Campus, News

Working the night shift: CSULB custodians

When Lori Donaldson wakes up to go to work every day, much of Long Beach State is getting ready for bed.


She starts her eight-hour shift at midnight, when the busy rush of students walking the halls have cleared for the night, and works until 8:30 in the morning. 


“You’ll see the grounds people, you’ll see the painters, but as custodians we are invisible because we’re pretty much gone by the time everybody really gets here,” Donaldson said. 


Beach Building Services is responsible for a range of services including custodial, plumbing, grounds keeping, elevator repair and key and lock services.


The department has around 80 employees tasked with covering roughly 1,260,000-square-miles a week and cleaning around 400 to 500 bathrooms a day. If someone calls out of work on a given day, the remaining custodians must still make sure the entire campus is cleaned. 


Donaldson, who’s meticulous approach to cleaning the campus won her the custodian of the year award, is responsible for cleaning the Physical Planning and Facilities Management building, Design and Construction building, three courtyard bathrooms, the lower campus convenience store and the University Police Department.


“I look at what I do as if I was inviting you to my house,” Donaldson said. “I like who I work with and who I work for.”


A muddy footprint in the men’s bathroom, dusty baseboards and a streak on a TV: these are some of the mundane but “invisible” tasks that Donaldson deals with on a daily basis. 


“Our whole [everyone in facilities] core value is we are maintaining the campus for you [students] because we want you to be successful,” Donaldson said. “For you to be successful we want you to have a safe and clean facility.” 


Working as a custodian for three and a half years, the biggest obstacle for Donaldson was transitioning to her new sleep schedule which took around a year. Donaldson had to adjust things in her personal life to be able to work nights, sometimes not seeing her husband as often because of their different work schedules. 


“There’s a lot of people that we work with who have young children and they leave here at 8:30 in the morning and they have to take them to school or some even have young babies,” Donaldson said.


However, Donaldson prefers working at night, despite the unconventional hours, because she can clean without disturbing anyone when she vacuums offices or mops the hallway floors. 


Working around others’ schedules, she makes sure the outside bathrooms of the courtyard are done first and the PPFM is cleaned before people arrive at 5 a.m.


Donaldson often hears people say that what she does is not a skilled profession; however, it is an important job that must get done and even for cleaning there are certain protocols you must follow, she said.


With her personal squeegee, she makes sure every window of her assigned buildings is cleaned before she leaves, even cleaning the window of the facility department building right before she hangs her keys and leaves in the morning. 


“You have to have joy in what you do,” Donaldson said. “Not every component of the job is going to be fun, that’s not the way the world works.”

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