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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.

A Library Storyteller

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 16, 2010

I am unsure when your memories of an earlier time convert to “stories,” but with the 40th anniversary of my first library job lurking later this year, I think I am now a library storyteller.

 

My library stories from an earlier era are now qualifying for an old-timer recounting days gone by.

 

My first evening of library work was really more instruction than work, learning where to find things and how to do things.

 

I noticed that libraries have a “paper smell,” which I don’t even notice anymore.

 

My first job was in an older library building without air conditioning, and the high windows had to be opened and closed with a long pole.

 

I shelved books three nights a week and was kept busy maneuvering book trucks in the crowded aisles so as not to strike library users.

 

One evening, a woman had been watching me shelve and straighten books, and asked, “You put a lot of effort into your work.”

 

I responded yes, it took time to place the book in the right place, and straighten shelves as I moved.

 

She exclaimed, “Oh, the books are in some sort of order?”

 

I have always wondered how many people plop books just anywhere, not realizing.

 

In another library I was told that the flat roof leaked and to keep “my eyes peeled” for dripping when it rains.

 

Boy, they weren’t kidding!  I worked with plastic and buckets all evening trying to catch rain water and move books to keep them dry.

 

That same library had Miss Rogers, a delightful retired lady who visited the library daily to prevent Alzheimer’s.

 

Her feeling was that Alzheimer’s could be prevented by exercising the mind, so she read daily newspapers and lengthy nonfiction books.  I am not sure of her assumption, but she died recently past the century mark.

 

By my college years, I was given the responsibility of managing a public library on Friday night with co-worker Paul Immel.  During football season, it was just two of us on Friday nights, two future librarians who delighted in the responsibility of keeping the library open.

 

We learned to fix the coin-operated copy machines in the days they weren’t very reliable.  We clipped articles from the newspapers for the pamphlet files.  They even let us file catalog cards on slow Fridays, trusting that we inspiring librarians could file correctly.  We unplugged the toilets as needed, threw the switch on the boiler if it malfunctioned and shifted books as instructed.  We improved our skills at customer service and telephone answering.

 

I went on to Case Western Reserve University Library School and have had a career as a library director in two libraries.

 

Paul had a distinguished career with the State Library of Ohio after graduation from the Kent State University Library School, and was renowned in the library world for his expertise in genealogy.

 

Just two fellows running a local library on a Friday night.

 

Paul lost his battle with cancer last month, but he can still be found in the card catalog, albeit now online.

 

Like me, Paul delighted with his library career.  It is the fascination with information and processing of the information for public use, whether it is Friday night, or any night, surrounded by bookshelves or computer servers.