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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Treating Books Today

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 13, 2008




The early settlers to the Ohio Frontier had to choose carefully what they brought with them on their journeys.


Food, clothing, and protection were critical, but a book or two was often carefully packed to have on the Frontier.


Once a cabin was constructed and neighboring settlers were found, those books were shared to pass the time of long winter evenings.


Books also needed protection from snow and rain, from dust and dirt.


Settlers often pooled their resources to obtain a selection of books, from the Coonskin Library in Amesville, to the Steubenville Library Association of 1815.


Everyone contributed to one fund of coonskins or money, and someone went East to obtain a selection of reading materials for everyone's benefit.


Books were a precious commodity in those days.


By 1890, modern printing and publication methods were allowing books to be less expensive, and more common in our society.


Public Libraries were commonplace in any Ohio community of some population.


Today, a book has become an expected part of our life.  Everyone has some reading material in his or her home, and likely favorite books of some dimension.


But times are changing.


Recently I passed a library user exiting the building on a day of pouring rain. 


They were holding the books checked out of the library over their head to protect them from the rain.


I was entering the library, protecting my books under my jacket so they wouldn't get wet.


A difference in the importance of books?  Or the other person thought the plastic covers on the books would repel the water?


Libraries have always dealt with the reality that books will be ruined by usage.


Some people return such books with an emotional sadness; others don't understand the concern of the librarian over a destroyed book.


A tire print across the front of a book makes a librarian wonder where the book has been.


The same is true for today new media format for information.


The first phonograph records were maintained in their dust jackets by the owners, the first videocassettes were kept in special racks in home, and the early cell phones were guarded with care.


Maybe it depends on the newest of the item, and the rareness of the product in the society at that time.


How do we maintain and protect important information for today and the future?


As we transfer slides and photos to new technology, how are we sure that they are maintained for future generations?


I know someone who transferred all of his family photos, histories, and data to a new format, and the DVD was accidentally cracked, and well, umm, it's gone.


This may be the new technology of the 21st century in library science, being sure that media remains and has a back up that can be recovered if lost.


It's amazing how long the average book can sit in archives and remain usable.