Control Freakery

Is it possible to forget everything you’ve learned in 11 days?

That was the question I pondered on Tuesday morning when I returned to work following some much-needed annual leave. Having just been introduced to some fundamentals of the cataloguing process, had I jeopardized my development by sunning myself in the south of France?

Well, not quite, though it took me until Wednesday afternoon for the mental gears to kick in.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had to focus my attention upon learning something completely new which is as complex and complicated as this. I feel like I’ve enrolled on a foreign language course, and as with learning a new language, the grammar and syntax are simultaneously nuanced and specific; except I don’t have 6 months to build up slowly and at my leisure. I’m in a professional working environment, I have books (and, as of this week, theses) which are needed for students to use, and I’ve got to get to grips with the practicalities of my role (and effectively cataloguing itself) now; which is as exciting as it is challenging. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling under a little pressure; the fact that I’m part of a team of two (well, possibly three, we’re not sure at the moment- I’ll explain later) means that it’ll become very obvious very quickly if I’m the poorly performing cog in the wheel.

In other news, I’ve lost control of my desk. I’m a bit obsessive about working structures, patterns and tidiness and I need to establish how I work. I have to have things in certain spaces, arranged a certain way. The geography of my desk helps with the geography of my mind. When my desk looks messy, you can rest assured my mind is too. At the moment, my desk starts neat at 9 and has descended to anarchy by 5. My target for next week is to sort out how I’m working in order to work better. If my physical space is taken care of, hopefully my mental space is too.

Finally, Thursday witnessed an almighty numerical fail, when my manager attempted to explain to me our system for generating control numbers for items without ISBNs. It’s a very sensible, simple, straightforward system using basic, easy to understand numbers arranged in a particular order.

Unfortunately, when my eyes see numbers, and when my ears hear numbers, my brain does a number.

Thankfully, events descended into hilarity as we both saw the funny side; but for a moment it felt like any veneer, any mere semblance of intellect, capability and professionalism disintegrated instantaneously.


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