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What might be interesting from my tenure?

November 23, 2015

The thought from the newsroom was to include some library history here before the end of the year, which will also be the end of my reign as director and the end of this weekly column.

There’s a good brief history of the library on our local history website based largely on work done by previous director Norma Edlund in 1995 when we applied to have the Carnegie library listed on the State Historic Register.

But what might be interesting from my tenure? I started working at the library in 1988. I got the job in the usual fashion: I walked into the library one Monday to find Norma agitated about the fact that the person she’d just hired failed to show up for her first day of work.

I said, “What? A job? Can I apply?” In this weak moment, Norma gave me a tour and hired me. So I left my job at The Mountain Mail, where I’d worked for a year proofreading and pasting up The Mountain Mail for editor Ray James (‘twas Alisa Pappenfort, composition manager, who hired me). Six years later, when Norma retired, I became director.

It wasn’t just a matter of handing over the keys. The job was advertised in the library world (as mine has been, now), and I applied. I don’t believe I would have been chosen but for a letter-writing campaign from library patrons writing in my favor. (Some good people—subsequent colleagues—had applied.)

By the way, children’s librarian Becky Nelson started the very next year, taking over Interlibrary Loan from her sister-in-law (who went on to 25 years of librarianship in Grand Junction).

Those were the days, of course—the old Carnegie building with the entrance across from Alpine Park. That northerly entrance is fairly steep and, being in shadow all winter, icy. We wouldn’t see some patrons until Spring. “Hi, again!”

I remember long-time library patron Shirley Mitchell being furious with the city for building the rest rooms in Alpine Park and blocking the view through the park to the library. You can still see that view in a painting by Fred Hubicki hanging above the copy machine.

This might be correct: In 1989, we had a book sale on some tables on the lawn of the E Street side. I believe we’ve had one every year since, eventually moving to two per year. We tried one more outside in what was then the back yard, but we had to cart everything back inside ahead of a sudden storm.

A couple who helped us do that became our first book sale volunteers. Subsequent sales were held in the library basement. In 1998, we started using the basement of the new library addition, with a luxurious amount of space (which now seems tight).

Back then we had a real card catalog (we didn’t digitize the catalog until 1999 or so). We used a book charger to check things out. Your library card had a metal piece with your number, and the book charger would make a heavy clunk and stamp your number onto a book card from each book you checked out.

Those cards were counted and alphabetized and grouped by date to be reunited with the book upon its return. It was a nice part of the day—the door was locked, the library emptied, and we would sit at the reference room table and arrange book cards in a secret game of solitaire.

The good ol’ days. Not that things aren’t better. More next time …

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