April 13, 2014

  • Our Public Library

    Rusk County Community Library

    In August 2011 Vernon saw an ad in the Ladysmith News for bids on cleaning the Rusk County Community Library.  He showed it to me and asked if I thought we should bid on it.

    I read the ad.   It listed the job description such as vacuuming the carpet, mopping the floors, cleaning the restrooms, disinfecting the door handles, washing the windows as needed in warm weather……the list went on and on.   I knew that I wouldn’t want the job if I had to be the one responsible to see that it got done three times a week.

    Vernon thought it would be a good job for our children to learn responsibility and to learn to work together.  Besides  we had some  extra medical expenses  so thought the added income would be nice to pay on those bills.   I agreed but told him that I had enough to do without the extra work but if he was willing to help us with the job, I thought it would be a good plan.

    I went to the library with the intentions of finding out a little more about it so we could be somewhat knowledgeable of how much to bid.  Unfortunately, the librarians had been instructed not to disclose any information and would not talk about it.  Even the questions like whether we would be required to buy our own cleaning supplies or if the library had a vacuum cleaner.  If we had to buy the supplies and bring our own vacuum cleaner would definitely make a difference in how much we bid.

    I did a little bit of scouting on my own…..the lower level was open that day so I went down and looked around.  There wasn’t anyone in sight  so I took the liberty to open a couple of doors.  About the second door revealed a janitor’s room complete with a cart with cleaning supplies on it.  There also was a rack with a broom, dust mop and some wet mops besides 2 mop buckets AND a vacuum cleaner.

    OK.  There, I had most of my questions answered.  I returned upstairs and walked around a bit to get an idea how large the place was.  Of course, I underestimated how long it would take a person to vacuum that huge area because I was looking at the amount carpet rather than how the place is laid out.  I thought that it shouldn’t take that long for someone to vacuum it.  After all, surely it didn’t get very dirty.  :-)

    We talked about how much it was worth.  I thought it would be good to put an hourly wage because it would probably take more time on some days  like when we washed windows.  Vernon argued that a flat rate would be better…that way they will know exactly how much to allocate each month for the cleaning.  We compromised in our bid.  I put $?? anhour and Vernon put “Or ?? a month.”  He thought we should ask for more than we did but I was afraid they wouldn’t want to pay that much so he dropped it a couple of hundred from what he had thought we should ask.  Later I wish I had not interfered because he  right, of course.  Also, I found out that our bid was nearly $2,000 less than what the current cleaners were wanting to get!

    We submitted our bid but didn’t hear back right away so figured we hadn’t gotten it.  When Hollis Helmeci called later to tell me that we had indeed won the bid I was surprised.  What we hadn’t known was that the board only meets once a month so we had to wait until that meeting before they decided who they chose.  Hollis did tell me that they had gotten some “dillies” of bids.  I never did find out just exactly what she meant by that but I have been curious, let me assure you.  I did hear of the $3,000+ figure so reckoned that had to be one of them.  :-)

    We received a formal letter acknowledging our contract and we signed it soon after.  When that was signed I went in and Hollis had Jane Shimka give me a tour of the place and Jane explained more of what was required of us.  That was my first contact with Jane who later became my favorite of the staff.

    Instead of getting bonding insurance we made out to come a couple of hours before the library opened to the public and work until 10:00 when they unlocked the doors.   That worked out well for most of the time and by doing it that way we became very close to the librarians and have formed a bond that we never would’ve enjoyed otherwise.   To this day, the library seems almost like a second home and its like a reunion every time we go there.  :-)

    We showed up at 8 AM that first day and were waiting when Hollis arrived to open up for us.  Although we ended up not going quite that early it set the pattern for the next 2 years.

    We weren’t there long until we realized that we definitely underestimated the job.   The vacuuming alone took 2 people 2 hours to do!  The place had a LOT of hidden dirt that had built up over the years so it took us awhile to get it into to shape.  One of the librarians told us that the former company who had been cleaning had been sending 1 woman to do the job alone.  Whoa.  No wonder it was dirty.  There was no way 1 person could manage that job unless she worked  full time at it.  It wasn’t that there was so much carpet, but it was a big job going around all the aisles and desks and stuff.

    We felt a little lost and disorganized at first but eventually we hit a rhythm that worked for us.   Vernon vacuumed the lunch room, the back office where Betty Cowin and Jane works, then out into the main part of the library.  Jonny took the other sweeper and did the two wings.  Usually he started on the West side where the children’s books are first and then to the east side  which is the adult section .  Later, just before we left, he would take the trash out to the dumpster.

    Lavina would unlock the elevator and go down and get the cart and then did the 4 restrooms on the main floor then did the 2 on the lower level.

    Tiana was in charge of sweeping and mopping the lower level.

    Dust mopping lower level

    Dust mopping lower level

    I went around emptying all the trash cans and did the disinfecting job.  That included computer keyboards and mice besides the drinking fountains, railings, door handles, and such like.

