Assignment: This is an experimental blogging day to try and push your creativity in blogging to the same level that you perhaps push your creativity in the items you create.
Happy April Fool’s Day -
You may think you’re seeing double or experiencing deja vu with this re-run of a former post (originally written in 2002 & recently blogged here), but it fits the theme of today’s assignment … no foolin’!
For the past 20 years my day job has been in the technical services department of a library (my knit & crochet designing takes places in free time–that’s why I call myself a “weekend designer”.) In the article, I described how the behind-the-scenes library workflow echoes the workflow of creating a hand-knit sock. While a lot has changed since 2002, here’s the article as written, which gives you an idea of how materials get from “the back room” out to the shelves and into the hands of library patrons:
T.S. YARNS, or HOW TECHNICAL SERVICES IS LIKE A HAND-KNIT SOCK
You may or may not be aware that the popularity of handcrafts, especially knitting, has increased dramatically over the past few years, as evidenced by an explosion of new books published on the subject. Magazine articles are touting the health benefits of knitting (knitting is the new yoga). Hollywood celebrities are knitting on the set, fiber-related Internet sites are flourishing, and a new acronym has been coined for hip, young, urban knitters (HYUKs). Here in T.S. we have the pleasure of seeing new craft titles arrive, which has inspired several of us to pick up our needles for some relaxation after a hard day’s work. Our most popular project? Hand-knit socks. You may laugh, but remember what Dumbledore said in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: “I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks……One can never get enough socks. Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” What does all this have to do with Technical Services?
Consider the humble sock. Hidden from view, unnoticed most of the time, quietly doing its duty, the lowly sock helps support the body, and is constructed in steps analogous to the workflow in T.S. To begin knitting a sock, you have to cast on some stitches. T.S. staff cast on to their computers early every morning before the branches open. Acquisitions staff cast on to vendor websites searching far and wide for the latest popular print titles, audiobooks, music CDs, CD-ROMS, and DVDs to fill the shelves. The rhythm of a knit2, purl2 ribbing in a sock cuff is echoed in the hum of our computer equipment and fingers tapping the keyboard all day long. Receiving staff start the process of working down the leg of the sock as they unpack stacks of boxes that arrive daily. When they place the new books in rows on carts, a pattern of colorful book spines begins to form. Down the leg they go, taking care of receiving and invoicing processes before moving materials on to the next room: cataloging. More patterns emerge on the journey down the leg (and through the room) as catalogers arrange carts around their desks and begin to thread their way through each item, assuring thorough and accurate cataloging according to standards and current practices.
Then it’s time to turn the heel. Turning the heel of a sock is great fun, and catalogers really enjoy the moment when they finally turn the heel (corner) and wheel a finished cart over to the spine labeling area. Once the heel is turned, we work our way down the foot. A long stretch of plain knitting (and labeling and processing) lies ahead. Shelf labels and genre stickers are applied to the books, then carts ready for final processing head to the finish: processing (the toe). Processors deftly and swiftly tackle that long stretch of plain, repetitive tasks to perform quality control and final processing. Then all the loose ends are gathered up (at the toe), the items are placed in courier crates for distribution, the desks are cleared, the sock is finished, the needles (and book carts) sit empty for just a moment, until we start the second sock……
You may think hand-knit socks are a crazy idea, but I for one know how comfortable they are. We in T.S. strive to provide patrons with that same comfortable feeling–the feeling you get when you hold a new book in your hands, ready to take it home for a relaxing read (if you can knit while you read, all the better). Just like the humble sock, T.S. stays hidden out of view and unnoticed, but we are here doing our duty to support the body of library staff and patrons. So think about Technical Services the next time you put on your socks!
(P.S. Check out the wealth of resources available at your local library on the subjects of knitting, socks, or other crafts by searching title keywords “knitting,” “knit,” “socks,” etc.)
And for inspiration, here is my basic C.O.O.S. sock, shown in various yarns and iterations: