I freely admit that I love books. All books. I love novels, non-fiction, technical books, atlases, …… I just love books.
Books are tactile, they have heft. They have presence. And I tend to keep technical books…so they have history.
A few years ago the federal government, under the previous government, made a terrible decision to close libraries. The fisheries library in my building was closed and many books were slated for the garbage. I saved as many as I could in the fields that are of interest and use. And I saved some wonderful old versions of modern books. Fish identification books from the 1950’s, fish physiology books from the 1970’s, and so on. Old information is not dead information, in many cases it is the information and knowledge that current information is built on and in the sciences, that history is a little bit sacred, and it puts current and new information into context, which is very important.
But the majority of my library is composed of books that I paid for out of my own pocket, mostly when I was truly a poor starving grad student. Many thousands of dollars of specialized technical texts that I still refer to, often.
A few years ago the government engaged in a “paper reduction exercise”. They gave Brownie points to programs that got rid of kilograms of paper. They left boxes for us to fill and measured them. Mine wasn’t very well used. I don’t print much and I have virtually no files in file cabinets. My three file drawers at work contain a couple of pairs of shoes, a colleague’s laptop (she is on casual and comes in a few times a week and sees no purpose in carrying the laptop back and forth), and a drawer with three folders containing travel receipts, overtime sheets, current credit card receipts and statements. That’s it.
I do have a binder for each of my projects. But that’s about it.
And then there are my books.
I measured them a few years ago, for a reason, at that time I have about 30 linear feet of technical reference materials.
Then, during this “paper reduction exercise” someone came into my cubicle with a tape measure and started to measure my bookshelves.
“What’cha doing?” I asked?
“Oh, measuring how much paper is in the office for the paper reduction exercise” he said.
“Step away from my books and out of my cubicle…” I said. “I paid, personally, out of my own pocket, for all of those books, and some of them are worth over four hundred dollars each.”
“But you can get all that information on the internet!” he said.
“No, no you cannot” I replied. “And even if I could, the efficiency of doing so when I need a specific pertinent piece of information is a stupid waste of time and effort, and that time and effort is paid for by taxpayers dollars, I don’t like to waste taxpayers dollars, or my time.”
He didn’t get it. People who don’t work with scientific information rarely do. They sometimes think the ‘interwebs’ carry all the knowledge that’s fit to know, and that it’s all true.
In the end I was left alone.
For a while.
Then Workplace 2.0 came along and some genius decided that we all had to give up our bookcases, our overhead storage shelves, and could keep no more than three bankers boxes of things from our cubicles. We were told it would foster collaboration and communication. The problem is that none of us were hired to be collaborative workers. Our jobs involve focused work, thinking, processing, researching. Not sitting around a table for hours on end brainstorming. When we need to do that we go to a room so we don’t bother others. Workplace 2.0 was the exact opposite – no barriers, constant noise, and if one needs quiet then one is to go to a small (former meeting) room. Talk about a plan to make productivity plummet. Some genius, in a corporate office in Ottawa, came up with a harebrained idea that everyone should work under the same conditions, regardless of the nature of their work, or the nature of their work habits.
That went over like a landmine and I raged against it. Eventually, since no reasonable solution was presented, I moved it all out and to a hatchery down the road from my home, where the manager had offered me a little room upstairs. Small, cosy, quiet, isolated……perfect!
I cleaned the room out, bought some bookcases, a lamp, they found me a telephone, someone put the hatchery laptop in there for me so I could log into the network (can’t do that on a personal laptop)….I just about cried with happiness. It is my little slice of peaceful heaven, a place where I can go and read and think and write in peace and quiet…mostly. The peace and quiet gets shattered once in a while when a water flow alarm goes off somewhere in the hatchery.
My new desk at the office downtown was a nightmare. Distracting, noisy, empty, devoid of the tools I needed to respond to the people asking me for help and information. Normally I could have spun around, reached for a specific book in which I knew the answer lay, and had a response in a timely manner. But now I found myself having to utter the phrase “I’ll have to get back to you tomorrow, or in a couple of days”. My frustration grew even though I had a space to go. I still wanted the contact with my co-workers, but I also wanted to be functional at what I do. There was no point in being downtown if I never got anything done.
Then a coworker moved to the Island and gave up his desk next to mine, in a corner, more out of sight and not in a spot with crazy activity as my desk was. A new manager. I asked, a little bit of back and forth, and with enough rationale on my part I was allowed to move, and I was able to move a filing cabinet out, and someone found me a bookcase.
Things were looking up and I moved a few of my references back downtown.
The downside now is that I have things in two locations, and that gets a bit frustrating sometimes, but it’s manageable, because I managed to defend my books, the very things I need to support me in my work, and I’m a little less on display, which has reduced the stress by an order of magnitude.
Books….they are very personal to me.
118 Photos in 2018 – 113. Geometric Shapes