Beyoncé, corgis, and Bernie Sanders: At UC Berkeley Library, book trucks deliver the goods in style

Student worker pushing book truck
Library employee Sydney Rodosevich moves books using one of the decorated book trucks in Main Stacks in September of 2018. (Photo by J. Pierre Carrillo for the UC Berkeley Library)

Hang on: Was that Beyoncé slipping around a corner in Main Stacks?

And between the shelves — was that a leprechaun?

Don’t worry, you’re not suffering from hallucinations brought on by midterm-induced sleep deprivation. Chances are you just caught a glimpse of some of the creatively decorated book trucks rolling around UC Berkeley’s libraries.

Book trucks are everywhere in our libraries: They’re the workhorse handcarts that employees rely on to move thousands of items per week from place to place. They are constantly in use and on the move. And some of them are lovingly adorned.

Ryan Barnette, Main Stacks supervisor, says he’s unsure of the origins of the tradition. But it appears to date back at least a couple of decades.

Peter Soriano, chief operations manager for the Library’s Engineering & Physical Sciences Division, remembers the book trucks from his time working at Main Stacks in the mid-’90s.

“I think the decorations didn’t start until a year or two after the underground stacks opened back in 1994,” he said. “Once we moved to the larger space, we needed a larger fleet of book trucks to move everything around. Those new book trucks were all blank canvases, and the (Main) Stacks crew made the most of them.”

A gif of decorated booktrucks

“I started as (Main) Stacks supervisor back in April 2007,” said Paul Lynch, who is now the head of the Newspapers & Microforms Library. “Book truck designs and making, at least for the Main Stacks trucks, was reserved for only ‘stax legends,’ or ‘all stars,’ as we called them” — the name given to student employees who excelled at various aspects of their work, such as accuracy or speed in reshelving books, Lynch explained.

“Shortly before they graduated they would either design a truck or designate someone, probably a more artistic student Library employee, to design one,” Lynch said.

Over the years, the artists have upped their games. “At first, it was primarily people skilled with a Sharpie,” Soriano said. “Later students brought in their own paints and created jaw-dropping murals on the trucks.

“Later … one of the ‘all star’ student employees brought in some spray glue epoxy and raised the bar again by creating some three-dimensional designs on the ends of the book trucks.”

The subjects featured on the trucks run the gamut, from the punny (BoStax Horseman) to the political (Birdie Sanders) to the just plain adorable (corgis).

So if you’re in the throes of studying, and you think you see something out of the corner of your eye, take a closer look.

You just might find Mario racing by — or that all-too-familiar bespectacled hipster donning stripes and a beanie, hiding in plain sight.

Where’s Waldo? He’s roaming the stacks, helping deliver the goods.