My first part-time job as a high school student was at Winnipeg’s Centennial Library. It’s now much expanded and called The Millennium Library. I’m really hoping it becomes The Sesquicentennial Library when Manitoba celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2020, just because it’s fun to say “sesquicentennial.” Try it. See?
Anyway, I had applied to be a page, one of those people who wheel book-laden carts through the stacks to put all the Danielle Steel books back where they belong. I had the whole Dewey Decimal system down cold, and I was always happy amidst books, so I thought the job would be a perfect fit for me.
I got hired, but not to shelve books. I was assigned to the audio-visual department. In the late ’70s, audio-visual – or AV, to be properly nerdy – meant books-on-tape, VHS videos, and vinyl record albums. Vinyl record albums in their square, skinny covers, tightly packed together on row after row of shelves. Instead of sliding novels, biographies, and weight-loss tomes back onto their ample perches, I was wrecking my cuticles wedging albums back into their little slivers of shelf space.
Then there was the wear and tear that happened to those album covers, what with all the jimmying out of or shoving back into the shelves. (Not to mention whatever mistreatment they were subjected to in the various record-borrowers’ backpacks or basement bedrooms!) When the records were at risk of slipping right out of the bottom of their damaged covers, I’d get stuck in the AV section’s tiny office, taping album covers back together with the guy who was super fond of talking about Chick Corea. Some albums were more popular than others, getting borrowed and returned on a weekly basis. These required more taping. I taped up a lot of Hall & Oates in my time at the Centennial. And Fleetwood Mac. Also Queen. Those covers are imprinted on my mind. So. Much. Hair.
When I wasn’t re-shelving or repairing, I was re-winding. Re-winding is now a lost skill, like butter-churning or repairing things. But books-on-tape and videos had to be re-wound, and because pretty much everyone ignored the “Please Rewind” notes affixed to those tapes and videos, it fell to the diligent pages of the AV section to do the rewinding. You’re welcome, people from the ’70s who couldn’t be bothered.
So, as with every good high school job, I learned a lot about human nature working in the AV section of the Winnipeg Centennial Library. We’re tough on the things we love. When we’re finished with something, there is no rewinding. And even if we don’t get exactly the job we want, we can still learn about Chick Corea.