    I also did the dusting and made sure the window panes in the front entry were free of finger prints. IMG_8800IMG_8799IMG_8798

    The front foyer. Sometimes I had to dry the floor after I mopped it because it look streaked.

    I often swept and helped mop the foyer and restrooms besides.  Another job I had once a week was pouring a pitcher of water down the drains in the furnace rooms and restrooms.  This was supposed to help keep the smell at bay but I have to wonder if it really was necessary.  It seems that once the cleaning was done right the smell wasn’t all that bad.   The men’s restroom was the worst but their hygiene left a lot to be desired at times.    It took all the the time we had to finish before the door was unlocked for the public.  Many times we were still working on the lower level way past 10.

    Kaity would follow us around or played the children’s nook.  She would “help” the Children’s Librarian, Kris Farley set up for the reading time on Thursday mornings.

    She loved riding the elevator too.   She helped some but mostly loved to sneak up on Kaylene and Mary Jane Minks  and say “Boo!”IMG_7798IMG_7799

    Or being cute.

    Or being cute.

    One of the first things we learned to hate was all the salt and sand drug during the winter.  Since we started in January, we got introduced to that right away.  This was a trial to put it mildly.  Also another trial to our patience was that, although there are floor mats in the foyer so that a person could walk from the front door to the main part of the library without walking on the tiles, it seemed as if a number of persons were afraid they’d dirty the rugs so had to walk around them, leaving muddy tracks all the way in.


    These rugs are heavy duty but a pain to vacuum.  Especially the salt and sand

    These rugs are heavy duty but a pain to vacuum. Especially the salt and sand

    Another biggie was the live plants we had to vacuum around.   They were constantly shedding their leaves and the one stand especially we tried very hard not to bump.  If we did, whoops, there would be a shower of dead leaves to vacuum up.  Occasionally I would take the sweeper hose and vacuum the plant itself to get rid of the excess.  We were glad when at least one of those plants left the premises.  Not sure who has to deal with it now, but for us it was Good Riddance!

    The Tree that went elsewhere.  We didn't mind one bit.

    The Tree that went elsewhere. We didn’t mind one bit.

    The shedding Fern

    The shedding Fern

    Don't bump the pedestal

    Don’t bump the pedestal

    And why, oh why, would someone put a cup  in the trash before dumping the liquid out in the sink first?  Especially in the restrooms?

    Didn't their Mama teach them it was not a good idea to write on walls?

    Didn’t their Mama teach them it was not a good idea to write on walls?

    The librarians claim the building has never been so clean since it was new.  When we asked for pointers on what we could do to improve, Hollis said, “We are still reeling from shock on the good job you are doing!”

    Now that’s reward for a job well-done.

    We really did like our job. The librarians  were all so easy and fun to work for and with.  It became a social thing too.  There was man who would show up at 9:50 everyday, rain, snow or shine.  We called him “Ten til ten” until we finally learned his real name was Joe.  He was one of those people that you don’t judge by outward appearance.  I thought he seemed creepy…he had *gasp*  a ponytail and some tattoos!  But we soon found that he was a very nice guy and before long Kaity didn’t think the job was finished until she went and told him good-bye before we left.  (One example of not judging the book by it’s cover.  :-) )

    Joe aka Ten til ten

    Joe aka Ten til ten

    Then Tiana left in Oct. 2012 and ended up in Guatemala indefinitely.  That really cramped our style as we had to pick up her load too.

    We talked to Hollis about feeling we needed a raise in pay too.  She was very understanding and agreed that we deserved more….the librarians had been telling us that they hadn’t seen the library so clean since it was new.  Hollis didn’t want us to quit as she liked our work and also we were trustworthy too.  So, we compromised.  She said just to come in 2x a week instead of 3.  This would’ve worked better if Tiana had still been with us but doing the job twice a week just didn’t leave us enough time to really do the job as well as we wanted to.  We renewed the contract for the year 2013.

    Toward the end of the year 2013, Vernon got a lot busier with his mechanic shop so wasn’t able to help as often.  By that time I was tired of trying to do it with the help of only 1 or 2 of the children.  When Lavina went to PA for a week and a half and ended up being there a whole month I was so grateful for Liz Miller’s help.  We finally made the decision to let the job go and we were glad that Ted Miller’s ended up getting it.  Liz knew the ropes by the time we turned it over to them so that was a plus.

    There were the weekly Reading sessions with children’s librarian Kris Farley.  Kaity really enjoyed those.

    Kris reading to youngsters

    Kris reading to youngsters


    Someone asked me what perks we had by doing this job.  Not much really, other than the monthly paycheck and maybe getting an edge on the withdrawn books that they send down to the lower level  where these books are for sale for $.25 and up to $2.00.  But I’d say our biggest perk is getting to know the librarians.  Before we started, I thought the head librarian was somewhat intimidating but it didn’t take me long to realize how funny and nice she is.  The more we know these ladies the more I like them.

