March 25, 2008


One of my summer jobs was shipping books from a publisher to bookstores. We used old newspapers to pad the boxes, and I was always amazed by the number of interesting news articles I would discover while wrapping a shipment for delivery ! I found out much later that most shipping operations specifically don't use newspapers for packing material for exactly this reason !
I was reminded of that productivity hurdle this morning while retrieving some books from the stacks for a client's request. As I pulled one of the books from its place I couldn't help notice a curiously bound volume on the shelf below with the intriguing title "Final Engineering Report on the Restoration and Preservation of Lake Minnetonka and Minnehaha Creek". What really caught my eye was the author's name above the title : "Wirth".
Around my house, that name is held in very high regard. Theodore Wirth was the Minneapolis Landscape Architect that laid the foundation for our city's wonderful park system. As a result of his foresight we enjoy a wonderful series of public spaces arranged in a "Grand Rounds" that my family and I travel by bicycle nearly year-round. So here was something by Wirth himself ! Of course, I couldn't resist.
What I found inside the carefully bound pack was a typewritten manuscript and accompanying maps. The conclusion of the report even bore the signatures of the report's authors: Theodore Wirth, Sven Norling and H.W. Lathrop. What a find ! I added it to the stack of books going back to the office, where I checked it out to myself, and added it to the other "gems" on my desk that I like to review when I have a spare moment.

February 8, 2007

offbeat ? well, maybe...

You think by now I would have learned.... but even after all this time, my incredulity at what patrons request is often eclipsed by what we can provide ! Simply, I’m often amazed by what we have in the University Libraries.. for example, the other day we had a request for an OPEC press release, from 1968 ! “ Oh Brother ! “ I thought.. but then… “holy cow ! “ … Not to worry, we have OPEC official resolutions and press releases in the Government Publications section. Two and a half hours later, the client had it in hand. Simply amazing.

I think I’ll throw that in the offbeat file, where I’ve stashed a few selected “gems?, offbeat and eyebrow raising articles we’ve retrieved over the years, including the article entitled “The perfect flush?, concerning commodes.

" No job too small ! "

“.. no job too small ! “

Every now and then you’ll see those flyers stapled to the lightpole in the neighborhood, advertising handyman services. You know, “carpentry, plumbing, wiring – build, design, remodel, repair – “No job too small“. They usually have all the phone number tabs on the bottom ripped off, because as any homeowner will tell you, everybody’s got a boatload of pesky small jobs they just can’t get done...

I was reminded of those posters the other day when we had a flurry of jobs that demonstrated how we fill a similar role for librarians and information professionals – like those neighborhood handymen, we’re often called upon to perform those pesky “small? jobs.

For example, a patron needed to confirm a word appears on a certain page of a particular edition of a dictionary. Another called wanting confirmation that the page numbers of a 600 + page thesis from 1956 skip from 255 to 257. (Remember the manual typewriter days ? (No automatic page numbering !) oh, and Yes, there was no page 256 !) Another caller asked us to locate and send just one graph from a 1935 Bulletin of the University of Washington Engineering Experiment Station.