The library of the past

This morning on NPR I heard a segment about Sandra Cisneros, an author, discussing her use of language and what influenced her style. What I found so interesting was how she remembered visiting the Chicago Public Library as a child and looking in the card catalog. She saw that some of the cards were more dirty and dog-eared than others, and she wanted to read those books, because they must be great, important ones. From there it was only a quick jump to wanting to write her own books, books that would have their own dirty, dog-eared cards.

That made me kind of sad, because we just don’t live in that world anymore. I’m not bemoaning technology, because as a librarian I am incredibly thankful for computers and boolean searches and OCLC. But, when the catalog is on a computer, we can miss out on the human aspect of accessing information, or the serendipity of flipping through the card catalog and running across exactly what you need. We might be more exact, and it is certainly easier, but it is also more impersonal.

There’s a journal on my desk entitled “Books to Check Out.” I keep a list of stuff I would like to read in there, jotting down titles or authors as I come across them. The cover looks like the inside of an old library book, with all the due date stamps. We don’t do that anymore, either. It’s not really good for the books. My university did it, though, and I remember the fun of checking out a book that hadn’t been checked out since the 60s. I guess that’s another human aspect that has faded away.

Enough reminiscing about the past. Since I’m already talking about the library, this seems like a good time to give a job update. I have now been at my job six months(!!!), and I had my review at the end of last week. It was a good review, and very encouraging (and now I can use vacation time! yay!). Not only that, but I was discussing some of the changes I’ve made on the website with one of my coworkers, and she said, “I’m so glad you’re here.” It is nice to work in an encouraging, affirming environment. I am glad I like my job. It was a long, hard road to get here, but I am thankful to see how it has all worked out.

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  1. By unbillable hours on 5/3/2004 at

    On The Library of the Past
    This morning on NPR I heard a segment about Sandra Cisneros, an author, discussing her use of language and what influenced her style. What I found so interesting was how she remembered visiting the Chicago Public Library as a child

15 Comments

  1. at our old church library there was one book on animals that I kept checking out. When i got older I went to look at it and the card inside had my name on it….400000 times. heheheh.

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  2. My university stamps the due date, too. 🙂 I get a kick out of being the first to check out a book!

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  3. Shelby

    Belive it or not at the Charlotte libraries they still stamp everything! There is something comforting about the due date stamps to me, I also like the sound it makes when the libarian stamps a whole pile of books!

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  4. Hey Kari – long time!

    I’ll take the opposing view, though I remember the card catalog at Cross Cliff Elementary so fondly that I think I’m getting a little misty now just thinking about it. There’s a date stamp in every Hardy Boys book in that library because of me.

    Lately I haven’t read books nearly as much as I’ve read blogs and PDFs. A couple weeks ago I read a rough draft of a PDF white paper by Tim Bednar at e-church.com and since then have had a fantastic email dialogue with Tim about the theories presented in his paper. The dialogue has sharpened my thinking on those issues, and I hope it’s done the same for Tim. An utterly fantastic experience.

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  5. unbillable hours seemed to miss the point.

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  6. yeah, not what you would call a kindred spirit by any means.

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  7. Kari

    *sigh*

    No, I seem to be completely incomprehensible lately. I am certainly not saying the old ways were better – in fact, I said we are more exact now. And sometimes I can’t imagine how librarians found information before computers. But I don’t see it as an all-or-nothing. It’s not that the old ways are bad because we have it easier now. There were benefits to a more personal approach. There are advantages to the way things are now, too.

    In library school, we learned that a great percentage of reference work is serendipity. I have often just seen the perfect book to answer a particular question, and I can’t explain why I was looking at htat particular book on that particular day. My professor called that “St. Melville [Dewey] smiling down upon us.”

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  8. Kari

    Brian, how are you? How’s the wife and kids?

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  9. I liked this post, Kari. It made me feel nostalgic for my old library days.

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  10. Autumn

    you keep talking about this list of books…what are some good fiction titles you’d recommend?

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  11. Autumn

    make that…fluffy fiction titles.

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  12. it’s not that you’re incomprehensible…it’s that sometimes people read things into what you’ve written. Welcome to the world of writing.

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  13. I miss putting my name inside of books and getting them stamped.

    Posted 5/3/2004 at | Permalink
  14. Here you go again reading my mind. I was just saying yesterday how I loved it in college when I would check out a book and I could see who read it last and when. And there were many that hadn’t been checked out since the 60’s. And it made me sad that there were all these great books to be read, but not many were taking advantage of them. But I loved being able to see who had checked it out before me.

    Posted 5/4/2004 at | Permalink
  15. Chalk me up as another fan of the old card catalogs, although I too am thankful for computer searching abilities. As a teenager in love with books, I would often rifle the card catalog, letting my eyes stream across titles until something caught my fancy. Found some of my favorite authors and books that way.

    Posted 5/4/2004 at | Permalink

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