun that first trip to the office supply was store - a stapler of my very own! With plentiful staples! But no matter how good and thorough your list is, something will be missed or not bought in a plentiful enough of a quantity. Plan on a second trip about two weeks later.

No Bathroom Supplies
Our janitorial contractor provides the bathroom supplies so before they started, we were bringing in our own toilet paper and paper towels.

No One Knows Where You Are
We weren't a brand new library, just a library in a place that hadn't been a library in 20 years, so out of most people's working memory. And our building didn't have a library sign. (Still doesn't, that's a different story.) Every conversation or delivery required a detailed description of the building even though we're on a well known corner. I like to say that with no sign, I'm operating a stealth library, a ninja library if you will.

Wildlife sightings
Much like the woods really belong to the moose and bears and we're just visitors who must play by their rules, a new but not yet finished building really belongs to the contractors. The guys in hardhats need to cut power halfway through my epic masterpiece of an email? That's their prerogative. I'm sad whenever civilization runs off wildlife, but rather happy when completion runs off contractors. Of course my library has been open 5 months and they're still showing up trying to fix things and make them work right. (Today they came to play with the heat settings and repair a blown hydraulic door hinge.) Perhaps we're not totally out of the woods yet.

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