Tag Archives: libraries

Library Science

Sometimes a simple thing happens that makes you realize what you should have done.  Bancroft-Library-wikicommons-C-S-Imming-2012One day at the library, I was reshelving books that had been left out.  There were a lot of them.  Messy people, I thought, can’t even put back the books they take out to look at.  Before too long fortunately, I noticed a sign:  “Please do not reshelve books.  Survey of book usage in progress.”  Uh-oh.  I quickly unshelved those I could remember reshelving.

That day I acknowledged my inner librarian.  I have loved libraries, small and large, for almost as long as I can remember.  I now wish I’d taken Library Science at university.  I am not sorry I took Anthropology but had I combined that with Library Science I’d have had, for me I think, a perfect combination.

Anthropology provides wonderful tools for looking at the world, and it’s relatively marketable.  I think any government or social services position would be improved by having someone with an anthropology degree in it.  In real life, however, its direct connection to job requirements is usually as “a degree in social sciences.”  But that’s enough, it gets you in the door.  But it won’t get you a librarian job.

Malinowski in Trobriands - library scienceAs an Anthropology student, I could have focused on archival research methods.  That would have taught me, by experience, the nuts and bolts of libraries, archives and museums.  Ironically, historical research has been the largest part of my work.  But, in university, that did not seem as glamorous as ethnographic fieldwork.  So, despite the appeal of libraries to me, I didn’t think to put the two interests together within Anthropology or in studying both.

I love anthropology and it’s stood me in good stead.  But I love the smell and feel of Steacie-Library-York-U-wikicommons-Raysonho-2008libraries.  I love looking through bookshelves and card catalogues, but I’m always curious about what goes on behind them.  How do the books get processed and on the shelves?  How are decisions made about what books and periodicals are bought?  How does the Dewey Decimal System really work?  How has library work changed in the digital era?  People who have studied Library Science know all this.

Librarians are both the gatekeepers and the engineers of the worlds of knowledge.  They Belmont-Library-ON-2012 children's section artwork Patricia Couturelet you in and they stream the supply to their shelves.  They, with teachers, are children’s first encounter with literacy outside the home.  And maybe I’ve been lucky but I’ve never met a librarian who made me think, “wow, you’d be happier in another line of work.”   Maybe that’s due to being a daily part of so many wonderful worlds of art and fact.

So to those in or thinking about undergrad programmes or graduate school:  don’t discount social science and liberal arts disciplines that appear to have no job market Stephen_A_Schwarzman_Building_wikicommons-Blurpeace-2009relevance.  They all do, at least indirectly.  And, most importantly, they teach you to think.  Without that ability, any degree or qualification is of limited use.  But don’t discount the practical career-directed degree either.  If I had it to do all over again, I’d have both Library Science and Anthropology degrees.

Interlibrary Loan

St. Thomas Public Library interlibrary loan slipI wanted a book a while back.  The public library didn’t have it and neither did the local bookstore.  Did I want to drive to London to look for it?  Or order it online?

I checked at the library again to see if maybe they had ordered it or if they’d want it for their collection if I bought it then donated it to them.  The librarian said “You can get it through interlibrary loan.”

Oh!  So, off to a different desk and my request was put in.  A couple days later, the book is in.  I looked through it with great excitement, wanting to know what library let me have it.  It came from Essex County Library.  How miraculous is that!

Interlibrary loan isn’t new to me.  I used it in university libraries and never thought twice about it.  Needing academic books or papers, of course your own library will not have everything available but another will.  So your library will get it from another painting of library shelves Carl Spitzweg ca 1850library because you need it.

But my assumptions about interlibrary loan usage for academic purposes never translated into it for a book that I simply want to read.  If the library doesn’t have it, I have bought the book or requested it as my “buy a book” donation to the library collection.

All the way home from the library, I looked at that book that had come all that way to me.  And the whole thing was free.

