Saturday, February 6, 2016

Wilbo Always Has Frustrations, the Reason is to Wit; When Wilbo Has Frustrations, He Rarely If Ever Quits.

I thought of a librarian who hired me for my first work-study job. She had made an interesting life for herself, serving as a reference librarian at university libraries worldwide. She had established an information desk near the grand opening to the library. I went looking second day at Michigan State for a work-study job and I bicycled over to the business school library on a tip. At the business school, the librarian said, "We are staffed, go over to the undergraduate library". I arrive at the office at the undergraduate library and the head librarian sent me over to the information desk. I was hired upon saying hello and held the job for about a year.

I became rather good at finding books no one else could find in the graduate stacks. I met an English professor named Whalen, and Whalen signed his search requests "Whalen", leaving off his first name. He coached me on all the ways a book becomes shelved incorrectly, usually by reversal of information on the Library of Congress call number. So if a book wasn't on the shelf where the call number suggested, it helped to search erroneous versions of the call number. This technique works for any kind of searching, from jobs to love interests. Jobs, people, gold nuggets get lost, put in the wrong place.

I've always felt a little lost in my career efforts, although I did love teaching Shakespeare at night school in Hamtramck.

I didn't know that serving as a librarian at a college was a full contact sport. I've witnessed a few scuffles in libraries, and usually the scrum ends when one of the contestants resigns and goes elsewhere for career advancement. The struggle is less bloodless than a paper cut. No drips wind up on the curriculum vitas.

I wish I could remember name of the woman who hired me because I liked her. She seemed tolerant of my weaknesses as an information desk clerk. I mean, I would say impossibly stupid stuff to patrons, "Well, I hope you find the book"! The woman who replaced her, not a fledged librarian, was hardly as tolerant of me. And I soon found myself driving a car to Lansing to retrieve books from remote storage and working for the man who eventually became the head librarian at Michigan State. Who had to let me go because the runs had to be completed by Six AM in the morning and I was an insomniac by then.

Or course, one must allow the patron to believe heaven and earth would be moved to find a book. Even saying, "No problem," became a problem. Sometimes fulfilling a request was a bit of an effort and saying "No problem" was an issue. Such were the discussions as the new manager of the desk attempted to smooth out my rough spots.

Before she moved to another position, the librarian who hired me had a typed card with the following quote by her desk, tacked to a cork board. I thought of the phrase this morning as I started the car to go to work. I was surprised to learn Ogden Nash didn't write it. A Russian novelist named Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote it. Now I have to learn which of his legion of characters said it.

I never have frustrations. The reason is to wit: Of at first I don't succeed, I quit!

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 - 1881)

Mother frowned upon quitting. She said to her children, "Do not give up on anything until you have mastered it". So, often, I hold onto positions until the funding runs out or the contract ends or the downsizing begins. So every morning, as I drive hopefully to work, I wonder if the day will bring the longed for mastery I have pursued according to my lights for almost four decades.

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