Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Loo Legacy

So, way back in 1993-1994, I was the Coordinating Library Associate for the Green Lake Branch of the Seattle Public Library, working for the Managing Librarian, the incomparable Toni Meyers. My primary job was borrower service and supervision of the clerks, but I seemed to spend an awful lot of time on those other duties as assigned, such as going up into the cupola and laying down a black tarp over the skylight to block the summer sun and climbing onto the room dividers to secure (and subsequently dress for each season) a six-foot Curious George doll.

I can recall that at one point during a shelf-read, Toni and I decided that some additional signage would be nice - little things, like Car Repair Manuals over the 629s and other small touches that would help with frequently-sought categories. We had no extra budget for signage, of course, and the library did not yet have a color printer (although we were installing our first public-use PCs), so I made the signs at home on my household color printer, a clunky $600 HP that my girlfriend's father had given her as a present. I don't know how many ink cartridges I went through to make all those green-on-yellow signs - or why I didn't use colored paper! - but I duly printed them all, cut them out, and glued them to stiff backing.

In addition to the signs over the collection areas, I wanted one more. The branch had a single-occupancy public restroom. It was kept unlocked, and users could lock the door for privacy when inside. Confusion would arise when someone tried to use the restroom when it was occupied: they would find it locked and come to the desk to get the key, presuming it was kept locked. Then someone would have to explain that there was no key, that someone was in the restroom, and that they had to wait. Sometimes, when the explainer was me, I would see over their shoulder that the person using the restroom had come out, which meant that they didn't have to wait, but made the explanation even more confusing. (No, that just meant that someone was in there, but they're gone now, so go back and it will be open.)

Ever interested in efficiency and service, I made up this little sign and affixed it to the restroom door. It seemed to do the trick and cut down on patron confusion quite a bit.

I left the library - and Seattle - in November of 1994. SPL underwent a massive capital improvement project beginning in 1998 with the Libraries for All campaign, and the Green Lake Branch was shut down in 2004 for several months of extensive remodeling. The checkout counter was completely redesigned and the building was modernized a bit while keeping the classic style of a 1910 Carnegie library.

Somehow, in all that hoorar, the restroom door was restored intact, and with it, my sign. Even though the door has been retrofitted with one of those VACANT / OCCUPIED signs that switches when you throw the lock, my helpful hint remains on the door over two decades after installation.

That's not much of a legacy, I suppose, but it is something.

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