Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Great Libraries 

I was bitten by a bookworm at an early age and bicycled to a Carnegie Library in my birthtown of Downs, Kansas just as soon as I had my own bike.

After moving to Arizona, I was hampered by begging rides from mom until I had a learner's permit and could take the family Buick to our local libary. It was housed at that time in an old building that had been a mining company headquarters during the silvermining boom days in Globe, Arizona. Lots of lovely dark woodwork, massive cases, Mission era reading tables and arts and crafts style lamps. An extra plus - huge rocking chairs where one could curl up with a book and dangle your feet over a floor heating register on a cold day.

I started volunteering my services at the library at the age of 14 and became so handy at shelving books that I was offered an after school, weekend, vacation job at the grand sum of $1.00 per hour. This was a very good "kids pay" wage in those days (1950's) and besides I would have been there anyway. When the books were all shelved and the notices sent I had plenty of browsing time. I could read encyclopedias to my heart's content. I'd nearly worn out the one we had at home and having access to a Britannica was a real high. The library had just begun to offer 33 1/3 records for checking out. This gave me some of my first exposure to opera, concert music and big city jazz.

The next summer, the state gave small libraries grants and training to convert their collections from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress catalogs. I learned a good deal about organization of information that summer and typed thousands of catalog cards on an old manual Remington. They made a special platen in those days with in inset bar so you could insert the top of an index card, twirl it in and never have to change your margins. That was our first small step into technology. Of course you could order preprinted card sets for virtually every book, but that wasn't in our budget. A little teenie slavey typing away on a typewriter was more our speed. The experience was improved because I had to pull every book I cataloged, check that it was physically there, its condition and then type the cards and pop them inside the front board for the "real librarian" to check.

An extra bonus was that several books were considered discards and once they had been pulled from the shelves I got to take them home if I wanted. A few of those books are in my collection to this date.

Now my favorites are the British Library and the National Art Library (V&A)which I'll review at some later date.

Librarians are unsung heros/heroines in my book. They make learning possible, especially for the independent scholar (yours truly).

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