Thursday, September 15, 2011

Renovation Ramblings

When I started at my library a little over six years ago, there was a small buzz of excitement in the air - the plans for a long-awaited renovation had been delivered a few weeks before, and everyone was still interested in the new configuration (note that I said "interested" and not "excited" - those who had been in the government's employ for longer than 4 hours knew better). What I saw was that my department would be all over the place during the process, so I purposefully did not bring in a lot of personal items into my cubicle world; no need to decorate the place up only to have to move it all around the universe every two months, I told myself. Six years, three positions and some very full desks later, half of the reference staff has retired or moved on - and the contractors are just beginning the renovation. The hold up was your typical nightmare of problems - contract problems, spending cuts, contracts expiring, squirrels made the contracts into winter nests and had babies in them - you know, the usual excuses. And now - finally - the time is nigh. They've started Doing Things to the building. This building is something like 382 years old (or 70, whatever) and nothing in it is up to code. Nothing in it even works right - except, of course, the librarians. {cough}.
  • Broken boilers? Check. We all have blankets, sweaters and fingerless gloves at our desk.
  • Broken Air Conditioning? Check. We all have ceiling fans, plus at least one fan on our desk. Some of us {ahem} have two. To keep it interesting, however, the A/C also breaks in the other direction - more than one person has been using a space heater on days when the outside temp is over 100.
  • Bad electrical wiring? Check. The power shuts off randomly several times a month. And then there are the days that the fire alarm claims that the building has turned into an incinerator. So far, it's never been accurate, but I'll take it, since it's best that it be wrong in the right way (Aside: "Wrong in the Right Way" is an awesome name for a rock ballad, and I should get paid for it if anyone ever uses it. I'll be sure to sue and use my blog as proof should it come to that).
  • They removed the asbestos last year, though, so we're already on the road to improvement!
The fun news is that the power, heat and air will grow even more unpredictable than usual over the next 18 months, since they're literally replacing everything associated with power, heat and/or air. Which doesn't make me feel very safe and secure about this building in which I've been working for 6 years, but I'm still alive so...that which does not kill me really does make me stronger. The contractors offered us some trailers to use during the Reno. This process is going about as smoothly as could be expected:
  • They offered us three triple-wide trailers to be used by staff until the project is complete. They took us to view them, told us they would reconfigure the temporary walls inside to our specifications, and that we'd have them next week. That was 7 weeks ago.
  • A week later, they said "Three triple-wides? No, no, no. You'll get a couple of single wides. Next week."
  • "Next week" we were told "The two double wides you're getting will be here. Next week".
  • Last week, the original three triple wide trailers were installed behind our building, and we were told that we'd have to deal with moving the plywood walls ourselves. We are librarians, not carpenters, people!
This week, the building started vibrating. Need I mention that buildings - especially ones anchored by the wight of over half a million books - are most assuredly not supposed to shake. I'm told it's because they are compacting the soil for the building addition, in preparation for the concrete foundation. My brain - which is rattling against my skull - is Not Happy with life and desperately wants the trailers to be ready. I'm telling myself that it's like a giant body massage, except that my brain is calling bullshit on that as it jumps around inside my skull like it's playing dodgeball with a demented orangutan. This process is bringing daily surprises to our lives, which I keep telling people keeps our brains youthful. I also keep getting dirty looks immediately after I say that. Ok, so the water main has been accidentally broken into so many times that the toilets always look like they've just been used (you are so very welcome for that visual). And yes, we've been evacuated twice because the contractors created a gas leak. But we'll have a working HVAC system sometime in the future. Optimism, people! They successfully removed the asbestos, remember? Not that I'm holding to the contractor's 18 month estimate. My current estimate is 3 years. I don't know if the Wine Cure will hold out that long - I may become immune - but it will be fun to find out! One thing that made me laugh out loud: Each triple wide trailer has two bathrooms. When we went to take a look at the trailers in the old location, there was a sign on one of the men's restrooms that read something like this:
"Gentlemen: If you need to sit down to complete your task in here, please go to Building 600".

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001.
Being a librarian, that is a date I frequently come across - it's a subject heading, used for both books and also for articles used in the Air University Library Index to Military Periodicals (AULIMP), which my library produces. I guess, as a result of the latter, I've gotten a little immune to what it actually means.
The Professor and I talked today about what we remembered about that day. I was an undergrad - actually, I was due in one of his classes that day. I remember that I woke up and got in the car to go to class, listening to NPR and thinking that the news coverage was about the previous attack on the World Trade Center, because - surely, the US wouldn't be under attack? Surely, it was just a normal day?
After 10 minutes in the car, on my way to class, I realized (ok, belatedly, it was a long night before) that it was happening in real time; it wasn't some kind of anniversary special report. I got to the university and my class was cancelled, so I turned around and went home to the apartment.
I remember calling my mother - I knew none of my family was in New York City, or Washington DC, but I remember needing to hear her voice. I remember standing in my living room, talking to her about what was going on - not the actual words. Just that hearing her voice was all I needed then.
And then I had to work a night shift at the restaurant. It was so quiet. There were few customers, and none of them wanted to be anywhere but the bar - because that's where the TV's were.
I remember being afraid - "what if it's just the first attack? What location is next? What's the new normal?". Living in a small town, in the Deep South, I wasn't in any danger - I'm probably not living where someone would choose to hurt the US. But still, the danger was there in my mind.
I was lucky. I lost no one. But I'll never forget the fear of That Day.