The job involves a lot of checking the library online catalogue, and it's funny how much I find myself enjoying this. I've been trying to analyse the pleasure.
There's always something very pleasing about a facility-- and I mean this even in the crudest sense of "the facilities". Is anything more pleasing than a clean, well-kept public rest room (I like the American expression), especially in a place where you might not expect to find one?
On the other end of the scale, I find myself thinking of the only four-star hotel I've ever visited-- on my honeymoon, in Germany. The hotel had a swimming pool and sauna, downstairs. There was a sign beside them announcing that, if you wanted a drink, you could call up to reception to have one brought down to you. That's always stuck in my head as the acme of luxuriousness, for some reason. I didn't avail of it, but it was luxurious knowing that I could.
Another thing that delights me about hotels-- any hotel-- is the knowledge that the hotel reception is open all through the night, that you can phone down and somebody will be available. There's something very comforting about it-- it reminds me of the title of the Smiths song, "There is a Light that Never Goes Out".
Have you ever noticed that there is nothing more luxurious than having just what you need, or having a little bit of comfort, especially if you are in some kind of confined or limited situation? I notice this especially on airplanes. Perhaps it is the contrast between the mild discomfort and confinement of the flight, and the fact that you actually have a surprising amount of facilities available to you-- books, radio, movies, air hostesses pressing food and drink on you, a view from above the clouds. and so on. I never had a tree house or went camping but I imagine this must be the appeal of such activities, or much of it.
But again, Chesterton said it best, in a discussion of Robinson Crusoe:
Crusoe is a man on a small rock with a few comforts just snatched from the sea: the best thing in the book is simply the list of things saved from the wreck. The greatest of poems is an inventory. Every kitchen tool becomes ideal because Crusoe might have dropped it in the sea. It is a good exercise, in empty or ugly hours of the day, to look at anything, the coal-scuttle or the book-case, and think how happy one could be to have brought it out of the sinking ship on to the solitary island.
Anyway, this is the pleasure I get from using the library catalogue. And not only the pleasure of its convenience and usefulness, but the realization that it was built up over untold man-hours (and, indeed, lady-hours) of my colleagues entering catalogue records. (I don't do cataloguing.)
Some years ago I arranged and catalogued the private library of a retired Supreme Court judge. It might be the only job I've ever done where I was completely responsible for everything from beginning to end, with no fall-back. The sight of all the neatly arranged volumes on the shelves gave me a thrill. Not only that, but it made me more cognisant of all the work that goes into everything we see around us-- from the paving stones on the street, to the people standing on the paving stones, all of whom had to be carried, born, raised, schooled etc.
So, though the job is quite tedious, it has its benefits. And so far I've been working through political science books, which are endearingly nerdy.