Dedication. Great co-workers. Excellent customer service, so your customers will want to come back. Dealing with adversity, and with change. Contributing to making Boulder Public Library (BPL) an enjoyable community center, a repository of materials and information, and a fun place to work. These are a few things that come to mind as I think about my being a BPL employee for 16 years.
I started work, part-time, at BPL in 1999, and retired (from the City of Boulder and from BPL) when I was 66, on December 1, 2015. I'd completed a Ph.D. in English literature at CU-Boulder, way back in 1986, couldn't land a teaching job in academia anywhere in the U.S.A., and so I had to start over. I worked several retail jobs (for a whopping salary of $6-$8/hour) for 60-70 hours per week, and then continued working retail AND at BPL. After years, I was finally making enough of a salary at BPL that I could quit retail work altogether, and just work 40 hours per week at BPL.
I was extremely relieved by this, and thus was also extremely motivated to do the best I could at BPL.
I started working in Circulation. The check-out desks were two glass-wall-separated areas located by the windows on the first-floor south side of BPL and at an angle to the staircase leading up to the second floor. We faced a row of public computers, and the Children's area, which was open and always very noisy. When a patron arrived, he/she would walk through a room with public computers along both walls, and then into an area with even more computers and with no books visible and with children yelling. It was not a little daunting and confusing.
There was also a large aquarium, there, right by the entranceway to Children's. People of all ages stopped to look at the aquarium, especially because there were live trout, inside. I once heard a patron tell his friend, "I want to take one of those trout out of there, and take it home and cook it for dinner."
At the Circ desks, we had huge, ungainly computers, hard-to-read white screens with blue letters, and we had to grip items and slide them back and forth on "desensitizing" blocks, so items wouldn't beep when the patron walked past two "detectors" on his/her way out. Those constant gripping and sliding motions led to carpal and tendinitis issues.
After a time, and because I had a background in music and movies as well as in English, I was hired for an additional 10 hours per week at the Reader's Advisory Desk, near the CDs and movies (VHS, then) areas, where the ramp now leads up to the Children's department and then the Seeds Café. And later, I gained another 10 hours per week in Tech Services, way over by the Canyon Theatre, the duties in Tech Services being processing all incoming materials for shelving, and creating a computer item record (NOT complete cataloging) for each item. I was now finally up to 40 hours per week--and I had THREE different supervisors. I had to fill out three timesheets for each pay period!
But I also got to do fun things, such as set up music-CD displays for all incoming patrons to pass by as they arrived (it was very successful, with patrons grabbing CDs from a "Great Jazz" or "Classical-Music Favorites" or etc. display), and to be on the collections committee that selected music CDs for the entire BPL CD collection. And in August, 2009, on the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, BPL showed the movie WOODSTOCK, and the Library Director let me send a slang-filled "hippie" e-mail to all the staff, inviting them to bring the friends and families and see WOODSTOCK at BPL. Far OUT, man!
Over the years, there were a lot of changes at BPL. VHS-format movies bit the dust. In fact, BPL held a VHS-sale, in order to clear the shelves for new DVDs. In 2013, a huge Materials Handling machine was installed in the basement, at Main. We called the machine "the monster," because it made weird noises as it sorted returned items on a conveyor belt and then pushed them by category (novels, non-fiction, DVDs, CDs, etc.) into bins. In 2014, BPL implemented placing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags (small squares or circles) in EVERY item in the entire BPL collection. And we in Tech Services got to do a LOT of RFID tag-placing.
And then there were those incredible six days of hard, heavy rain, in 2013 with severe flooding. BPL Main spans Boulder Creek, and the creek looked like a raging Mississippi River filled with debris. I thought the whole building might float away. But BPL stayed open, and in fact served as a communications center during the rains and floods.
There was also the $4.5 million total renovation of BPL Main, that was completed in April of 2015. The Fiction section and Children's were "reversed" (Fiction now where Children's was; Children's now in an enclosed space where Fiction was), all the public computers were moved upstairs to the second floor, a lot of open-visibility space was created, and the café space was made (no new café, yet, at that point). It was truly a mess even getting into the building and working there, for quite a while, but when it was all completed, BPL Main was extraordinarily improved.
There were also controversies, such as about questionable art exhibits, and the placement of American flags inside and outside of BPL Main. As part of our duties, we in Circ handled the phone switchboard, and frequently had to deal with the public deluging BPL with phone calls about some controversy.
I was also fortunate to be President of the Boulder Municipal Employees Association (BMEA), from 2011-2014. I was part of a BMEA team that negotiated a contract (salaries, health care, many benefits) for 450 (of 1300 total City of Boulder employees) BMEA employees, including up to 50 BPL-BMEA workers. It was quite a challenge to be BMEA President, the BMEA rep for BPL, AND a BPL employee.
And lastly there was a job structure change-up at BPL Main in 2014, and I spent my concluding year prior to retiring working as a shelver--er, as a Materials Handler--at BPL. So over my 16 years at BPL, I had the opportunity to work in FOUR different departments.
But through all of the above, during my 16 years at BPL, I recognized that I was privileged to be working with some dedicated, great co-workers. Everyone offered first-rate customer service, and yes, our customers DID come back. I and my co-workers dealt with adversity and change, and I hope I contributed to making BPL an enjoyable and successful community center, an excellent repository of materials and information, AND a fun place to work.
It was a memorable 16 years. And BPL was, and still is, "the place to be."