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The Library is Changing. The Library Has Always Been Changing.

One of the senior librarians commented recently that they were happy they wouldn’t have to deal with all of the changes that new librarians would face in the next decade or two. The new librarian they were talking to thought that was a funny comment. His view was that the big change already took place just over twenty years ago when the senior librarian was in the middle of his career. That was the time the library installed its computerized catalog and began the process of phasing out the big card catalogs. For readers who have never seen one,  a card catalog was a large piece of furniture with lots of little drawers. A library as large as the Harold B Lee Library has several units with hundreds of drawers.

Each drawer held hundreds of cards.

Each card was typed by an individual in the library’s cataloging department.

Every book had a card for the author, the title, and the subject. So if the library had a collection of one million books the card catalog had millions of cards to help patrons find an individual item. If you pay attention as you walk around the library there are still a few very small and very specialized card catalogs tucked away here and there.

Now that the library has around eight million items, the electronic databases we use are much faster and each item can have one record that contains many searchable fields so your research should progress much faster. Other areas in the library have changed just as quickly. The library still has vinyl records and even cassette tapes, not including the worn out ones that were used to created “Tapeman” pictured above. Some older items fall out of use, cassettes are not popular in a world that moved to mp3 players, which we also have, and now streaming video and audio content, which we provide. Years ago the library began a service to deliver books to faculty today the library can provide scholarly electronic content to anyplace with Internet access. All of those changes happened on the senior librarians watch.

In fact, things change so quickly that it is not longer a worry for librarians. It is simply part of the day to day work we perform. If there is a new technology that people are using, QR codes for example, we add it to our set of tools. If there is a new format for content, e-books are a growing item, we add them to our collections. So, to all the senior librarians who saw us through the many many changes we say thanks. And to our patrons who wonder what will be the next thing in libraries we say watch this space. When we see something new and we we’ve found a way to provide it for you we’ll let you know.