This week we begin in earnest our renovations. While we have been at it since mid-May, this week marks the first week of really noticeable goings-on. And this sort of work will continue, off and on, probably through the month of July. While there isn’t much in terms of “real” construction to our renovations — really it’s a remodeling — you’ll notice the sounds, not of silence, but of drilling, smells, hammering, and so on. This week (specifically Wednesday, or thereabouts) core drilling begins.
Now I know nothing at all about construction and doing handy things about the house. No, this isn’t false modesty about superlative talents, nor am I trying to forestall any spousal requests for summer projects. Rather, my modesty is, if anything, literary. When Boswell is commenting to the inimitable Johnson about a common acquaintance, he remarks to the great bard that, “There goes a modest man.” To which Johnson quickly replies something like, “Indeed, sirrah, for he has much to be modest about.” That sums up my factotum’s modesty nicely: I have much to be modest about in this regard.
I cannot take full responsibility, however. Just most. I grew up in a home where my late father, God bless him, could do many, many things. He remains to me one of the most intelligent individuals I have ever had the pleasure to know. But he, too, could not fix anything much at all. Where we differed is a single instance of self-knowledge: I know I cannot fix anything; for him, however, hope sprang eternal. We kidded him unmercifully about a door he planed–again and again–to accommodate the then in vogue famous, or rather infamous, shag carpet in our den. The joke was that you could watch television from the adjoining room… with the den door shut. My father did not like that joke much, though now that I think about it, he did love jokes at my expense.
But I digress. Core drilling involves a fairly large drill, noise and water. About two dozen or so holes will be drilled in our main floor to make way for computer connections and power to same. I have no idea how to do core drilling (or how to hammer a nail straight, for that matter). But from what I have learned, it involves taking largish cores of concrete from the floor with a drill and water to cool the drill bit. Now I worry a bit about the potential of a Swiss cheese look to the floor of a 44-year old building some, but not nearly as much as I do when the word “water” is mentioned. The mention of water instills real fear.
Not that you would, of course, but if you wanted to talk dirty to a librarian, all you’d have to do is say some specific words. No, not four-letter words. In fact the one four-letter word that comes to mind — fire — is a four letter word, of course but it isn’t exactly dirty. It excites librarians because it is almost always accompanied by two other words, neither of which are four letters: water and smoke. Those are real, honest-to-goodness dirty words. Core drilling that involves water raises the heartbeat and the blood pressure a bit when told to a bookman.
All of which is to say that this is one reason why our basement is closed to patrons. It’s conceivable that the water could come through to the basement below. To avoid that, tarps will be placed over our shelves to protect our books and other materials. Library staff will gladly retrieve materials for you should you need them from our collections located in the basement. We’re sorry for the inconvenience but don’t hesitate to ask. We’re open for business and we’ll get you what you need.
I might mention one word of caution or potential consternation. Don’t be surprised to see someone greet you at the door in flippers, a wetsuit, goggles and a snorkel. Just kidding. I mention it, however, because the building will have many things going on, one of which is smells. The smells can be too pungent for some. Many of you may not notice anything at all but some of you may find the smells distracting, as have some of our staff already. Last week when beams were being taken from the building with blow torch, et al, I returned from a meeting (lucky me!) to find half the staff had donned surgical masks. I know them to be smooth operators but this took even me by surprise.
So, regardless of what you find greeting you at the door, know that we are trying to make sure you get what you need when you need it while you’re in the library. Our work may seem unconventionally configured in these renovated times, and our dress not even traditional. But the fact of the matter is that we are all troopers and we’re trying to make sure the disruption to your work is as minimal as it can be, given the circumstances. Like the proverbial mailperson (of yesteryear, not now), through rain, sleet, snow or hail (or smelly smells, or thunderous noises), we are here to help.
And that — service — really is one of our core values.