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It’s Different From Books

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img_0064_edited_cellardoorpressGreetings, all!

As the Guelph Tool Library’s one and only Librarian I felt the professional obligation to blog about my experiences setting up a library that was so different from any I’d previously managed –so different from most libraries managed throughout the history of librarianship.

All my previous experience was with books and media of some sort or another. For my day job I work at the Guelph Public Library. Previously I was instrumental in setting up and maintaining Out On The Shelf’s lending library. With books, DVDs, digital materials, and so forth it’s easy to line up your items –both physical and digital– like little toy soldiers and march them into your catalogue and onto your shelves in perfect order everytime. In fact, librarians kind of get off on it. With books one gets to feel a bit like the Napoleon of your little library world and take pride in knowing that everything is being perfectly presented to the public. With tools, not so much.

I came aboard the team late. For months my colleages Susan, John, and Saba had been doing the hard work of finding items for the collection and a space to house it. My first experience of the Guelph Tool Library was when they led me into a little room in the back of the Trafalgar Building which John figured out was, once upon a time, used to test the appliances once manufactured there. I saw literally hundreds of tools –hand pruners, frying pans, electric drills, weed wackers, and dozens upon dozens of items I couldn’t even put a name to.

My first desire to put everything in the entire room in one corner and then move it –item by item– onto the shelves as it was photographed and fully catalogued was obviously not practical. My second impulse to immediately barcode everything also had to be rethought –how do you stick a barcode on a cast iron frying pan or a ball joint tool?

For someone used to harvesting ISBNs and downloading MARC records to edit and neatly upload by the hundreds, this Tool Library project required something of paradigm shift for me. I needed to abandon my toy soldier expectations and enter the world of guerilla librarianship. In other words, it was going to be fun!

Instead of marching toy solders neatly across a field, I feel more like a squirrel gathering nuts. Go over there and snap a photo of that cool soldering kit. Now upload it. Now swing over there and go through that bucket of rakes to catalogue them all individually. Good, now head on over to the Cooking & Food shelves to etch item numbers on all the pots and pans to make checkout quicker. Then comb the internet to find an operating manual for that bandsaw. Got it! Now upload it and link it to the catalogue record. Someone just returned a food dehydrator with an important usage note. Better add that to the catalogue so the next person borrowing it has that information. Now I can do those website updates we decided upon at the last meeting.

For now, I will summarize my experience thus far by sharing my alternate title for this blog post: “How I Learned to Stop Marching Armies and Fell in Love With Chasing Nuts.”

“Squirrel!”     😉

–Brandon, Librarian @ Guelph Tool Library