    One morning as I was sweeping the walk outside I something mentioned to Kris about the nasty Canadian goose residue on the walk.  She nodded and wrinkled up her nose and made some comment about how bad it was.  When I went back into the library, I noticed a hoe propped up inside the door.  That was a new edition to the collection of 3 snow shovels and the special shovel that they have parked there getting in my way.  (The special shovel is the one they used 15 years ago to break the ground for the new library.)  Anyway, I noticed a note taped to the hoe handle.

    Reading it, I got my laugh for the day:   

    I just love Hollis’ sense of humor.  We had a lot of fun times with her and her crew:

      Hollis Helmeci—Can’t you just see the fun in this woman?

      Kayleen   Kris Farley Kris took Nancy Reidner’s place as Children’s Librarian.

    Betty and Lavina are great friends.

      Betty  (Notice Vernon servicing the vacuum cleaner and Lavina getting ready to leave.)

    Last but not least is Jane Shimka, a favorite of mine.  She is such a gentle, sweet woman.

    Sometimes there were staff meetings we had to clean around but they were so gracious.

    Explaining the new system

    Explaining the new system


    Since the budget was tight, one of the ways to help cut corners, we didn’t change the trash bags every time.  Just when they were too dirty to reuse, so, I had to empty them into one bag each time.  In doing so, we found some really strange things in the trash.  We started taking pictures of the odd and weird items and I decided to make a photo blog with what we found.  So here goes:

    It seemed that people used the library trash for their lunches.  Besides the regular McDonald’s,IMG_8789IMG_8348IMG_8349IMG_8320 Dairy Queen and Kwik Trip meals we found other food:

    Chicken bones in the sink

    Chicken bones in the sink

    cheese curd

    cheese curds

    Every day,  the last month or so, I found 2 half full cups of water with lemons in them.

    Every day, the last month or so, I found 2 half full cups of water with lemons in them.

    A banana anyone?

    A banana anyone?

    Or tea?

    Or tea?


    or Vodka?

    or Vodka?








    Do people really eat these straight out of the bag?

    Do people really eat these straight out of the bag?

    I found empty egg cartons beside front door.

    I found empty egg cartons beside front door.

    One of the hardest things I had to see in the trash.  AND for your information, NO I didn't sample it nor did I bring it home.  LOL

    One of the hardest things I had to see in the trash. AND for your information, NO I didn’t sample it nor did I bring it home. LOL  But HOW could anybody throw away something like this?  I think it weighed a whole pound.  A strange kind of stupid in my opinion.  :-)


    Ok, so much for the food department.  What about this stuff?IMG_8368IMG_8461IMG_8372

    mail drop

    mail drop

    Someone forgot his cap.

    Someone forgot his cap.

    How nice.

    How nice.


    Hmmm.  Since when has it became a dressing room?

    It worked.  :)

    It worked. :)

    Why rags?



    I wonder what the result was.


    Whoops.  Maybe it belonged to the same people of the Pregnancy test.

    Whoops. Maybe it belonged to the same people of the Pregnancy test.

    A bag they were using to recycle plastic bags that were too far gone to use. Witmer’s Clothing???? I used to sell sweaters to them when we lived in Guatemala.   Small world indeed.  How did they come by that particular bag?


    Were these supposed to be in the trash or did someone forget them and someone else just pitch them?

    An applause to a librarian that can recognize trash for what it is and take steps to get rid of it.

    As you can see, we found some odd things but a couple of the oddest I didn’t get pictures of.  One was  a package of fishnet pantyhose in the men’s lower level restroom no less.  Another was a bunch of toenail clippings on the floor in the foyer.   But perhaps the weirdest of all was when I was dusting one of the computer cubicles and thought I was cleaning up a bunch (a couple of dozen) of cookie crumbs.  Since the vacuuming hadn’t been done yet, I just raked them off onto the floor and was knocking the last off the desk when I did a double take.  Not cookie crumbs at all but a bunch of dead wood ticks!  Double yuck.   By then they were on the carpet and I wasn’t about to try to scrape them up for a picture.  Made me curious whether someone was actively taking them off of themselves and killing them on the spot or did they have a collection and brought them in to gross out the cleaning personel?  I’ll never know I guess but…..shivers…….

    A few months have gone by since we turned the job over to the Millers and although I love having my extra hours back here at home most of us are honest and admit that we do miss it.  So, if any time you are in the Library and happen to see us milling around back in the staff room you’ll know that we are keeping up our friendship with those wonderful ladies that work there.







Comments (5)

  • Love your blog, cousin! Especially since I’ve worked for our local public library since 1995, the stories are wonderful! Wish there were more!
    Love you!
    You cuz

  • Enjoyed the trip through the library with you! :-)

  • Oh Kim, what a horrible job!. I had no idea it was so difficult for you. You and your family are always so upbeat and happy (well, maybe not Jonny). Thank you for coming in to say “Hello”. I look forward to your visits.

    • Betty, the job certainly had its perks….the best one of course was getting to really know you and the rest of the gang. We learned to love you very much which would not have happened if we hadn’t done it. None of regret doing it and it really wasn’t that bad of a job….and if we could’ve continued we would have. But I couldn’t do it without more help. We miss you alot. :-)

  • …..Memories…..

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