I’m currently in crazy end-of-semester mode, so this is all I have to offer.
Monthly Archives: April 2011
I’m currently working on a paper about the history of the DC Public Library and have been looking through articles in the Washington Post from the early 20th century (thank you, ProQuest). While public libraries have transformed in many ways, some things haven’t changed. Here’s an excerpt from an article published February 19, 1905 titled “How to Find Books.”
LOOK FOR THE CALL NUMBERS
At the District Public Library, readers often wish a certain book or books, but dislike to take the trouble to consult the card catalogue to find the call numbers. This feeling is perfectly natural, and those who work in libraries thoroughly understand it. But, nevertheless, annoying though it is to some, to find these call numbers is in most cases absolutely necessary, for it is by them that the books are arranged in classes and put in their places on the shelves, and without the numbers to guide them the pages are at a loss to find the books — or at best the books can only be found after a long search, which means a tedious wait for the reader. Consequently care should be taken to copy the whole call number accurately…
The catalogue itself as used in the District Public Library is the simplest and most widely used form of the card catalogue, and should be consulted exactly like a dictionary. It is arranged in alphabetic order, and books are entered under their author’s name and also under their subject.
“How to Find Books: Method of Cataloguing at the District Library. Look for the Call Numbers System Employed is Much Like that of a Dictionary — Books Listed Under the Name of the Author, the Subject, and the Title — Recent Additions to the Shelves — some Useful Information.” The Washington Post (1877-1922): R3. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1993). 1905. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/144534396?accountid=8285>
In George Orwell’s essay “Why I Write,” he lists four “great motives” that people write — sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. I was originally going to think of reasons people become librarians, but instead I decided to list four motives for using the library (in no particular order).
- for love of the book (or film, magazine, cd, etc.)
- computer and internet access
- space, both reflective and social
What are some other “great motives?” While I would love to think the expertise of librarians is a main draw for people, I’m really not sure how true that is — just speaking from my own experience. In elementary and middle school, I spent hours and hours at my local public library. The reason I kept going back was the books. Though I loved my librarians, I don’t recall asking them for recommendations. As I moved onto high school, while I still went to the library often, I never approached a librarian for help. In undergrad, I used our academic library (though not as much) — but never the librarians. I have to wonder if my personal lack of librarian use is because I grew up consulting Google and Wikipedia.
I also know I’m not the only one. I don’t have any numbers to back me up, but I’m pretty confident that the number of people who use the library outweighs the number of people who consult librarians. What I can’t figure out is if that’s a good or bad thing.