PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Last week, I was on a bus traveling from Houston to Longview, Texas.
(I will tell you more about that story, after I give you the library part of all of this)
There were about 25 passengers on the bus, and we were glad that the air conditioning was working considering the 102 degree temperature outside that day.
After departing the Houston metropolitan area, the scenery changed to the dusty countryside of a Texas badly in need of rain.
The college-aged girl seated across the aisle from me noticed my library shirt, and commented that libraries had been an important part of her life, from her public and school libraries to the university library through her college years.
I told her that I have been a librarian for 40 years, and am always pleased to hear of people with great library stories.
The man behind her seemed amazed that I was a librarian, and said he thought most libraries had closed with the Internet being available.
“Indeed not,” said the passenger next to that man, “I use the computers at my library to access the Internet.”
Look what my shirt had started!
A long progression of library stories emerged on the bus, from experiences with Story Hour as a child, to someone who visits her public library 3 times a week.
I was amazed by the wide variety of library uses represented, from the traditional book checkout to computer use, from DVD checkout to programs held at their local libraries.
Someone had exchanged house plants at the library, another sent paperwork to a state agency, and a third did genealogy both online and using their library’s department for that subject.
Another person was a native of Houston, and said their public library system had “a whole bunch of branches all over the city,” actually 42 branches to be exact.
She used several of the branch libraries because “they are all different in their own way.”
This brought us back to the man who thought most libraries had closed. He admitted that he hadn’t been in a library since high school, 30 years ago.
The silence of others likely indicated that they were non-users as well, but some were surprised by all of the things libraries do and provide.
One fellow did admit that he didn’t use libraries because his grandfather didn’t like libraries since “that robber baron Carnegie had funded ‘em.”
And this is what I love about public libraries; we are everything and anything to everybody and anybody.
Now, why was I on this bus?
I had accompanied my son via car to Houston for his summer internship for college, and was returning by my favorite means of travel – the train.
I departed the Houston Amtrak Station on a “Thruway Bus” which took me to the Longview Amtrak Station where passengers transfer from the bus to a real train, the Texas Eagle to be exact.
In Chicago, I transferred to the Capitol Limited, and back to Pittsburgh.