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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.

Library Supplies

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 30, 2017


Public Libraries have changed as technology has advanced, and the library-of-today looks quite different from its predecessor of a century ago.


An example of this is found in any library supply catalog.


Of course the first thing is that ordering library supplies is now accomplished online, although most companies do still produce a paper catalog of their products.


Thinking back to my start in the library profession; any good librarian always kept a copy of the current library supply catalog from each of the four (4) library supply companies’ at-hand, ready to meet the needs of any good library.


The problem today is that those companies have all merged into one company due to the reduced amount of library-specific supplies that are in today’s marketplace.


Today’s catalog of book repair supplies only covers 4 pages with a note to “call the company with other needs.”


You can still buy book glue, and there remains one model of Bone Folders to assist with tucking and folding pages and bindings, and there are even two models of Bostitch fasteners and staplers for bindings; but other binding equipment must be special ordered.


There are replacement cards for magazine registers, but the large steel-hinged binders designed by Melvil Dewey’s Library Bureau Company seem to be gone forever.


Card Catalog Units that used to be the backbone of every library have disappeared to “special order” although there remain a few types of card trays, probably stored in some warehouse for years hoping for a sale.


Book pockets are still listed, although they are advertised as a “friend to the teacher” for organizing things in the classroom.  Books today typically have no pocket for the date due card, replaced by a barcode and a computer-generated label.


Book Charger machines, made famous by Gaylord Brothers, have been gone for almost 20 years, although we have a couple of leftover units hiding in a storage room.


The new library supply catalogs for 2017 are filled with countless pieces of furniture to accommodate computers, as well as laptops and devices owned by the public, usually with a power plug built into the seat or desktop.


Bright, colorful units display CDs and DVDs for public checkout, as well as promotions for things that the library offers for downloading or online searching.


There is also library software and hardware to operate any variety of systems in today’s library environment.


One generation of technology has eliminated the accession machine that automatically advanced to place a unique number on each items, as well as the card sorter that allowed those 3 x 5 cards to be placed in numeric or alphabetical order with ease.


Rolodex files that allowed cards to be placed on a rotary file system are gone, replaced by an automated checkout system that keeps track of overdue items in a far more efficient manner.


Every now and then a library staffer will bring something to me that was found in the back of a file drawer, and inquire, “What was this used for?”


I can usually identify the strange object, such as the platen-clip-guide that was placed in a typewriter to hold the top edge of a catalog card during the typing process.


(She didn’t know what a platen was, so it really made no difference)


Only one time did I receive an even stranger look from a staff member, when they entered my office just as I was open stapling a magazine that had come apart due to a staple failure.


I had the magazine open faced over the back of a straight chair and was stapling the center into the upholstery strip and removing it so I could use my book awl to close the legs of the staple – fixing the magazine.


I told the staffer that my wide-mouthed stapler had broken and this was the only way I could fix it.


Okay………..Hmm was all she said.