End of an Era


Tonight, while revising my resume to apply for summer internships, I finally deleted the last vestiges of my time at the library as a lowly book-shelver.  Gone at last from the "Relevant Skills" heading is the bullet-point "Speedy and accurate organization of books and files."  For many years I clung to this last bit of my identity as a Shelf Monkey.  Because, damnit, job listings always say they want Detail Oriented applicants, and darned if I didn't have empirical proof of my detail orientation!  But no; now that I've moved on to legal jobs the resume buzzwords have changed.  Now my potential employers want Excellent Research and Writing skills, and my ability to organize books is awkward and extraneous.  But I still feel compelled to include a bullet point saying that I "Could make two trucks in an hour.  Really!  You can time me!"

It should also be pointed out that, despite dozens of submissions of the Speedy and Accurate Organization resume, the only job offer it ever got me was for a position flipping burgers at Nation's Giant Hamburgers.  So Detail Orientation wasn't really working for me to begin with.


Two trucks in an hour? Geez, do you want to make the rest of us look bad? (N.B.: I don't remember how many trucks I ever made in an hour, but I doubt it was two.)

While I can't say that my Shelf Monkey experience was key in landing me a job elsewhere, I do think that Willyce hired me because my last job had involved, essentially, 4RSing a completely different commodity. I'd spent a summer working at the bottom of the clothing-retail heap, at a mall store aimed at teenage girls. Teenage girls try on a remarkable number of things without buying any of them, and my job was to pick them up off the floor of the fitting rooms, figure out what the hell they were and where they went, and go put them back. I think that ought to be the job description posted on the library job board. "Pick up books off the floor, figure out what the hell they are and where they go, and go put them back."

Last thought: if you ever decide to include an Irrelevant Skills section on your resume, you can put your speedy and accurate organization of books back in it.

I got pretty good as an SLE, but my truck-making skills atrophied to practically nothing within a month of becoming a clerk. My trick, though, was to organize all the books on the shelves in 4RS, then only transfer the books to a truck when I was done. I found that 4 4RS shelves equaled one 5-row truck.

I always feel mortified trying on clothing in such stores (not teen girl-oriented stores, obviously). I hate to leave them on the floor, because then I feel like I'm lazy and forcing others to pick up after me. I hate to hand them to an employee, because I feel goofy handing my clothes to somebody and saying "Here! I'm done with these! Replace them for me because I am too important to clean my own messes." And I have trouble putting the clothes back where I got them (which I usually do) because I'm not very good at folding them and it ends up disrupting the neat appearance of the display. Is there a preferred patron behavior here?

One other problem with no longer mentioning my SLE time on my resume: I now have just the Clerk job listed, but Clerk is a pretty generic title that tends to denote "entry level." But I haven't found a non-awkward way of indicating that the position was a promotion, not just what we call anyone who starts out at the library.

Also: You were hired by Willyce? Wow. Was Sky a Supervisor at that point, or was he just an SLE?

I think the semester that I started was the last one in which Willyce was interviewing and hiring people personally. Sky was definitely already a supervisor (could he have even been an uber-supervisor already?), but he hadn't started doing the hiring yet.

As for clothing-store behavior, you can't go wrong with rearranging the item nicely on its hanger (if it has one) or refolding it as best you're able (if nothing else it shows you're trying), and then leaving it on whatever version of a go-back rack is available. That way the employees know where to look for it without actually having to smile politely at you while receiving your discarded items, which is just awkward. If there's no go-back rack available I tend to pretend I was never there, take everything out with me, and replace it -- and damn the misfolding -- because I just don't like leaving things lying around for other people to pick up. I only leave things lying around for me to pick up.

See, I had my own fairly brilliant 4RS strategy, of progressive categorization. First I will look only at DAs and move all DBs off of the shelf. Then I will consolidate all DA 1 to DA 500 books on the left side of the shelf. I will take 1 to 100 and put them on the truck, then put them in order (in case of too many to easily order, select a smaller set of call numbers to work with). Then 100 to 200, then 200 to 300, and so on. Then do the same with the DA 500 to DA 1000 (or whatever). Then haul out the DBs and do the same with them. But I think I was still lacking in the essential diligence needed to do 2 trucks in an hour.

I liked to work in the BX-D section; it was the furthest left section on the furthest back shelves. I'll bet I made more trucks in that section than any other section combined. I found that the key to speedy organizing, generally, was finding a section that was full, but not so full as to have books stacked on top of the books already on the shelves. It also helped to work in a section where each shelf was a distinct range of books; you could waste a lot of time shifting books back and forth between shelves with overlapping ranges. I feel my method minimized effort required and time to make trucks.

But then, nobody else that I saw ever picked up my technique, and I tended to get funny looks for it.

I should also point out that two trucks in an hour was at the very thin end of the bell curve of my shelving; I COULD do it, and did on several occasions, but it was by no means consistent.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on January 2, 2006 3:58 AM.

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