Senior Ethan Cloutier has spent the past three and a half years sorting books and keeping the Stacks’ micro-universe in sync.
But like most student workers at Richter Library, his hard work goes underappreciated in the pin-drop silence of over-caffeinated students studying and writing papers.
Cloutier is a student supervisor for the 16 student workers in the Stacks who maintain the more than 3 million books at Richter.
Most students will scope the Stacks during their time at UM – either for a quiet study nook or specific literary journal – but Cloutier explains that Stacks student workers are not always treated cordially.
“I’ve been shushed and yelled at for being too loud,” he said. “I’m just putting books away, listening to my iPod, doing my job. It gets worse around finals.”
Still, the Stacks workers don’t get discouraged, with most students holding their jobs until they graduate.
The workers are paid almost $9 an hour.
“It’s convenient,” Cloutier said. “You can keep to yourself, build your own schedule, work between classes and listen to music – with headphones on of course.”
None of the workers at the Stacks are English majors.
The only thing they share in common: they all sport headphones.
“I didn’t know what libraries were. I knew about books though,” Cloutier joked. “I never particularly wanted to work in a library. My mom told me that I needed to be working here during one of the tours you go on in high school, and I filled out an application and started working in the fall.”
Junior Zoe Brown has worked in the Stacks for the past three years.
She agrees that her colleagues do not all fit the gawky, awkward student librarian stereotype.
“There are people like Ethan who are hilarious, non-stop making jokes and then others who are more anti-social,” Brown said. “Whether you prefer to be by yourself or with others, you can make it work here.”
Almost as diverse as the students are the different scenarios that they have come across during their shifts.
“I remember there was this one girl who moved in during finals,” Brown said. “She had a pillow, sleeping bag, cereal, all in a cubicle on the fourth floor.”
Cloutier said he has heard about some more provocative happenings.
“I haven’t seen it, but I know someone who actually saw two people having sex in the Stacks,” he said. “I know that rumor goes around, but I’m technically only once removed from it.”
Some workers also describe experiencing an eerie feeling, thinking that they are being watched when they are shelving books.
Senior Cody Pace has worked in the Stacks for three years and has caught himself looking over his shoulder, second-guessing unexplained sounds he sometimes hears.
“I definitely have felt something,” Pace said. “You’re by yourself, it’s really quiet, and sometimes I think I hear someone walking or see something run past an aisle, but no one’s there. Maybe I’ve been looking at books for too long.”