Archive for December, 2008


American troops on parade in Vladivostok in August 1918. Japanese marines are standing at attention as the Americans pass a building occupied by the staff of the Czecho-Slovaks.

The Library History Buff Blog is always a wonderful read but Mr. Nix has been hitting ’em out of the park recently. There are two posts, in particular, that I recommend. His Sunday, Dec. 14 post is entitled Christmas in Vladivostok, 1918.  The ALA War Service and the American Expeditionary Force sent postcard greetings to the troops in Siberia, where Harry Clemons was working for ALA to provide services to the troops. This is a lovely post and I cannot help but feel proud, once again, to be part of a profession and tradition that takes books and learning and their critical importance in everyone’s life so seriously and with such dedication.


 On a lighter note the post for Friday, Dec. 12 is entitled, Library tim-toolman-taylorArtifact from Hell, and recounts a most amusing salvage operation carried out to preserve the old-fashioned iron shelving that was discarded when the Wisconsin State Law Library was restored. I don’t know why but the story reminded me of Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor for some reason. 


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From an article about librarians at the turn of the century:

Hearne read stories of graduates who would, after a fire, start a new library in a gym; who walked through 8- to 10-foot snow drifts to get to the library; and who brought books to World War I soldiers recuperating in hospitals.

“The librarian was a kind of apostle for culture. They were missionaries for literacy, knowledge and culture,” Hearne said.

This seems to be a week for looking back. The quote above comes from a very nice story in the Chicago Tribune today about librarians at the turn of the century.


Larry T. Nix, whose blog and history website I linked to a couple of posts back, has a delightful post up today about Mabel Wilkinson who was a Wyoming librarian in the first decade of the 20th century:

Wilkinson gave a presentation at the American Library Association conference in 1916 in Asbury Park, New Jersey entitled “Establishing Libraries Under Difficulties”. Wilkinson’s presentation concerned a trip on horseback to organize library service that she made in Platte County, Wyoming.

Nix links to the entire presentation she made, which is available on Google Books. Do take a look!

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42_grumpy_quiet_librarianYou young librarians may not know this yet but we older ones do. People almost always assume the best about librarians.  This follows on our image about which we often complain– but it does have benefits. I think only nurses, maybe, have it as good as we do.

I learned years ago, that when you are trying to convince a potential, pet-hating landlord to rent to you and your two cats, nothing opens doors faster, literally and figuratively, than the words, “I am a librarian”, particularly if you are a woman teetering on the edge of middle age. We ooze respectability. We really do. Messy reality simply doesn’t enter into it at all.

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen! Nobody knows my sorrows.

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen! Nobody knows my sorrows.

Even knowing this as I do, I was surprised to find out a couple of days ago that our image works for us, even when we get caught embarking on a life of crime.

I had discovered that my driver’s license was missing and had spent the afternoon retracing my steps in pursuit of it. It was not to be found. I finally gave it up for the day and headed home. It was rush hour and, as I watched the usual running of red lights, speeding, etc., it occured to me that I was going to have to be very careful. I had never been pulled over for a traffic violation but there is always a first time. It would not help things, if I couldn’t produce a license.

I turned into my neighborhood and, a block and a half from home on a very quiet street,  I was stunned to see flashing blue lights in my rearview mirror. Shaking my head in disbelief, I pulled over, uncertain whether to laugh or cry. A very pleasant officer came up and told me that I had not come to a “complete and full stop” at the stop sign. I handed over my registration and insurance and then, with a sinking heart,  ‘fessed up to my lost license. He took down my information and, to my surprise, asked me where I worked and what I did. He then asked for a phone number at the library. 

He returned to his squad car and was gone for what seemed like forever. He apparently verified everything and, to my amazement, came back and handed me two warnings. One for running the stop sign and one for not having a license. I could not believe my eyes. I suppose it is possible that I was born under a fortunate star. It is also possible that the officer was motivated by sympathy for my plight and went beyond the call of duty in showing mercy. But I am convinced that, once again, the magic of being a librarian saved me; if not from the big house, at least from having to pay fines, and deal with points on my license (or whatever happens in Alabama, when you are a traffic scofflaw).

Needless to say, I have been thoroughly rehabilitated and will never, ever fail to come to a full and complete stop again.

