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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.

Books in the Library, and New Formats

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 4, 2010

When the library opened in 1902, the book collection was developed from earlier libraries of the area, as well as the purchase of new books directly from New York publishers.


The library would get a truck to go to the train station to retrieve the barrels of books packed and shipped by train.


The publishers distributed copies of their catalogs listing the available books for library purchase.


As time passed, publishers hired book salespeople to visit libraries selling their product.


In the past decade, the salespeople have disappeared and everything is done online through the Internet.


In 1902, the library collection was mostly books, with a few magazines and newspapers added for current information.


The library did have a collection of maps and drawings from the government about the Civil War, as they were popular with veterans in the early 20th century.


By 1950, other forms of media began appearing in library collections.


Long playing records started appearing in library collections, and were commonplace for the next half-century until replaced by cassettes and CDs.


While librarians were pleased with the new record format, they were unreliable as circulating items, always damaged by scratching and heat.


16mm films made their appearance in the 1950s, providing the first audio-visual format of vision and sound.


The titles available in 16mm format were limited, and a reel of film was rather heavy to handle for checkout.


By the 1980s, the 8 mm and 16 mm formats were fading away, and videocassettes had replaced the reels, to be replaced again by DVDs.


It has become frustrating for a librarian attempting to build a library collection, never knowing what format will replace the current formats.


Microfilm was a product of the Defense Department, and began appearing in libraries in the 1940s.


It is still common today as a way of preserving newspapers and historic publications in a reduced format.


The library has the Herald-Star on microfilm from 1806-2008 when the format switched to DVD.


It is unlikely that the microfilm format will be switched to DVD due to the cost of retrospective conversion, and the poor quality of some of the microfilm reels.


When they were microfilmed in the 1940s, some of the paper issues were in poor condition, resulting in a poor reproduction.


The newest format of information available to the library user is e-books.


The information is selected from an online database, and downloaded into a personal device and used, and then it disappears on its own after a select period of time.


All you need is a library card.


Library cards have changed from a typed card with a number, to a card with a metal tab to be machine printed, to today’s bar coded card.


Despite the change in information and its delivery format, a library is a library.