The Librarian In Me

We were on spring break and I couldn’t wait to take the kids to get new library cards. We’d moved in the fall and had yet to visit the local library. I’ve loved libraries for as long as I can remember, and began working in one when I was just 14. People use to say I was born in the children’s section and I loved the idea of it. Walking in the front door felt like stepping into my own home. I couldn’t wait to go off and explore, envisioning multiple trips with the kiddos to their local library. Instilling in them that same sense of wonder I have whenever I walk into one.
Since the kids loved folklore I headed toward the non-fiction section, but when I got there something was off. There were no numbers. No numbers on non-fiction books, it didn’t make sense. Where were the 398.2’s? Where was folklore? Maybe I’d misunderstood the signage. I decided to try again, this time choosing to check out the cooking section, and off I went looking for the 640’s. They weren’t there either…?
I took a step back, confused, trying to find numbers on the end-cap of shelves. No numbers. What the hell was going on?
I moved to the fiction section looking for childhood favorites such as: Judy Blume, E. B. White, or L. M. Montgomery. Nothing, only categories like “talking animals” or “fairy stories”. This was too weird, maybe it was time to enlist the card catalog. On my way there, I noticed signage about “Shelflogic”. Originally called “Deweyless”-the library in question defined it as, “a designation for the hybrid bookstore model classification system intended to offer customers more of what they want in a library”.
F*** that! I don’t want Shelflogic, I want Dewey back. They were messing with something sacred and I didn’t like it. I could feel the tears welling up. It was time to round up my children and head for the door. The kids were confused. They couldn’t understand why we were leaving. They knew I was upset about something but they didn’t know why. In truth, I didn’t know why I was so upset.
I called my husband in tears. He had started out as a librarian so surely he would understand my reaction. He didn’t. He was sympathetic to me, but only said that he “was not surprised” by the new classification system and that other libraries may be heading that way soon. It was all too much for me. I swore never to use the county library again.
It’s taken me a couple of years to get over this travesty and I can now laugh when I think about my reaction, but I finally understand why I got so upset.
On a recent trip to Texas I met up with my wonderful sister Debbie, and off we went to visit our crazy redneck family. The visit was hard and it brought back memories of a childhood we had little control over.
Libraries, at least to me, represent order. Those numbers are a system by which to organize the chaos. In a world I couldn’t control, the library was a place to retreat. As long as I understood the system, the rules never changed. I knew where everything was supposed to be, and that was a blessing to a child in need of a steady influence on her life.
Today, in some form, libraries still represent that to me. It’s why I became a librarian. Yes, I love books and reading, but I also love being able to create order out of chaos and in this world we don’t have many opportunities to do that.

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