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Interested in library history? I want to mention two sites that I enjoy very much. I have linked to Judy Aulik’s historical library postcard site before but I want to mention it again. I am a collector of vintage postcards myself, although I collect in different subject areas. Old postcards are an amazing visual record of popular culture, as well as, social and political history. Judy has a particular interest in Carnegie libraries and her collection, from almost every state that was given grant money, is simply wonderful. Although I have lamented in the past that there don’t seem to be many Alabama cards to be found anywhere, she managed to find two Alabama Carnegie Libraries: the Montgomery Public Library and the Decautur Public Library, pictured here (by permission!)

The Decatur Public Library was built in 1905

The Decatur Public Library was built in 1905 (used by permission)

Judy is working on a section of university libraries. I imagine she would be very interested, if any of us could send her a scan of early views of any of our libraries. They must surely exist, even though I have never seen a single one.

 Postcards are one obvious sort of postal memorabilia. But there is quite a bit more to “going postal” and Larry T. Nix is your man, if you are interested. He has a more general library history blog: Library History Buff Blog , so named to differentiate it from his website, Library History Buff . There are many links on the blog (and on the web site) to other library history sites. I must say that the website is worth visiting just for the Tribute to Bookmobiles and Travelling Libraries alone. If you are interested in postal memorabilia, his website is the place to find information and photos of library-related stamps, covers, post cards and much more.

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A wonderful essay in the Telegraph (UK),  Grand Theft Auto, Twitter and Beowulf all demonstrate that stories will never die reflects on the fundamental place story-telling has in our lives. The author, Sam Leith, was led to write the essay, apparently, after reading reports that we are “running out of narrative”. This fear has gone so far as to lead to the creation of group to fight it; at MIT of all places:

 A group of academics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in cahoots with some Hollywood moguls, have announced the opening of a “Center for Future Storytelling”.

What possible purpose could such a thing have? The author says:

Their announcement does not tell us, offering instead a feast of bilge about “next-generation synthetic performer technologies”.

But there we are. The Center for Future Storytelling is a sign of the times. The notion that the narrative arts are under threat from information overload, shrinking attention spans, text messaging, social networking sites and slam-bam CGI blockbusters is one widely given voice.

The article goes on to explore the place of shared narrative in our lives and criticizes the short-sighted thinking that supposes that libraries and books are redundant. But, best of all, he excoriates the thinking that supposes that the human need to tell stories can ever change.

I can’t really do justice to the article, so I highly recommend reading it for yourself!

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I was looking at our blog stats today and was amused, though not surprised, to find that my post last February on “Library-themed Wedding Invitations” continues to outpace all other posts in numbers of hits by at least a factor of 2.  I can only suppose that lots of librarians are getting married and looking for ideas! The only post that challenges its status are my two posts about Dewey, the library cat. Well, who didn’t know that there are lots of cat lovers in the world? Of course, Dewey’s “biography” has generated a lot of attention everywhere.

Almost as popular has been my post “Dinosauers with Blogs”. I can’t prove it but, since visitors are finding it by searching on the single word “dinosauers”, I suspect that I have disappointed an awful lot of children trying to do school reports!

We continue to get many hits thanks to a site called alphainventions.com.  All the more reason that I want to solicit input from my fellow Cussers! We can now let the world know what cool things are going on in Alabama libraries.

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Information, please!


Where do people with questions turn?


Over the last weekend RefDesk featured Library Spot as its Site of the Day. This proved to be an amazingly well organized portal to an incredible array of sources of information. On the right sidebar are the top level links. The first is libraries; the second is Reading Room from which you can select the following:

    Literary Criticism

And on and on it goes. Many library web pages would benefit from studying Library Spot’s organization.

I clicked on magazines and was amazed at the sheer number of full-text general interest magazines available. Moreover, they are organized into useful subject categories.

On its “about” page the creators of Library Spot say:

We created LibrarySpot.com to break through the information overload of the Web and bring the best library and reference sites together with insightful editorial in one user-friendly spot. Sites featured on LibrarySpot.com are hand-selected and reviewed by our editorial team for their exceptional quality, content and utility. 

Does this man look like a reference librarian? 

 Library Spot is definitely worth a visit but I don’t really think reference librarians need to worry.

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