Looking back and taking stock of what has happened in the previous months is something we all do at the beginning of a new year. But I’d like to go back a bit further because 2015 marks a number of personal milestones. I began my first job in a library 40 years ago this month! This year marks my 30th anniversary as a public library director, and my 10th anniversary at Shaker Library!
Yes, libraries were much different back in 1975. One of my first jobs was to file new author, title, and subject cards in the card catalog. As a newbie, I had to leave the cards “above the rod” to be inspected by the librarian to make sure that they were in proper order. Apparently, I impressed her as I was soon allowed to “drop” the cards myself.
In those “olden” days, there was little if no automation. People signed out books by writing their names (and sometimes their addresses) on the book card and a due date was rubber stamped on another card that went into the book pocket. Ohio was one of the first places in the nation to offer shared cataloging of new material via dedicated terminals. The result was that most catalog cards came from Columbus instead of from the Library of Congress.
By the time I earned my library master’s degree, I was required to take a class in computer programming that involved the production of IBM “key punch” cards to complete the process. Years later when I first became a public library director in 1985, my library had no stand-alone staff computer. They were, however, using the new plastic library cards that had customer address information in raised letters that could be stamped onto the book cards like they used to do with the old multi-part credit card slips!
It was 1989 before that library became the first non-metropolitan library to create its own automated circulation system, and that was the year that saw the end to the card catalog. Complaints about the loss of that catalog continued for many years, but computers relieved library staff of much drudgery and allowed quick retrieval in ways that had been impossible.
Shaker Library was ahead of its time when it added Sunday hours in 1975, but still only 480,000 items were circulated that year. Cassette tapes for music and audiobooks became very popular in the 1980s along with videocassettes, which transformed library services across the country. Almost overnight, people who had never used libraries streamed in to check out movies. Shaker’s video collection did not grow until the late 1980s and early 1990s. 1 million items were checked out for the first time in 1996.
Compact discs eventually replaced cassette tapes as DVDs replaced videocassettes, and early in the decade I have spent at Shaker Library we stopped ordering cassettes of all types. The dominance of the Internet has led to little use of CDs and a decline in DVD use as more and more resources are available via downloading or streaming. Public computers were not introduced until 1994 at Shaker Library, but usage has grown every year since.
Teens have always used Shaker Library, and I am sure there was concern about those young “Baby Boomers” in the 1960s. During my career, we have worried about Generation X but more recently it has been the “Millennial” generation. And now we are beginning to talk about “Generation Z” (those born since 2001)!
Digital databases and mobile devices were a thing out of Dick Tracy comic strips and Star Trek TV programs, but they have become a reality at today’s Shaker Library. Check out Hoopla, Zinio, OverDrive, and many of the other resources readily available through our website!
Luren E. Dickinson, Director