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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.

My Last Month

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 3, 2019


March is here, the last month of my library career.


On one hand, I am sad to see my 49 years as a librarian come to a close --- on the other hand it is time to depart and let new ideas be injected into the library system.


And librarians never stop being librarians, regardless of whether they are actively employed in a formal library environment.


I am not going to change searching for information to satisfy a curiosity, and I will continue doing editing and indexing for the library’s local history department --- and might be someone to fill in at the desk during vacations or sick leaves.


That first day --- Dec. 22, 1970 --- is as clear in my mind as if it just happened.  I was a “Page” at the library, which was a term used to describe a high school or college student hired by a library to re-shelve books, or generally retrieve and put things away in a library.


I was to arrive an hour before my scheduled work time to complete some paperwork, and the Finance Office was upset that someone had to stay additional time for that purpose.  She was actually pleasant after telling me I should have been told to come even earlier, but that was okay.


At 5 pm I joined four other librarians for the evening shift, all wonderful people who were very accommodating to my first night of work at the library.


Since I already knew the Dewey Decimal System, yes libraries still use it today, I was given the task of re-shelving the adult nonfiction books which were loaded on a large cart.


That took about 2 hours, interrupted by trips to the “magazine room” to retrieve back issues for research, now replaced by online systems.


As time went on, I was given other tasks around the library, especially if I worked on Saturday when the other departments were closed and things needed moved here and there.


In the summer, I worked full-time filling in for vacations and as they knew that I wanted this to be my career, everyone was accommodating in sharing their knowledge about librarianship with me.


That was a common factor in my whole career --- the willingness of librarians to share and mentor people new to the field.  There was never a good idea that librarians kept to themselves.


At meetings and workshops, library ideas are freely shared with one another hoping that they can be used at other libraries.


When I was President of the Ohio Library Council, I met so many librarians from around the state and the same situation was in-place around Ohio libraries.


After college, I went to Delphos, Ohio to assume my first administrative role in a public library and a staff member who had been there over 30 years greeted me with, “Oh, I always love a new Director with new ideas to add to our library!”


I was expecting a different reception, but was pleased that the entire staff felt that way and had a wonderful 6 years there.


Arriving at Steubenville 35 years ago, it was a different situation.  The previous Director had died, and the rest of the administrative staff had left, or was waiting for the new Director to retire.


It was a larger situation, a library system with branches and bookmobile, and like all Ohio libraries of the day, was transitioning funding over a 5 year period, quite a challenge!


Thinking back today, there was a situation with a co-worker in those early days --- those book carts were large and it took a lot of maneuvering to get them through the book stacks without blocking the aisles.


I shelves in the order of Dewey, from the 000s to the 900s and as I was shelving the last books on the cart, the cart disappeared every time as someone had returned it to the main desk.


It turned out that my fellow Page had taken the cart back to the main desk, and I didn’t think much about it until one evening I heard the staff comment, “wow, you really shelved a lot of books this evening!”


That’s why he took my empty cart back to the desk, to make it appear that HE had shelved all these books.


From that point on, I always keep a firm hold on my cart as it was nearly empty so that I would return my own empty cart to the main desk!


Today I just chuckle about it as years have gone by, but don’t try to take my cart away.