Blog June 2013 – Day 20 – The ‘menial’ tasks

In libraries, as in many jobs, there are menial tasks that need to be done. Jobs that seem trivial, are repetitive, need no special skill or qualifications, but need to be done.

These types of jobs can be the ones we try to avoid, because we want to focus on the more interesting, the more engaging, the more challenging tasks.

However, from experience I can say that sometimes the menial tasks are the best thing you can be doing.

One of my favourite menial tasks is shredding. We shred any paperwork that has identifying or personal information about our users. It is collected in a box until it needs clearing, then a staff member either takes it out to place with the shredder, to be done at a later time, or goes out and shreds it themselves.

When we are quiet on desk, I love to go and do the shredding.  I love it for a few reasons.

One is I am task orientated and I love checking things off lists. If the shredding box is overflowing, then that task is not complete until the shredding is and so I can tick the task off when it is done.

Two, a bit of creative destruction is beneficial for you when you are upset or frustrated (for whatever reason). And this is something you can destroy which is permissible and not harmful to anybody.

Three, because it doesn’t require much thought (besides keeping fingers clear), it is a good chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the library and think. Moments of peace like this are rare in a library. (despite the stereotypical perception of them being ‘quiet’).

Another task that gives me those same things, but which I don’t do that often anymore is mending.

Menial doesn’t have to be bad – it can be quite helpful, inspiring, cathartic and gets a job done as well.

What ‘menial’ tasks do you do that you find beneficial and how?


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  1. When I was working in the public library I really enjoyed helping the youth services librarian to cut out paper dolls/cats/cars etc for storytime craft. Another ‘menial’ task that I still do is to check and refill the paper for all the printing machines, it is not my job per se but it is definitely one of my ‘obsession’

  2. We have a few staff who enjoy cutting out for the youth services staff too. Nice to know that these ‘obsessions’ are wider than me and my library. Thanks for the comment.

    • Jackie on June 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I know a lot of librarians hate it, but I actually really, really like shelving. I find it settles the mind, and I also find it’s when I have the most meaningful conversations with customers.

  3. I can relate to that. Being out in the shelves is where a lot of people will approach you too, who may not have done so if you were behind a desk.

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