Losing our library history

Unfortunately no-one lives forever.

I was sad to hear that one of my library services retired staff had passed away. He was a lovely gentleman who drove one of our mobile libraries for what seemed like forever – from when it was a bus, through to an articulated lorry.  And he was a gentleman, endlessly quiet spoken and polite, un-phaseable and entirely focused on customer service.

It got me thinking about how many stories that give the soul to the history of our library, we are losing. Its important to know the dates and the details of events in our libraries’ history, but its the stories that give it life.

I am forever telling stories of things that have happened with our libraries and users over the years to the newer staff. To share some of our fun, frustration and just how far we have come over the years. Its amazing, how where so much has changed in some ways, so little has changed in others.

Stories like the man who came in, scanned around the entire library and then asked whether we had a photocopier – which was 2 metres away from where he stood, with a sign above it and nothing in the way. Or the lady who was convinced that we saw her coming up the path to the library and  immediately added overdue fines to every one of her family’s five library cards. Or the lady who said the dripping wet book we found on the returns bench must have been wet by a leak in our roof (on a day it wasn’t raining).

Fortunately, the person this gentleman worked with on our mobile library still works with the library service, so we still have a lot of the stories from that era in our library history, especially important now that mobile is long gone from the roads (due to council amalgamations in 1995).  And we will continue to tell those stories to other staff.

But I wonder what happens when the last of those storytellers are gone. These stories are the fun in our history. Much more entertaining and informative than just dates and stark details.

And the same could be said for our local histories, our family histories and more.

We need to be more proactive about retaining these wonderful stories. Of making sure that there people are memorialised in real ways, with real life encounters recorded for posterity. And I need to be making sure that’s happening in at least my little neck of the woods.  Because no-one else will and that history is too valuable to be lost.

And Keith – rest in peace – you were a great teacher and inspiration and you are sadly missed………





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  1. Record the stories in your blog, please. I remember the Bookmobile with fondness and a few librarians. 🙂

  2. Thanks, I might just have to do that. I’m also thinking of starting to compile them into some sort of book too!

  3. I’ve been thinking the same thing (compiling library folklore) and studying it. If you are interested, I wrote a thesis on library workplace mythology. Here’s a link: http://etd.lib.montana.edu/etd/view/item/870

    On a happier note, my research leads me to believe that the most relevant stories make their way into an overarching library mythos and may be changed, but are always an influence on the staff and organization.

    This comment fixes the link, sorry!

  4. No problems on the comment and thanks for the link. I think you’re right, that the old stories live on as they are retold and retold. Still, I hope to be able to contribute by compiling some of those stories along the way.

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