Today, the last day of National Library Week, seems a fitting time to write about my love of libraries. I am forever grateful to my mother for taking her second-grader to the Carnegie Public Library in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. The librarian walked me to shelves books suitable for my grade level, and said to pick from them, four books at a time. I devoured them. Eventually, my love of books and libraries led me to a position as reference librarian at Indiana University.
A few years ago after moving to Bloomington for the third (and final?) time in my life, I visited the Wells Library and marveled at all the changes wrought by technology since I worked there in the 1980s and 1990s. The massive card catalog area stood empty, awaiting construction of a Scholars Commons. I can’t say I miss searching drawers and drawers of cards, but the sight of them in this picture brings back memories of the time in my life when I first fell in love with research. I was an undergraduate at Bluffton College, and I spent hours scanning cards for research topics. I never tired of it.
When I was a reference librarian at I.U., I remember walking around campus and hearing students ask what the building at the corner of tenth and Jordan was. I heard seniors say they had never stepped foot inside. Today the Wells Library is a bustling place. True, there are fewer physical books onsite, but there are students/researchers everywhere you look and they’re doing amazing things with knowledge and technology. If they’re not having animated conversations in glassed-in study rooms, they’re immersed in computer and phone screens. And a coffee shop/cafe keeps them well-fueled.
I love going to the Monroe County Public Library to satisfy lots of my reading needs, but this past week I spent several days in the Wells Library reading microfilm of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. I know, it sounds esoteric. That’s the beauty of having access to a major research library, you can find almost anything. Before I knew it, I had time-traveled back to the 1850s, and the din of library users around me faded away. It was heavenly!
Back in the day, I read film on machines like the one pictured on the left. I remember feeling like an idiot because I could never thread the film correctly the first time and images would be inverted or backwards. Today, those machines are gone, replaced by computer screens like the one pictured on the right. With a click of the mouse, I could enhance the page, crop, and even save a digital copy (well, I never quite figured out that last step).
Don’t get me wrong, I still love physical books, too. Aren’t we lucky to have access to information in so many different formats?
This brings me to a final point, one my mentor Herb White (former Dean of the School of Library and Information Science) used to preach. Why do we call it National Library Week when we should be recognizing the librarians whose work makes libraries possible? Here’s a big thank you to all the librarians who have enriched my world. I’m ever grateful!