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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.

Reading My Shelves

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 6, 2011

I took a few minutes this week to read the book shelves in my office.


That’s a library term, “reading the shelves” that means you look at the books and make sure they are in the correct order on the shelves.


It is rather embarrassing for the books on the shelves in the head librarian’s office not to be in perfect order, but a staff member politely mentioned that “the books could be in better order on these shelves.”


A librarian’s office really should have some books, they make an appropriate backdrop when meeting with someone or doing an interview with the media.


In my case, the books are on the opposite wall of my office, across from the five framed prints of “The Song of the Library Staff,” a poetic series presented at the 1906 American Library Association meeting by Librarian Samuel Walter Foss.


My office is what guests expect when ushered into the librarian’s office.


Back to the books on my shelves, they are now in fine order, and anything can now be located without a major search.


Yes, libraries still use the Dewey Decimal System to catalog and arrange books and other media on our shelves.  People think that Dewey disappeared with computers, but actually computer software can be arranged by Dewey.


About one-third of my office books are un-cataloged items that never found a home in the general library collection.


They were donations to the library that were out-of-date, too old, or simply not needed; but had an interesting binding, and would look attractive on the librarian’s shelf.


There are three copies of Doyle’s “20th Century History of Steubenville” donated to the library, but in terrible condition.  Since it is available reprinted with an index, original copies are retained for use when others become worn out.


I have two sets of the 1768 “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” except these are reprints done by the publisher in the 1960s and aged to appear like the “real thing.”  They have confused many people who thought they had the first edition.


The same situation exists with my newspaper showing the obituary for the death of George Washington.  It appears to be the 1799 original, but is really a 1932 reprint done to his our first President’s birthday.


The remaining two-thirds of the book collection in my office are multiple copies, or things that need a place on the shelf due to their large or small size.


These items are cataloged and showing in our online system, and can be borrowed.  That is why staff is looking for items in my office collection.


I maintain a small collection of McGuffey Readers to use as examples when people inquire about this famous school book series, and no, most of them are not valuable.


Additional copies of the “Steubenville Saga” await users from the office collection; it is the story of Russel Wright and American Modern dinnerware that was produced by the Steubenville Pottery Co.


“The Violin Hunter” was published 30 years ago and received by the library as a donation, and was placed in the office collection due to the rare calls for this topic in our library.


Sometimes we share donations with our regional library, or a college or university library where the book would be better situated in a larger, more specialized collection.


A curiosity book is a 1938 football instructional book that was returned to the library book drop in 2007, with its Oct 15, 1956 date due card still in the book pocket.


Just like my grandmother’s saying, that “the cobbler’s kids have no shoes,” I guess the librarian can’t keep his books in order.