Other duties as required

I was going to write this post last year; it was going to be very witty and all. But then Christmas came up and now I’ve forgotten all the scintillating sentences I’d composed while working with two of my colleagues to move several stacks’ worth of books en masse one stack to the right. The “other duties as required” part came into it because we had the cleaners’ vacuum cleaner out and as the books moved from one stack to the next, the tops of them got vacuumed on the way; this amused me.

The reason I’m writing the post now is that we’ve just done the same thing again, with another three stacks of books and Bible-weight journals covered in dust thick enough to grow potatoes in. (We didn’t vacuum this time due to time pressures.) It’s the sort of process that looks incredibly daunting to start with, and 30+ Celsius temperatures don’t help, but what does help is:

  • teamwork. Everything’s more fun when you’ve got a colleague around to mock for breaking a shelf. (That shelf was trouble, and I got mocked in turn for breaking it myself.)
  • music. Last year we played the Beatles, this year a mixture of opera and some more modern stuff which the heat has caused me to forget, although a scary rock version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” is niggling at my mind. Music really helps, especially when one of your colleagues can be relied on to entertain us with his dance moves.
  • a break halfway through. Tea/coffee/water, chili chocolate, plums/crackers, and zoning out.
  • paper darts. Thoughtfully left for us in the stacks by years of engineering students.
  • workflow. Last year’s effort involved condensing the shelves as we went so one person loaded a booktrolley at one end, another vacuumed, and another unloaded it at the other end. This year we were just moving things straight across, so we worked in pairs, passing books through stack A to the librarian putting them on the same shelf on stack B.
  • soap. For the hands that inevitably turned black.
  • sorbets. Brought in for us when we’d completed by our thoughtful manager. Callippo All-fruit (or something like that; here endeth the product placement) mango flavoured; mmm!

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