What Ever Happened to…?

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

Xerox Machine

Chester Carlson invented the photocopier in 1938, but the now ubiquitous magic machine didn’t appear in commercial usage until 1959. The first one in the spotlight was the hefty Xerox 914, weighing in at a whopping 650 pounds. It wasn’t long before college students and librarians were “Xeroxing” magazine articles and catalog cards galore, in addition to using the trademarked name as an adjective and a verb.

If you’re old enough, you may recall the Xerox Corporation joining the ranks of Kleenex, Frigidaire, Clorox, and others in endless attempts to get people to stop misusing its name. Today, we “photocopy” everything under the sun using countless brands of equipment. The Xerox Corporation is still in business, and they still make Xerox machines. However, like so many longtime names in American business, they were absorbed into a new enterprise (now called Fuji Xerox).

Microfilm ReaderMicroFilm Reader_1048960790

Bulky and cavernous, these hulks — with names like Kodagraph — started taking up space in libraries during the 1930s. Early models demanded darkened rooms and considerable floor space, although new technology helped squeeze down their size in the 1960s. By the 90s, however, microfilm readers began their decline into obsolescence, a casualty of the mad rush towards digitization. Most medium to large libraries still have one or more devices tucked away for reading microfilm or microfiche on demand, but many staff are understandably unfamiliar with how to use them.

old librarian_2167390Hair in Buns, Shushing, Sensible Shoes: The Image of the Mean Spinster

How did we come to collectively use this image to represent a librarian? In the mid-to-late-19th century, single women started working outside the home in much greater numbers. With many professions still forbidden to women, that of librarian was one of several careers that became known as a “woman’s profession.”

Cornell University librarian Michael Engle, in his fascinating paper “Remythologizing Work: The Role of Archetypal Images in the Humanization of Librarianship,” discusses how the single female librarian was seen as a “good mother,” someone who would educate children and provide morally good literature for the poor and uneducated masses. As Engle relates, the shadow side of this “Good Mother” is “The Crone.” The negative image of the librarian came to gradually replace that of the saint who helps others. Armed with a scowl, shushing library patrons, hair in a bun, feet outfitted in sensible shoes, this mean character lurks even today in the imagination of some people, not to mention living on as a convenient cliché in advertisements. Some of us librarians might admit that, in our early days, we may have put our own fingers to lips to tone down excessive noise within our hallowed halls. I am not confessing.

Card Catalogs

Starting with the Library of Congress’ catalog card service in 1911, libraries began subscribing to this service and filing these cards in the multi-drawered furniture we all remember fondly. Later, OCLC offered its own card service to libraries. Surprisingly, this service continued being offered to customers well into the 21st century. Its termination on October 1, 2015, marked an official close to the card catalog, though they had vanished from most libraries long before that.

Where do old catalogs go to die? Many of them have found new purpose with these uses: sewing and craft supplies, wine storage, coffee tables, shoe holders, displays for postcards in antique shops, etc. Perhaps the most famous example of re-purposing appeared in the TV series “The Big Bang Theory,” where a card catalog starred as part of Sheldon’s living room decor. And what about those millions of rag content cards with summaries, height in centimeters, pagination, and tracings? At least one resourceful librarian took a heavy box of them home when his library’s card catalog was put to rest. He used them for note-taking and grocery lists. How do I know this? As with the aforementioned shushing, I am not confessing.

But wait, I have declared an end to the catalog too quickly! For libraries that continue to make use of the system today, Brodart makes handsome, well-constructed card catalogs.

24301650_120185669969Library Paste

This sticky paste, generally known in the industry as starch glue, was made of water and flour. Eons ago, many of us used it in our professional endeavors as an all-purpose glue. For the sake of professional accuracy, I must add that as children, a few of us might also have eaten it. You guessed it: I am not confessing to this, either. Production of starch glues was tied to supplies from extensive cassava plantations in Indonesia. When they fell under Japanese control during the Second World War, the industry turned to other types of glues. Here’s a paper on the history of wood adhesives that reveals even more (PDF).

