Today’s Hack Library School blog post, Sweat the Small Stuff, stirred up fond memories of my first library job at Southeast branch, Greensboro Public Library. I was a high school junior working 20 hours a week as a library page for $1.25 per hour (it was the early 70’s, and the library system got a special dispensation from the city to pay less than the minimum wage of $1.65 per hour because, well, it was library work).
Monday thru Thursday evenings, I came in and shelved books and read card catalogs and shelves. But on Saturdays, I worked a full 8-hour shift doing “other things,” cleaning the parking lot (teenagers “hung out” in the parking lot in Friday nights and left trash), washing glass doors and windows (the librarians called it “windexing”), and using hot soapy water to clean dust off of shelves. Amazing how much dust accumulates underneath those books! I’d start in the 000’s, and over several weeks make my way to 999, fiction, the reference section, children and juvenile collection, and back to the 000’s. Without doubt, I learned the Dewey Decimal System, but actually physically cleaning each section also conveyed to our patrons the idea that somebody cared about the place, about the books, and about keeping it presentable for library users, or so the librarians assured me.
It has been many moons since I visited that library, now known as the Vance H. Chavis Lifelong Learning Branch Library (Vance Chavis taught my father at Dudley Sr. High and was my principal at Lincoln Street Jr. High (now known as The Academy at Lincoln). Somebody should do a wikipedia page on him). I always thought the building should have been named for Helen Walden, the head librarian who transferred along with the original collection from the Carnegie Negro Library on the Bennett College campus. But Mr. Chavis was on the City Council after his years as a noted educator and I’m certain he worked hard to get and keep the funding for the Southeast branch. Anyway, that’s the way it goes down south. Several years later I visited with Mrs. Walden at her home and she lamented about the books in the original collection that were ultimately destroyed in the consolidation. She smiled when I told her I was planning to retire early and go back into librarianship.
I swiped this photo from the branch website:
p.s. The motto for the branch is “The library in the community and the community in the library.” Sounds rather Ranganathian, doesn’t it? The “first branch” is also home to Greensboro Public Library’s first computer lab and houses what remains of an extensive African-American collection of both fiction and nonfiction.