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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

What the Librarian Knows

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 16, 2011

“Say, you work at the library; I’ll bet that you can answer this question!”


Anyone who has worked in a library has received this comment from time to time; and every time I am asked that, my internal apprehension begins.


I hope that maybe the question is indeed something I have researched over 40 years, and perhaps I can provide a half-way intelligence answer.


People need to understand that librarians are only as smart was what we look up.


It is our ability to do research, not the knowledge we acquire by being in a library for a number of years that is unique to us.


The other problem with a librarian is the fact that we always have to “look it up” when we encounter some information.


I was reading a book the other day that mentioned a story about baseball star Babe Ruth being harassed by the citizens of a city where his Yankees were placing their hometown team.


Of course, I knew some general information about Babe Ruth, but I also wondered about the rest of his life and baseball history, and yes, the librarian kicked into gear.


His real name was George Herman Ruth, Jr., and he spent much of his childhood in a Baltimore Boy’s School.


He was introduced to baseball at the school, and it was found that he had a real ability for the game.


Several baseball clubs passed on hiring Ruth, but in 1914 he went to the Boston Red Sox.


In 1920, he was sold to the Yankees and remained there much of his career and is best known for his involvement of Yankee baseball.


By 1935, he baseball career was ending with a short stint for the Boston Braves; with his final game being May 25 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.


He remained involved in baseball, as well as radio and movies the remainder of his life.


In 1946, Babe Ruth was diagnosed with cancer, and was an early patient to be treated with radiation and chemotherapy before his 1948 death at age 53.


As you can see, a librarian is never satisfied with a little information about something; we want to know the whole story.


Some information takes years to really answer.


My mother loved her small collection of Imperial Candlewick glass dishes, and would return from garage sales with a piece of the ware.


For 50 cents, she purchased two candlesticks of the Candlewick pattern at a neighbor’s yard sale, and immediately put them to work.


The problem was that the candles wouldn’t stay upright without melting wax into the base of the holder, and even then, the candles always had a tilt.


Years later, after my mother was gone, I was paging through a new book about Imperial Glass when I noticed the popular Candlewick pattern.


And there they were, the candleholders, well; actually, they were saltcellars that were placed at each place setting.  No wonder they didn’t work well for candles.


A different book shows them to be small ashtrays, so either way, salt or cigarettes, they weren’t meant to hold candles.


Always seeking the answer, that’s the goal of a librarian.