Posted by: Kaitlin | June 15, 2010

I love alphabetization…

I love alphabetization but there is a limit.

My future career goal is to be a youth librarian, and I am so excited about it. I think about library school all the time. I love books, I love organizing them and I love making lists to organize anything else. I always alphabetize my lists. But last week I reached a limit of alphbetization in my life.

This summer I have a job at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria as a research assistant. I am helping the history curator with a book project about the BC Forest Service. I read relevant keywords in the BC newspaper index and then enter the headlines, date, paper and page into a spreadsheet. I love it. It’s my first experience using Microsoft Excel for myself, rather than just reading what someone else wrote in it. So far I am doing very well with it because I love the “sort and filter” button, obviously.

But last week I discovered a fatal error. I was experimenting with sorting my spreadsheet, at this point at about1500 rows, by the different columns- year, newspaper, keyword etc, when I realized that when I sorted it by year, all of the years would be in the right order, but within the years, Excel had alphabetized my months. Yeah, thanks! That is extremely unhelpful!

First I was incredulous (April, August, December, February…?), and then I spent an agonizing hour on Friday afternoon trying to find help on the internet and with Microsoft help. All I got was computer code (aka not English)  instructions on how to convert my “text” dates to “date” dates. Finally I just had to take a break so I went home. I was mentioning my ridiculous situation to my roommate who is an engineering student (aka a genius) and while he had no insight, my other roommate, a chef, said, “why don’t you turn the months into their numbers, like 1 to 12?”

Aha, I thought, because that doesn’t look as pretty. I don’t like numbers, I like words. But my sorting mania was stronger than my desire for a pretty spreadsheet, and I caved. Changing the months into numbers took approximately ten minutes, and while I still like words better, I will always love the way I can now sort effortlessly any way I want to.

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