I was a librarian for almost 40 years, most of those spent working in school libraries with several summers in a small public library as well. (See The Diary of a Young Girl, Magazines for the Principal, My Snowy Year in Buffalo and Rainy Night on the Highway)
I loved my time in libraries and still believe bringing books and good literature to kids is surely the best job in the world.
But of course there was also the less inspiring, technical side of the job – ordering, processing, and shelving books; weeding the collection; and maintaining the card catalog.
In fact I prided myself on keeping my card catalog current by adding extra subject cards to help students find books that reflected their interests as well as the school’s curriculum and my teaching colleagues’ assignments.
But by the late 1980’s the library card catalog was becoming a thing of the past and New York City’s school libraries – as all school and university and public libraries around the country – were computerizing and their catalogs going online.
We librarians were trained to use and maintain the new online catalogs knowing our old wooden card catalogs would soon be obsolete. But it was heart wrenching for me to think the custodian would soon come to haul mine away, and so to make the parting less painful I decided to keep my library’s shelf list. A shelf list is a listing – in my library’s case on cards – of every book in the collection arranged not by author, title, or subject as in the public access catalog, but rather by its Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress assigned classification number.
But of course my shelf list was accessible online as well with no need to keep those dog-eared 3 x 5 cards. And so I eventually gave up my hard copy shelf list and crossed over – a bit nervously – to the brave new world of technology.
The kids, on the other hand, had no trouble transitioning from the card to the online catalog. In fact much of her early computer know-how this old school librarian learned from her tech savvy students!
Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!