Today marks a significant double milestone for me. On August 30, 1995 (15 years ago to the day) I began my professional career as a librarian. On that same day I also took my first steps on the Erskine campus as an employed library staff member and faculty member. What an incredible experience it has been.
I vividly remember the excitement, enthusiasm, anxiety, and cluelessness that I felt as a greenhorn to the profession and the job. Over the years I have leaned on the training that I received from so many great instructors in library school and have learned even more through trial and error, flying by the seat of my pants.
I look back over the past decade and a half, and I see a lot of personal and professional growth. I look ahead and see room for even more. Today I would highlight 5 general concepts about librarianship that I have absorbed over the course of the last 15 years. They are (in no particular order):
- Change is inevitable. Tradition is informative. Adaptation is invaluable.
- Connecting with the library user is just as important as assisting the library user.
- It’s not about the tools/toys; it’s about what can be done with them.
- Seeing things from the vantage point of the user can be constructive and inspirational.
- Libraries and the library profession are much more than the average public perception.
Rather than provide commentary on these points, I have decided to simply list them and allow you, the reader, to reflect. Feel free to comment. I’ll be glad to respond.
And now for some fun…
Being the history and technology buff that I am, I thought I would compile a few historical facts to help put into perspective how far things have come since 1995.
Internet Explorer debuted (the now famous “blue e” logo was still a year away)
Netscape (anybody remember that web browser?) was only a year old (free only for academic and non-profit organizations; for all others, it would set you back $49)
Microsoft’s Windows95 operating system was released as was the short-lived Microsoft Bob
Web search engine AltaVista launched
The World Wide Web was only 5 years young (and the commercialization of the Web — the “dot-com bubble” — was just beginning to happen)
Facebook, Flickr, Google, iTunes, MySpace, Wikipedia, and YouTube did not exist
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, were meeting for the first time at Stanford University
Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, was 9 years old (and the launch of Facebook was still 9 years away)
The first wiki, WikiWikiWeb, appeared
“Social Networking” meant attending a party
If you typed with your thumbs, you were kind of…weird
Text messaging (SMS) was a fledgling activity (on average, only 0.4 messages per customer per month in 1995)
The Bulletin Board System, or BBS, was at the peak of its popularity (Our library had one.) What’s a BBS, you say? Watch this.
Nobody was asking, “Do you provide Wi-Fi access?”
Pagers were more popular than cell phones
Amazon.com website launched (company founded in 1994)
eBay debuted (known then as AuctionWeb — The name “eBay” didn’t arrive until 1997)
Craig Newmark began craiglist
Apple introduced its first color laser printer, the Color Laser Printer 12/600PS (Cost? $7,000)
CNN joined the internet, debuting CNN.com
The History Channel debuted
Sony PlayStation was released in the US (Cost? $299)
TV show Friends was only one season old
Jerry Garcia died and the Grateful Dead disbanded
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland, OH
Top song on the Billboard charts on August 30, 1995: “You Are Not Alone” by Michael Jackson
O.J. Simpson trial took place with O.J. found not guilty in murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman
Shannon Faulkner became the 1st female admitted to The Citadel
Cost of first-class postage stamp: $0.32
Average gas price: $1.15/gallon
[Except where noted, all images in the 1995 timeline come from Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons.]
Yes, a lot has changed since 1995. Here’s to the next 15 years of librarianship and watching taking part in the change that will continue to reveal itself.
It has been a while since I last posted a “good read,” so I am trying to catch up. Last month, I highlighted Matthew Battles’ Library: An Unquiet History. For another sweeping account of the history of libraries, let me point you to The Library: An Illustrated History by Stuart A. P. Murray (ALA, 2009). Much like Battles, Murray does not attempt to present an all-encompassing history of libraries. Rather he provides small windows to catch glimpses of libraries throughout history and around the globe. And, as the subtitle indicates, this nicely-bound book is filled with wonderful color illustrations throughout which help to visualize the text. Honestly, the book is worth picking up for the illustrations alone. (It does have something of a coffee table book feel to it.)
For the most part the book is divided into chapters which move chronologically through history–from the ancient times; through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation; and all the way to the budding 21st century. There also are chapters devoted to particular continents or cultures, such as the “Asia and Islam” and “The Library in Colonial North America” chapters. The text does become repetitive at points, but it doesn’t really hurt the flow of the book. Actually the book doesn’t necessarily need to be read from cover to cover.
A final section on “Libraries of the World” provides brief snapshots of almost 50 libraries around the globe. Murray admits that his selection of libraries for this section of the book is somewhat random. He states that “this selection is representative of certain types of libraries, though it can only introduce them.” Murray further adds that perhaps the reader’s interest will be piqued enough to consider visiting these and other libraries of the world. There certainly are some libraries included here that I would love to see in person.
For those who wish to read more than what is contained in this book, Murray includes a list of suggestions for further reading.
Lovers of books and libraries, let me recommend The Library: An Illustrated History for your reading list.
This book is for the librarians, bibliophiles, and history buffs of the world.
For a sweeping history of libraries, let me recommend Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles (W.W. Norton, 2003). Anyone would be hard-pressed to pack a comprehensive history of libraries into a few hundred pages. Battles, himself, admits this. What Battles has done is artfully weave together a collection of stories, vignettes, and historical facts about libraries that range from the earliest libraries of Mesopotamia to those of today. The book is strongest in its depiction of libraries prior to the twentieth century.
In Library: An Unquiet History the reader will encounter such things as the burning of the library of Alexandria, the beginnings of the use of the alphabet and numerals for the arrangement of books in libraries, the birth of the library catalog, the Jewish genizas where books go to die, the portable “home libraries” of early twentieth-century America, and a poignant chapter on the destruction of libraries around the world in the twentieth century. The reader will also learn of leading figures in the history and development of libraries, including Melvil Dewey, Richard Bentley, Edward Gibbon, and Antonio Panizzi. But Battles doesn’t stop there. He addresses ways in which library operations and perceptions have changed over the course of time. Most notably, he weaves into the text discussion of a shift in the philosophy of libraries. Libraries as storehouses, with an emphasis on the collections and their preservation and protection, become places of discovery, with an emphasis on the reader/library user. Librarians embracing the latter philosophy, such as Antonio Panizzi, are what Battles calls “Promethean librarians.” That is, those who seek to bring the knowledge contained in libraries to the masses and help the reader find his/her book.
There are other books that more systematically present the history of libraries, but Battles’ book is a refreshing approach. So, to all you helluo librorums (devourers of literature) out there, Battles’ Library: An Unquiet History is worth the read.