Librarianship and the Art of Metal Fabrication


Gaylord Brothers does not sell double bottoms to their metal shelving separately. That particular fact becomes important later.

For the present, suffice it to say I had an interesting summer. For the first five weeks of the break, I fulfilled the “in sickness” portion of my marriage vows tending the needs of my beloved wife who had Achilles tendon reconstruction the day after school let out for summer. I cleaned house, cooked, grocery shopped, and did anything else she pointed to from her invalid’s bed in the recliner.

After seeing Budge safely down recovery road, I journeyed down to my school to check out the damage. Our district closed our sixth grade center at the end of last school year. The stated cause was insurmountable maintenance issues but in actuality, such things are not discussed with those of my pay grade. All I needed to know in the matter was I would have nine more teachers to love and spoil as well as over a hundred more students.

I was so naive.

My trusted assistant and general right hand Chris had already been by the school. He knew I had written grant on top of grant to update the collection and, if I must say, three years of hard work and weeding had paid off in a tight, up to date (2003 on Follett’s Titlewave) and mighty goodlooking collection. He told me to double my “happy pill” dosage for a few days before coming down . . . just to be safe. I was filled with trepidation as I entered the library, and I was not disappointed.

In the center of the library floor, from wall to wall to wall to wall, was a solid cube of cardboard Walmart layaway boxes in various states of disrepair stacked three high. Some had labels like “Fiction A-Be.” Some didn’t. I looked the situation over, assessed it carefully, then sat down in the floor and wept like a baby.

After voicing my misery, I asked Chris to meet me the next morning and at eight o’clock A.M., fortified with Diet Pepsi and sausage biscuits, he and I set to the task of pouring the proverbial ten gallons of liquid into the proverbial five gallon bucket.

It’s germane to note our library was originally an auditorium with floor to ceiling southward facing windows. To save money, our district administration had decreed in May no air conditioning would be turned on during the summer  . . . 120 degrees and 90+% relative humidity. Dante’s Sixth Circle of Hell.

We finished half the first stack and realized that, as much as we loved the airy feeling of using just the middle three shelves, we weren’t going to have enough room. So we stripped the shelves and started over using four shelves. We finished the entire first stack and realized we still wouldn’t room. So we stripped the shelves again and began using all five shelves and turning our light airy stacks into ponderous enclosing walls.

We put the hardcovers on the shelves we had started with, but the paperbacks, picture books, and Spanish language sections remained. Journeying to the former sixth grade center, we found an older set of wooden shelves to house our Spanish books and picture books. We’ll eventually paint the shelves to match the half-wall they abut so they will look more like a natural outgrowth of the wall — a tumor-like, bulbous growth — but an outgrowth nonetheless.

All that remained was the paperbacks. That’s when I had an epiphany. We had two empty single shelves in the back room. They were meant to be wall-mounted, but, I thought, could easily be converted to double-sided freestanding stacks. They were essentially the same design, we just needed a double bottom in place of the supplied single bottom so we could put shelves on both sides. Problem solved. Full of renewed confidence, I called Gaylord Brothers only to be told that they did not sell double bottoms separately from the shelving units. Our simple, elegant solution was shot full of more holes than the Bonnie and Clyde death car.

Now I was no longer sad. I was no longer aggravated. I was hot and miserable, with rivulets of sweat pouring out of every pore to trickle down and pool in unmentionable places. I would have my double bottom come Hell or high water.

I had opposable thumbs and power tools.

I ripped the two bottoms from the single units, grabbed the five pound engineers’ hammer we keep in the library, and began bending metal with a cacophonic combination of blows and curses. Then, I got my drill and found a pack of self-tapping sheet metal screws.

I LOVE self-tapping sheet metal screws.

An hour, one bruised thumb, and lots of loud noises later, I had the double bottom Gaylord Brothers won’t sell. Our paperback section is handsomely displayed on our new, if somewhat Frankensteinian, shelves and the tic I developed on first seeing the mountain o’ books has all but subsided, proving once again very few problems cannot be solved in some way by the judicious application of a big enough hammer and self tapping sheet metal screws.

One response »

  1. Hee, hee, hee. Ah my most beloved quote from Phil Schlecty–>”Beat it to fit, paint it to match!” Of course he is referring to school reform, but it so aptly fits here. Bravo on the accomplishment….or is it? Do share when you re-analyze the newly merged books into your 2003 collection. I am dying to see what effect it has. Of course maybe you weeded as you shelved them. I personally would have had a good old fashioned book burning with them paperbacks! OMG I didn’t really mean it that way. “Give it away, give it away…” I can hear the song in my head even now ( a song I hate actually) but not near as much as I hate paperback books.

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