I was not able to discover when use of library paste ceased but can confidently say that when sensible and progressive library staff learned about the virtues of the new PVA glues, they embraced the technological advancement and firmly stuck to it. Besides offering better adhesive qualities, this glue is apparently not palatable.

Library CatsCat on Books_609107240

What ever happened to those lovely felines that used to live in libraries? Many of their kind remain to prowl the stacks and fend off mice. Library cats are still in residence in libraries nationwide, although their numbers are decreasing, perhaps due to a combination of ADA, allergies, and the protests of ailurophobes. My cat still rules over my personal library, though he prefers watching television and sleeping in front of my computer keyboard.

16mm Film Projectors

Can anyone over the age of 40 ever forget the sound of the trusty workhorse Bell & Howell 16mm film projector? For a bit of auditory nostalgia, listen to this YouTube clip. At one time, it was important for AV staff in libraries to know how to use the three types of machines: Manual Threading, Self-Threading, and Slot-Loading.

The introduction of VHS tapes for commercial and educational use in the 1980s led to the demise of film projectors in most libraries. For a brief period, VHS struggled against a competing format, Beta, but soon won supremacy. We all know what eventually happened to VHS. Though gone from libraries, VHS today lives on in basements, attics, and garage sales. Here’s an article on old film projectors to take you farther down memory lane.

CDs_786220756CD-ROM Databases

In the early days of digital information use in libraries, the Internet did not exist for us. Vendors supplied libraries with CD-ROM discs, which looked like today’s music CDs and DVDs. Who of a certain age does not remember InfoTrac, which first infiltrated academic libraries in 1985, and soon followed across all types of libraries? Once Internet access became stable, CD-ROM use soon shriveled and shrank. EdTech has a nice online retrospective on CD-ROM databases.

Melvil Dewey

Born Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey in 1851 in rural Adams Center, New York, Dewey is known for his wide-ranging interests in education, winter sports, spelling reform, and — of course — libraries. His eponymous classification system still thrives, despite long-term competition from the Library of Congress classification system and recent library developments that use a bookstore style to group books by BISAC headings.

As an aside, Dewey would not have survived the current #MeToo movement, for another of his avid interests was female anatomy. Wayne Wiegand, whose biography “Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey” is considered the most historically complete and revealing, describes his behavior using the phrase “a persistent inability to control himself around women.” Dewey was an interesting, if somewhat controversial character, and it would be fun to write much more about the co-founder of the American Library Association and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. But to return to the focus of this article, Dewey died of a stroke in Florida, in 1931, at the age of 80.

This forward-thinking quote from Dewey still rings true today:

“A library’s function is to give the public in the quickest and cheapest way: information, inspiration, and recreation. If a better way than the book can be found, we should use it.”

Henriette Avram

If you are like most librarians, you’re asking, “Who was she?” Avram, without a doubt, was one of the most influential figures ever to shape libraries, although few recognize her name. Avram was born in New York in 1919. She was not a librarian by training. Rather, she was a computer programmer who worked for the National Security Agency and, later, the Library of Congress. It was there, at the institution she referred to as “the Great Library,” that she was asked to develop an automated cataloging format. Through her genius, in 1968, the MARC record was born. Avram died in Florida in 2006.

City Directories

Valuable for genealogists, and perhaps most repeatedly used by skip-tracers, investigators, and voyeurs, the contents of the local city directory were among the most requested items of the library-based telephone reference service. So much so that some libraries developed policies as to how much — or little — service they would provide to callers. Strict policies were also developed to safeguard the books from developing legs and walking out the door.

Fold3, Ancestry, and other genealogy databases offer rich historical collections of U.S. city directories, as does the Internet Archive. The obituary of the city directory hasn’t been located, but a plethora of contemporary electronic databases offer much information, usually for a fee. Nothing satisfies the curious more, though, than leafing through the fascinating historical information within the hardbound covers of city directories. The story of how that information was gathered is for another day!

