Next month marks a quarter century of employment at my current Library. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the changes that I’ve seen since I started back in 1986. Some of the new librarians who are working today were either in diapers then or, perhaps, not even born. My younger collegues enjoy hearing about the “early days” in library technology, so I thought I’d share some of these experiences with you over the next few weeks.
I came to my job after being off on a medical leave for six months. The week that marked the end of the final month, I responded to a part-time employment posting for a children’s librarian in a suburb of Detroit. I was delighted to be offered the position and I think I did a good job at storytimes, youth programming and collection development. A year passed and I had the good fortune of being able to switch over to the adult services department in the emerging area of technology. My qualifications for this job rested solely on my ownership of an Apple 2c computer at home and a natural curiosity about what made it work. I was the only person on staff that actually owned any sort of computer. Thus, I became the library’s first “techie” librarian.
The sole pc in the building was an old IBM, used by our director as well as our secretary for word processing. In the staff work area we had two GEAC terminals used for inputting records into a server located off site. If I remember correctly, they were the old amber display screens. This was the first step in our library going online with our card catalog using the GEAC ILS. We were a member of a larger consortium and our clerical staff linked our local books to the larger database. This was tedious since the server always slowed to a snail’s pace by mid-afternoon. It was absolutely amazing when we finally had our new computerized system up and running. Honestly, there were times that almost a minute passed before a transaction took place and the screen responded, but we thought we were “state of the art.” And thus began our march into the age of technology. In my next posting, I’ll share the wonderful world of teaching my fellow staff members how NOT to be afraid of breaking the machine and how to use the search called “Gopher.” Until then, back to my memories……