My love for libraries began in junior high when I got my very first job as a "Page" in the Schenectady County Carnegie Library. Wearing a dusty brownish smock that seemed to acknowledge my importance as an "official" of the library, I pushed a heavy cart about, shelving books and answering questions like "where is the restroom?"The job blended my passion for books with my growing need for independence and offered me the opportunity to control and put things in order. The fact that every book had its own perfect and unique place was supremely satisfying to a girl who grew up in a sometimes chaotic house. The pay was eighty cents an hour - an astounding thirty cents more than an hour of babysitting.
Back then folks signed out books on cards bearing the full names and dates of every previous borrower. At check out the circulation librarian filed the card in a long tray and stamped the due date in the back of book. A reference librarian kept a list of questions from patrons and spent her time frowning and looking up answers. Silence was strictly enforced by all senior library staff who regularly walked between the old wooden tables and chairs glaring sternly at anyone whose voice lifted above whisper.
Today I walked to my neighborhood library to return books and pick up one that I had reserved on line. On line! In the space of a few minutes I can hear about a book on NPR, go to my home computer and reserve it at the library. My computer tells me how many copies there are in the system, how many people are also waiting and what my place in line is. I can decide which of the many library branches will be most convenient for pick up and then know that my email box will light up with a message when my turn comes. Soon the book is waiting on the shelf just for me. I type in my card number at the desk and the computer tells me to place books for sign out on the scan tablet. Amazingly the tablet quickly reads the bar codes of up to four books at a time and prints me a date due slip. Incredible!
I love my library!
Another change with the times - My local library is NOT a quiet brown smock frowny kind of place - It is a cheerfully respectful inviting space with quiet nooks and comfortable easy chairs, window seats and bright tables. It is a bustling active place of great community, tutoring corners, adult classes, computers, children's story hours, and author readings. The librarians smile and speak in a voice you can hear.
Tax dollars doing some of their best work.
Currently reading: Room
10 hours ago