On our first date, my husband-to-be asked what I did for a living. I told him I was a school librarian. "Well there's a profession that will be obsolete in twenty years," he chuckled. I did not chuckle. I did marry him and twenty five years later I am still waiting for his prediction to come true.
OK, I admit that twenty five years ago I never dreamed that I would have a phone that could help me find my way around the zillion streets of Atlanta named "Peachtree." Or a device that could download hundreds of books, cutting down considerably on overweight luggage fees. My 1989 school library had computers, but they were little more than fancy typewriters. Who knew that entering the right search words on my jazzy little laptop could find pictures of the battleships my father-in-law served on in WWII? Or the history of the long demolished amusement park of my childhood, the genesis of The Roller Coaster Kid? Yes, Craig was right...I could access all that information without setting foot in a library.
But yet there are still libraries. In my neck of the woods, it appears that most people are there for free computer time and to check out videos. If I am there, it is to do research. Guess what? Not everything is available on the Internet. At least not for free. When I wrote Jimmy's Stars and Yankee Girl I spent months reading newspapers from WWII and the 1960's....on microfilm machines. While there are a good number of old periodicals available online these days, they never seem to be the ones I need or there is a hefty fee to join a database. All the branch libraries in my immediate area were built in the last 15 years and don't have microfilm machines. But if I need one, all I have to do is go downtown to the main library.
The library is a source of professional literature such as Library Journal or Publisher's Weekly. Usually they are kept in the librarians' work area, but they have always let me read them on the premises if I ask. There are also databases and reference materials that I can't find anywhere else...at least not for free.
I have had the good fortune to have worked in a university library which gave me access to all
kinds of information not found in a public library. My library allowed the public to use the collection for a nominal yearly fee. As an employee I had free reign, but even if I hadn't, I would have paid the fee. It's something to investigate.
I could go on forever about the information that you will find only in a library....but why tell you? Check it out yourself. By the way, my husband has had to finally admit that libraries and librarians are not obsolete or likely to become so any time soon.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman