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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.

The Changing Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 9, 2018

Librarians keep everything by the mere fact of our occupation of information-gatherers.  Drawers and files are filled with odds & ends and tidbits of things we have found over the years.


I will admit that modern technology is changing that with the ability to digitize and save things electronically, but us older librarians tend to maintain some things in paper format just because.


With the clock ticking down to my retirement, I have been digging through the boxes and files that are in storage during the Main Library renovation as I don’t want to re-file that stuff if it is no longer needed for the administrative functions of the library system.


The first box I opened had my “business card” file, containing the cards of sales people and other people somehow connected to the library system.  I had not added another card to the binder in years as technology allows us to handle that information otherwise.


The binder had wonderful mylar sleeves that held the cards perfectly, except the sleeves were all falling apart from age.


I reviewed the binder from front to back, enjoying the memories of the names and people they represented, all now retired or gone from librarianship.


Fond memories of the days when book salespeople often spent a whole day with a librarian reviewing forthcoming new books were relived.


Today everything is done online which is efficient and quick, but not as exciting as days-gone-by.


I also found the binder that I developed when we closed and eliminated the card catalog, the guide to our book collection.  When the catalog was closed in 1993, I removed some of the 3 x 5 cards and saved them so future generations would remember the card catalog.


Now 25 years later, I have had no need to look at it, but perhaps in the future……..


Today’s card catalog is an online system linking many libraries that can be searched and maneuvered from home computer or device to the point of automatic renewals or requests.


Many of our checkouts from the library are actually downloads of information into a device owned by the user.


And how did people connect to the public library in the past as compared to today?


Physically entering the public library was the norm, and today continues to be a common way for people to use-the-library.


Telephones have been an access point for libraries, and our Carnegie building had a phone when it opened in March 1902.  Today, the phone and its newer cousin the cell phone remain a common communion tool for the public library.


The telefaxsimilie machine appeared in our library in 1976 continues today, albeit with better machines.


U.S. mail was typical when our library opened in 1902, but today is a unique method of library contact.  Email is the typical method sometimes from our webpage through a “contact us” site.


Local history and genealogy information is often requested this way today, replacing the multiple page genealogy requests of the past.


I found some “screen shots” of our first web page in 1995, and it looks so archaic compared to today’s graphics.


The volume of information that a public library can access online is simply enormous, if not overwhelming.


The Internet has helped public libraries to aid the public in locating the data --- so many times people are stymied by the Internet and the library becomes the user’s friend in finding information.


And we still send interlibrary loan requests for information that is not online.  Yes, it still exists and is more common than you might think, although it is done electronically rather than the old 4-part form that is mailed to some central point.


Well, as I close my career in librarianship, I did throw away many things, but saved a few for that next generation of librarian.


And old librarians never really shut down; we just change files and switch operations.  But, the root of our profession will never go away.