How Strategic Pruning Can Improve Your Crop

In the fall of 2007 my son, a teacher at Galileo, mentioned that their librarian was on vacation and the substitute was drowning in new books.

The sub had posted a request for staff help in shelving the new books before Back to School night.  My son passed this word on to me because he figured I, as a retired librarian, might have some free time and know how to do this.  Most of my recent volunteer time had been spent on raising money for Solano County Library Foundation, so the thought of actually getting my hands dirty again (literally) made me swoon with excitement.  Even the 1.5 hour drive and the dearth of parking didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

My first look at Galileo High School, and then the library,  made me want to verify that I was indeed at a California public school.

The Early California architecture, the open courtyard, the exquisite detail in the ceiling beams of the library, all made my heart soar.



A closer look at the books in the library made me ponder my location again. The depth and breadth of this collection would make most small public libraries look anemic in comparison.  The librarians at Galileo had developed a selection of books that would answer the questions and research needs of a large and diverse community of users.  As I looked closer I realized that the collection was so large that it was overflowing its shelves. Stacks of books sat on the floor. The top surface of every shelf and window ledge was covered.  The center of the large library tables displayed selections of books in small book racks. Books were everywhere and not always where they should be!

Todd Berman, the substitute in the library, was thrilled to have a volunteer who actually knew the Dewey Decimal system and put me right to work shelving non-fiction.  That first day I shelved hundreds of books.  Our goal was to get all the books off the floor so periodically I would have to slide books closer together and shift other books into the newly opened space.  This often involved going from a higher shelf to a lower shelf and vice versa so, by day’s end, my quads had the same workout as 6 hours on the slopes.  But the floor was clear and the library was presentable enough for Back to School night.

During the 2007-2008 school year I made about a dozen trips to Galileo to help Mr. Berman with various library projects. During that time I also met Patrick Delaney via phone and e-mail conversations.  Mr. Delaney had some intriguing ideas about tele-teering (volunteering from home) but I wasn’t altogether willing to give up spending time in this beautiful building and with this remarkable collection of books. So, I am again joining the vast sea of commuters about twice a month in order to help Mr. Delaney with the most misunderstood job in libraryland:  weeding.