Think about that in comparison with your bank.  You put your money in the bank, the bank uses it to make money for itself.  And the bank charges service fees for any transaction you do chart showing bank fee changesinvolving your own money and even the report cards on what’s happening with your money – monthly statements etc.  Your money is making money for the bank.

The library?  You reading a book is not earning the library any money.  You getting them to get you a book from another library is costing them a lot more money than you simply taking a book off your library’s shelves and checking it out.  But that search for the book you request, requisitioning it, having it brought to your library for you to pick up, then the whole process in reverse to get the book back to its own shelves: free.

Yes, that’s what public libraries are about.  A fee for such services would prevent some people from being able to use interlibrary loan.  But what about a voluntary donation?  library card catalogue photo by Dr. Marcus Gossler (Wikicommons)Libraries are as hard, perhaps harder, pressed in terms of budgets and having to figure out how to provide good service to the community while dealing with cutbacks.  There generally always is a donation box somewhere in the library, but how many of us think to actually put money in it?  I did when I got this book.

If I’d bought my interlibrary loan book, it would have cost me about $30.  So a donation of $5 to the library is a bargain for me.

The Public Library

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the library.  It was in an old house on Main old-Belmont-Public Library-from-Elgin-ArchivesStreet in Belmont, right near our house.  I read pretty much every book that was in there.  Then they closed it.  A bookmobile came to town instead.  It was part of the Elgin County Public Library system.  I liked it too – wasn’t as good as being able to go to the library any day you felt like it, but it was kind of exciting, knowing the bookmobile was coming the next day.

Several years later, after I’d left Belmont, they built a nice new library there.  There are professional librarians staffing it, and all the paper and online resources you need.  It’s a new public library Belmont 2002lovely library.  We can see the people going in and out from my parents’ house, and it’s well used, as a library and a community centre for meetings, special events and family get-togethers in the hall you can rent.  My mother took my dad’s stuff over every November for the Remembrance Day display.  A lot of people from the whole area came to see it.  My parents had their 50th anniversary party in the hall.

I was talking with my brother a few years ago about reading.  I’ve read my whole life, but he didn’t, to my knowledge.  But he was telling me about books he’d been reading.  I said something about going to the library and he said he just buys the books he wants, new or used.  He said he’d stopped going to the library when they closed the old Belmont library down.  He’s older than me by several years so we didn’t share a childhood.  I had no idea Elgin Co bookmobile 1963he’d ever been in the library in Belmont.

He said he’d read every book in there at least twice.  But he stopped reading when the bookmobile took over.  He didn’t want to have to be at a certain place at a certain time in order to get a book.  He was a teenager, old enough to have a life, but not old enough to drive to another town’s library.  So he got out of the habit of reading for pleasure.  When the bookmobile became our only library, I was young enough to not have anything else to do, and going to a place at a certain time was still a thrill for me.  So I kept reading, although I missed the old building with its creaky floors and dark rooms with unexpected treasures found hiding on high-up shelves.

Glanworth Public Library

Glanworth-Library-from-FacebookSo now the village of Glanworth, just west of Belmont, is losing its local library.  The London Library board says it can’t afford the expense of a separate library for so few people.  The people of Glanworth want their library, as a place of books and resources and of community.  I hope, one way or another, they can keep it.  You can have a community hall, sure, but there’s something about having it also house books and other worlds of knowledge that enriches the community as a whole and the kids and adults that comprise that community.

protest lawn sign don't close the book on GlanworthI’m glad nothing ever happened to cause me to lose my love of reading. And I’m glad my brother found his way back to reading for fun.  I hate to think there will be kids in Glanworth now in the situation we were in all those years ago.  They’ll either stop reading or have to go to much more trouble to get books than just walking down the street to their local public library.  The town’s battle cry is, “Don’t close the book on Glanworth.”  I hope you win.

Belmont Library and Bookmobile photos are from the Elgin Co. Library site and those of the Glanworth Library are from the Save the Glanworth Community Library Facebook public page.