Column, Looking Back

The library

I will admit that I have become a lost soul when it comes to using the library for reference material these days.

I was a pro at finding things in the old card catalogs. The Dewey Decimal System and I were good friends back then. I liked the library so much that I almost got an additional degree in library science but the business world beckoned to me instead.

I have come to the conclusion that the place where I am now most comfortable in the Rutland Library is the cellar! I know exactly where to find my favorite authors and head to that section to look for a book that will be a “new read” for me. I also seek out authors who are unfamiliar to me, as that seems easier to do when browsing in a small environment.

The frequency of my visits to the library dropped off when Annie’s Book Store arrived many years ago. I am a gardener and like to pick up a book to read as I take a break from working. That means the pages are apt to have a dirty fingerprint or two before the book is finished. That is allowed only if I own the book. The price of second hand books was reasonable during the days of Annie’s. But when they closed, I wondered where I would find inexpensive books that wouldn’t need permission for a little garden dirt.

Shortly after Annie’s closed, I saw an ad for a book sale at the Rutland Free Library and have been a frequent visitor ever since. I bring a large canvas tote bag and can fill it up for under $10. That is even better than Annie’s prices “back in the day!”

The cellar version of the library has organized sections by categories and authors, just like the main library. I feel like I am back home once again but in a smaller environment.

For you digital people I know the argument … there are no paper pages to get dirty on a tablet or other device. But for me, writing and research happen on a screen. Reading is most enjoyable as I turn paper pages in a book.

Walking through the doors of the local library has always been an adventure. I was taken there as a young child to get my first library card. I remember it was blue in color and came in a little envelope. My mother took me to the library about every Saturday. I was slightly worried that I might read every book in the Children’s Room. Then what would I do? I remember Mrs. Douglas was the librarian and knew what kinds of books I liked. She always told me if a new book had arrived that she thought I would enjoy.

Back in the 60s most of my term paper research was done at the local library due to a limited selection in our school library. That is when I became a pro at whipping through the card catalog and going right to the section I needed. Some of the books and magazines couldn’t be removed from the library so research was done at the library tables. There were no computers. You brought your material from the shelves to the table time and time again until you were finished. You left with many handwritten pages of information. The library was a silent place. Adults were often reading papers or magazines in the room with us teenagers and our snickering meant a dirty look!

With age came the opportunity for me to use every section of the library.  The Children’s Room was where the Vermont Room currently is. The shelving was all relatively low, making it easier for young people to explore their choices. When I was a little older I was a volunteer on Saturday mornings and helped restock the shelves. I loved the library!

With teen years came the chance to use the main library. Books on lighter subjects were found on shelves that hung on the opposite wall of the children’s section. It was the go-to area for light romances and mysteries. I remember putting a note on my calendar at home so I wouldn’t forget the due date of the books I checked out. I didn’t want to pay a fine. As I recall, the new books had to be returned in a week and the older books could be kept for a month. The fines were just pennies a day but taught us responsibility, as buying penny candy was a whole lot more fun than giving the money to the library.

There wasn’t a reason to go to the second floor of the library until I was old enough to research school papers. Once I knew the Dewey decimal number for a particular subject matter, I scooted up to the second floor and hunted down the appropriate books. I am sure that a teacher told our class how the Dewey Decimal System came about, but I had forgotten. In case you have too, Melvil Dewey is the man responsible for putting this organized system in place. He developed the ideas for his library classification system in 1873 while working at the Amherst College library. The majority of libraries still use that system today.

There were some activities in the rooms upstairs when I was young, but today the Nella Grimm Fox Room has much more to offer.

I had to do some research not too long ago for an article I was writing and the library staff was most helpful. They found the subject matter for me on their computer and escorted me to the correct section upstairs.

The fact that I have not kept up with the times tells me I need to get out of the cellar and spend more time in the upper sections. I shouldn’t be a stranger to a place that used to feel like home!

Mountain Times Newsletter

Sign up below to receive the weekly newsletter, which also includes top trending stories and what all the locals are talking about!