Monday, June 3, 2024

Five ways going to our local library now is different from what it was back in 1981

(1) I now take a car to get there instead of a bike
My visits to the Wickliffe Public Library these days require a short car ride of only 4 minutes. When I was growing up, the library was located clear on the other end of the city from me, which usually meant I would have to ride my bike all the way down Euclid Avenue to get there. It was only a few miles, but it seemed farther. On the way home, as I carried the books I had selected in a plastic bag with the drawstring wrapped around my wrist, the bag would constantly bump up against my front bike tire and start to tear. I remember at least one time when it burst open and the books fell out before I reached home. I think I like the car trips better.

(2) Computers
There are probably a dozen computers at the library that are free for public use. When I first started going decades ago, there were zero. And even a few years later when the first few green-screen models were installed, I recall them being coin-operated and time-limited. Nowadays it's difficult to imagine a library that aims to serve its surrounding community to the fullest not offering free computer use.

(3) The card catalog has gone away...
Speaking of computers, that's how you look up materials at the library now. When I was a boy, you had to go the card catalog, pull out the appropriate drawer depending on the first letter of what you were looking for, and find the card that would tell you where in the library it was located. If it was a book, you had to memorize the call number. One time when we traveled to the library for a field trip in 6th grade, I ripped the card out of the file drawer and took it with me as I searched for the book. I wasn't exactly a genius back then (or now).

(4) has the old checkout machine...
The only loud sound I remember in the library growing up was the "chuh-CHUNK" of the little machine they used to check out items. They would insert your library card in a little slot, then place the card that was kept in a sleeve on the inside cover of your book into another slot, and that would cause the "chuh-CHUNK" sound that meant the due date (and I think your library card number) had been printed on the book card. Now it's just an innocuous little beep when the circulation clerk scans your title. I miss the "chuh-CHUNK."

(5) ...and so have the ethnic jokebooks (I think)
Back in the 1980s, the Wickliffe Public Library offered a whole shelf full of jokebooks aimed at various nationalities and ethnicities. I remember a Polish jokebook for sure, and I'm pretty sure there was an Italian one. And I wouldn't be surprised if there were books of off-color jokes about Black people, White people, Chinese people, Eskimos, Antarcticans, etc. The culture ethos was...a little different in the 80s. I assume these books are now off the shelves, but as a 12-year-old I would happily check them out, read them, and laugh uproariously.

As I often say, it was a different time, you understand.

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