I am missing working in a library as I sit at a table in the Allen Shivers Library in Woodville, TX. I miss working in a real library and have for over a decade now. I caught the sound of an electric pencil sharpener and earlier a woman came in, annoyed that her library card had not arrived in the mail. There is still a small card catalog located in the center of this library and it is so quiet that when I opened my bag the sound of velcro strips parting made me embarrassed. What a violent sound.
This is a real library, the way I knew libraries to be. I worked at a university library that was nothing like this library. The card catalog had been out of use for several years and moved to the sixth floor where a student took his life last September. It took me a few months to return to the sixth floor where I had been working on a personal project for several months. I was sneaking cards out of the card catalog for use in projects. It was not allowed until there was an official announcement and that didn't come until April of this year. There was little time before all those carefully typed little cards with information that had been checked and double checked and recorded and cross referenced by someone who had long retired were placed in the recycle bin. When I last visited the sixth floor the drawers were piled haphazardly and strewn all over the floor in front of the heavy and seemingly immoveable piece of furniture. The missing drawers left gaping holes that resembled open wounds. Enough of them to declare the card catalog officially dead.
The future of libraries was always a topic at the office: Everything going to digital, more wi-fi, no more print, moving books to storage, all the books...online only, from library to lounge area, creating a place for students to come together and study and socialize. I saw the end when a coffee shop was placed in the library. There was a time you couldn't bring open containers into the stacks or lobby and here was a coffee shop. All food and drink was now allowed. The place was only quiet on select floors but otherwise it was not at all the church of books and literature it once was. What will a library mean to the general public in twenty years?
Here at the Allan Shivers Library there is still whispering going on, the stacks are packed and labeled, it is all Dewey Decimal and I feel great. I also wonder if the librarians here know how lucky they are.