Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Button maker, Extraordinaire

Over the past few days, I have become an expert at button making. That's right--button making. When you all ask me how work is going, I don't know what to say. I have been working on my finding aid for a special collection I'm working on, but with my supervisor being sick these last few days, progress has slowed to an almost imperceptible crawl. Also known as a stop. Today, however, I got to perfect my button making skills. And, if I do say so myself, I'm pretty good! It took me awhile to catch on at the beginning. Miranda showed me how to do it last Friday, going slow for the first two steps, then (accidentally?) speeding up for the rest of the process. As she showed me the finished product I said, "I hope there are printed instructions for this thing too!" There were, and she showed me how to do it again. I produced maybe three good buttons that day, one of which I think ended up in the Director's office. This makes me smile when I think of it, because I was (and to a certain extent, still am) frightened of her. There was nothing about her to make me scared; it was the overwhelming fear of not measuring up to the Big Boss. However, as I took my peace offering of 80s themed buttons, I discovered we were both Anglophiles. This clinched it for me. Before I knew it, we were talking about the joys of England (my love) and Australia(her love) in a conversation that surpassed the depth of a first conversation, which is what it was.

Yesterday, Kate and I made buttons. Mostly, it was because we were bored :) What with Karen, my supervisor, not being in and NOT having Book Cart Drill Team practice (who knew I would miss it?) we were ready for a change of scenery. Once you get the hang of it, you really can make a button in a minute, which is the company's tag line, though they spell it "minit." That bothered Kate. But not me. (Okay, so maybe it bothers me a little...) Frankly, I didn't care what it was called or how they spelled it. the whole processes was soothing. Insert disc. Put image face up on top of disc. Place plastic Mylar cover over image. Lock into place with gold ring. Flip. Grey disc. Green plug. Press down hard, but even. Pop. Remove both grey & green parts. Flip. Press down with red plug. Flip. Put the back in. Put green plug in. Put in button press and smoosh it down. Remove perfect button. I think it was having something "perfect" to show for all the work. Every now and again, when you pressed on the green, no matter how careful you were something went off center and the plastic cover didn't turn out so pretty. Sometimes, everything goes right, but when the button comes out of the press, there is a portion of the button where the plastic didn't get folded right. Some of these were salvageable. Many others weren't.

There is something about this process that I love. But now, as I write these words, I can't help but see a parable in the job of making a button. Sometimes, no matter what we do, things don't turn out right. Sometimes they do. Sometimes it looks like nothing good could come of a situation, but in the end there is a beautiful outcome that we couldn't have predicted. When the bad buttons came out of the press, I made sure I worked harder and more carefully on the next one. Sometimes this still didn't work. But after string of bad buttons, that good button makes you feel like you've accomplished something. Like all the time you put into the duds, you're patience and attentiveness to detail helped you form a better button. One bad situation will show us where we need to be more careful next time. And when the next time comes, hopefully we can make a better button.

In the course of one hour today, I made 150 buttons. While I was busy being the button making queen, one of the reference librarians comes out of her office and starts talking. Two seconds into this, I realize she is taking to me. I start to pay attention. "Cathy said she would be in to see me at 3.30 but she never showed. If she comes in, tell her I'm in the stacks." I told her I would. As soon as she left, I quickly got up and went to one of the women I've gotten to know fairly well. I bent down close and asked in a conspiratorial whisper, "Do I know Cathy?" Thankfully she didn't laugh (or did she? I don't remember. I think I would have. I'm smiling about it now, anyway) She told me who she was and that, yes, I had seen her earlier that day. I returned to my button making, slightly deflated. I can make buttons like nobody's business, but it looks like I need a little bit more practice with getting to know my co-workers!
Last practice for Book Cart Drill Team tomorrow, complete with costumes and an audience. Maybe I'll post the video when we get back from conference :)

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