Paul Duckworth New - 2.5 x 3
Paul

Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.

Adulting 101 Programs at the Library

shutterstock_162108737By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

Has anyone ever told you that you can make a grilled cheese sandwich in your dorm room with an iron? Or that you can clean everything with plain, cheap white vinegar? Were you ever taught to balance a checkbook? “Adulting” is a verb that high school graduates—and some adults—use to mean they are doing something that makes them feel like responsible adults. Between new technologies and the demise of home economics and shop classes in high school, more adults these days are headed out into the world missing some handy life skills. Many public libraries are stepping up to fill the knowledge gap, hoping to capture the elusive 20-to-40-year-old demographic in the process.

Libraries of every size throughout the country are trying out this newest trend in adult programming. The Programming Librarian Interest Group on Facebook contains a wealth of ideas and feedback. Some libraries target teens getting ready to leave home. This approach might include more dorm-style ideas, like cooking with small appliances or basic laundry and ironing skills. Most open their programs up to anyone.

Sample Topics

Six Adults Cooking_1038709282Cooking is a perennially popular topic among patrons. What can you make with only a hot plate, waffle iron, or blender? How about a program called “Spicing Up Your Ramen?” Eating on a budget and food safety (get a black light wand to make it really exciting) are basic and useful skills. Other basic cooking program ideas have included “Cookbook Terminology,” “10 Ways to Use a Sweet Potato,” and “Getting to Know Your Instapot.” One library offered a program showing a variety of meals that could be prepared in a coffee mug. A little creativity can go a long way with cooking programs since there is a hungry audience waiting to devour them (pardon the pun).

What about incorporating self-care, meditation, and time management into National Mental Health Month (May)?

Do you have a staffer willing to pull their car up to the library and demonstrate some basic car maintenance techniques under the hood?

You might offer a crash-course in good citizenship and invite in local groups and legislators to participate.

You could offer a program on dressing for success on a budget and include simple courses like “How to Tie a Necktie.”

As winter nears, offer a program on winterizing your home or basic plumbing repairs.

Here’s a fun one: Several libraries have offered teen programs based on the idea of Survival Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse. Isn’t that a great spin? What better excuse to teach car repair skills, self-defense, quick pickling, and recognizing edibles in nature? If your community can get tongue-in-cheek with you, run with it! The premise may be silly, but the skills are worthwhile.

Library-Specific Programs

Denver Public Library offered a basic sewing skills class for sewing a button, fixing a tear, and hemming a skirt. They invited participants to bring in a project that had them stumped, and it seemed to boost attendance. You might create a cute project that incorporates basic stitches and buttons, such as a felt monster or bookmark. Offering patrons a hands-on project to practice and take home is always optimal. Think about ending your quarter or year of programs with a potluck or clothes exchange, something festive and practical.

Boise Public Library, in Idaho, has a really terrific program going this year. The librarians set the calendar for the whole year in advance. They offer badges to participants who complete at least one session per month, making each accomplishment feel like being in scouts group or mastering a video game level. Collect 12 badges and earn an “Adult-in-Action” medal. Not only have they put together a comprehensive program, they have also uploaded supporting materials to their website. This allows those who are late to join (or the rest of us) to catch up with what they have been teaching.

BoiseCombined

Source: Boise Public Library

I spoke with Boise librarian Eliza Ruby about their ambitious program, which at the time of this writing is more than halfway through the year. She said, “Our goal for this year has been to host two to four programs each month. While we have been successful with this goal, it has been a big endeavor. My advice for anyone wanting to create a similar series is to plan ahead, stay organized, and work with fellow staff members to share the workload. Our focus has been on creating events for adults; however, I think that this could easily be adapted to a series for teens to help prepare them for adulthood.”

Ruby also talked about turnout and patron response. “We have taken the opportunity with this series to try new things and experiment. This includes the types of programs we have hosted, the way we brand and market this series, and how the workshops are hosted. While we don’t always have high turnout, we have been learning what topics interest our community the most, how best to market to ‘new adults’ with the resources we have on hand, and how to get the best response from the people attending the workshops. We have also been collecting success stories of new connections, people learning the skills they need, and gaining follow-up resources.” Ruby shared that their end-of-summer clothing exchange party had 185 participants, which is an impressive number for any library program!

