Schneider, Karen G., American Libraries
1,001 Uses for a Dead Gopher
Many of us yearn to reduce the number of formats we work with (though we all applauded when the Hudsonville, Michigan, library turned the Internet back on) (see News Fronts USA). However, according to a recent survey on the Web4Lib and PubLib Internet discussion groups, many of these tools--typewriters, for example--have a longer half-life than plutonium. As Nancy Young, director of the Stonington (Ct.) Free Library, says, some of these seemingly outmoded tools may be "minor things [ldots] but still needed by some people."
Some formats are in the twilight of their existence--to everyone's relief. Very few people will miss CD-ROM databases. Related candidates for intentional extinction include "entire CD-ROM networks with multiple CD towers running on Lantastic," according to Marion (Midge) Lusardi, director of the Chesterfield Township (Mich.) Library. Some folks found new uses for old technologies: Executive Director Anita R. Barney says the Western Connecticut Library Council uses an Ellison Letter Machine to cut 5 1/4-inch floppy disks into small shapes for story times. More than one librarian said they were hanging on to an outdated format because the local school had an assignment based on it, and they had been unable to persuade the school that this format was outmoded. "See, students? Just hold the chisel thusly against the stone. [ldots]"
Typing their way to new jobs
Typewriters and correction fluid, of all things, were cited by more than 15 respondents as crucial to good public service. You may think of your typewriter as a moldy old piece of equipment taking up space where you could put an Internet workstation, but it's really a tool for economic justice. Respondents commented that many employment forms still require typing and that the library is the only place anyone can find a typewriter any more. This tells us, of course, that the forms need to change. If the Federal Communications Commission, of all cumbersome agencies, can come up with online e-rate forms, why can't your local civil service department at least create a type-in print-out Acrobat form, for heaven's sake? But that leaves us uniquely equipped to help job-seekers jump through arcane hoops!
That's "white-out" to you, buddy
After the typewriter, the next tool to be defended was correction fluid. Note the dependent relationship: If you have to type forms, this is the only way to correct errors. Shirl Kennedy, Web doyenne for the city of Clearwater, Florida, came up with the most reasons for retaining the little white bottles. Not only does this stuff do "a decent emergency touch-up job on leather Keds and other white shoes," but Kennedy has used it to hide grout stains in her bathroom.
All hail microfilm!
I suggested "thinning the herd" for microfilm reader-printers, but libraries with large genealogy collections--resources still heavily film-based--chastised me severely. …