Circ staff: the most visible people at the library




It’s not hard to go in and out of the library without speaking with most of the library staff, but it is hard not to see any of them. I’d like to say that you’ll see a reference librarian, but some libraries have decided to do away with a regular reference desk. You’ll see reference librarians at those libraries, but not necessarily know who they are. Even if you don’t check anything out, you’ll recognize some library staff right away: the people who check out library materials. They still work behind a desk, probably very close to the door. The … Continue reading






Roots: digging for your family tree at the library




When I lived in the Chicago area, the Newberry Library was one of my favorite places. I occasionally had occasion to cross paths with “the cemetery lady,” a researcher who knew more about cemeteries than just about anyone else in the area. And why shouldn’t she hang around the Newberry? It has one of the best genealogy collections in the country. If you’re serious about tracing your family tree, be prepared to learn a lot about cemeteries. And the best place to start learning about them, or anything about your ancestors, is at the library. Your local library does not … Continue reading






Libraries vs the digital divide




Railroad tracks used to divide some communities into the right side and the wrong side. People on the wrong side of the tracks lacked both social standing and the resources to better themselves. The term “digital divide” similarly refers to those who have access to the Internet and those who don’t. Libraries, and especially public libraries, are at the forefront of attempts to bridge the digital divide. What is the digital divide? What constituted the digital divide changes over time. When the general public first began to acquire computers at home, poor people and minorities were less likely to have … Continue reading






Bookmobile: when the library comes to you




By the time even smaller cities had public libraries, patrons still had to live in town to use them. The idea of taking library materials to smaller towns and rural areas took form only in the twentieth century. Depending on which website is correct, the first bookmobile service in the US started either in Chester County, South Carolina or Washington County, Maryland. Washington County’s effort (from 1905) is better documented, but Chester County’s claims to have started in 1904. The idea caught on and spread first to neighboring counties and eventually throughout most of the country. Today, some kind of … Continue reading






Using the library as an office




I hear a lot from and about people who take their laptops or tablets to places like Starbucks, Panera, or just a local place with wi-fi and hang out there. These are informal places that don’t seem to mind how long someone stays, so long as they spend some money. Meanwhile, the folks that hang out there often say how much work they get accomplished, including working online or interviewing people. What could be better? Consider the library. … Continue reading