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Mr. Mustache, another librarian blog

I am a reference librarian with experience in both the public and state government fields. I am doing this on a whim, sort of like the mustache I grew when I was 19 and still have in my 50's.

Location: New Jersey, United States

I am a state worker and a librarian.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Typewriters in libraries

The young librarian takes a position on the reference desk of a public library. Equipped with knowledge and enthusiasm of her new profession and ready to explain Flikr, YouTube, Ebsco and Linux to the eager patrons she gets her first question. "Where is the typewriter?"

Typewriters? She has to run to the circulation desk. "Does this library have typewriters?" The answer is that way in the back, between the potted palm and the men's room, is an old IBM Selectric. A vestige of an earlier age, but alas, people still ask to use it.

There they sit. Old, fat, expensive to maintain. It's difficult to load ribbons, it's horrendously difficult to load the correcto ribbons. The typewriters. Every library director would like to throw them into the trash. But, alas, people still come into the library to use them. And if they are not working correctly they will let you know.

The library typewriter stands as an example of the dilemma of what libraries should provide. Some say give the adults their Rachael Ray cookbooks and their "how to beat the odds at the casino" books and the kids their books on pit bulls and numb chucks. Others say the library is a place where the public should be encouraged to gravitate to higher things, ie. haute cuisine, the stock market and Japanese Reiki.

Typewriters are a classic example of recycling. Technical services dump their typewriters and the better ones go in the public area. Then those break down and people donate their old typewriters. Typewriters are constantly being recycled partly because it is woefully difficult to find
people to repair the contraptions.

I remember one day after spring cleaning, opening the storage room in the basement and there was a convention of a dozen old typewriters. I guess they were waiting for the word processing fad to pass.

Today I work in a government library. I am amazed how many people want to use our typewriter. It is one of the hottest commodities in the library. Admittedly, it is perfect for filling out forms with carbon copies (yes we still use those). I have gotten to be a good typist. Last week the correcto ribbon broke and I am now typing "without a net". Just like the time I saw Miss Dizzy Heights at a Rolling Stones concert. Well, not exactly.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

YES, a typewriter is a fabulous and immensly useful gadget to have around. After all, how do you fit all that info into that tiny little box in longhand? Hurray for the invention of online forms. Sure makes my life easier. To bad government cannot keep up with the times.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous publiclibraryworkerbee said...

People always ask for typewriters in San Antonio public library's too.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anxiously awaiting your next post. What happened Mr Mustache?

A loyal reader

10:10 AM  

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