Bellingham Public Library, in Washington, offers a similar series with a twist. They call it SkillShare. Community members come in and teach a skill—from ukulele, to tai chi, to using basic tools. The basic tools session was so popular it became a recurring event all summer long. This program has been a multi-generational success.

If your library has a limited budget or little staff time to devote to programming, there may be community members happy to pitch in with their expertise. Scout leaders, nutritionists, county extension employees, a local mechanic, vocational colleges, and that blue-ribbon canner in the Friends group may be willing to lend a hand or have ideas about what has worked with groups in the past.

While these programs may get your brain humming and offer myriad ways to cross-promote book titles, there are a few planning considerations. You know what works best in your community. What would you name this program? Some librarians consider “Adulting 101” insulting. Instead, you could try “Cash in Your Pocket” or “Adult University”— or soften it to “Beyond Ramen: Adulting 101.” The way you structure your schedule and descriptions can make a huge difference. Some libraries report 2-5 attendees, while others have had 20-plus.

Now it’s your turn. Has your library offered a program similar to Adulting 101? How did it go? Tell us about it!

For further examples and ideas of how to promote this type of program:

The Programming Librarian

Teen Services Depot

Emporia University Libraries

 

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

 

Hipster Trends 2

Mary Jane: What’s a Library To Do?

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.

44186145_m.jpgAn extremely popular topic right now, both in the news and in publishing, is marijuana. At least 26 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form, and several other states may soon follow.

How does your library handle a tricky subject like this?

Publishers are taking advantage of this movement. There are lots of titles coming out about growing cannabis, cooking with it, healing with it, and legalizing it. There are also several books about starting your own marijuana-related business.

map

Click here for article on State Marijuana Laws in 2017

Some librarians take the approach that if their patrons are requesting titles on a particular topic, it’s their job to make them available. As a matter of fact, some library systems base their selections directly on patron demand. Others feel that it’s a waste of money and that books like these will “walk away” after one or two circulations. If your patrons are interested and your budget allows, here are some examples of the most recent books on marijuana.

book 1 mockupCannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana
By: Michael Backes
ISBN: 9780316464185   NYP 12/05/2017

Cannabis for Chronic Pain: A Proven Prescription for Using Marijuana to Relieve Your Pain and Heal Your Life
By:  Ray Ivker
ISBN: 9781501155888   NYP 09/12/2017

book 2 mockupThe Cannabis Grow Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing Marijuana for Recreational and Medicinal Use
By:  Greg Green
ISBN: 9781937866365   NYP 08/29/2017

Idiot’s Guides: Starting & Running a Marijuana Business
By: Debby Goldsberry
ISBN: 9781465462060

book 3 mockup

 

Marijuana Edibles: 40 Easy & Delicious Cannabis-Infused Desserts
By: Laurie Wolf
ISBN: 9781465449641

Big Book of Buds Greatest Hits: Marijuana Varieties from the World’s Best Breeders
By: Ed Rosenthal
ISBN: 9781936807321

 

More conservative libraries may want to stick with titles like these, which cover the basics in a fairly straightforward, uncontroversial way:

book 4 mockupLegalizing Marijuana: Promises and Pitfalls
By: Margaret Goldstein
ISBN: 9781467792431

Is Marijuana Harmful?
By: Bradley Steffans
ISBN: 9781682820971

 

Marijuana: A Reference Handbookbook 5 mockup
By:  David Newton
ISBN: 9781440850516

Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Uncharted World of Cannabis
By: Joe Dolce
ISBN: 9780062499912

 

Whether you choose to provide these books for your patrons or not, it’s certainly a question for you to consider. Some patrons may regard your library as being more current and relevant when your collection reflects emerging trends and changes in public opinion.

 

fern

Fern

Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.