September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month, reminding parents to sign up their children for a library card as the school year begins. My childhood library, in the Arlington Heights area of Los Angeles, no longer exists, except in my memory of its sturdy wooden bookshelves and checkout desk, its colorful children’s section and card catalog.
I was reminded of card catalogs while visiting the Indiana State Library last week, where the central hall still has one, complete with cards, despite having all its holdings in an online catalog now.
I have read and researched in many other great libraries – university libraries, the Library of Congress and rare book libraries, such as the William Andrews Clark and the Huntington in California. Like the Library of Alexandria, they are true wonders, repositories of works that they hope to preserve for the centuries.
Our public libraries are just as amazing, but different in what they are, what they do and whom they serve. They make us feel connected, entertained, informed, inspired and above all welcomed. Like all libraries, they are changing and adapting to modern times and technologies but without forgetting why they exist.
As a self-taught librarian (of sorts), I was intrigued to come across the Five Laws of Library Science (first formulated by S.R. Ranganathan in 1931):
- Books are for use.
- Every reader his/her book.
- Every book its reader.
- Save the time of the reader.
- The library is a growing organism.
I can’t think of a better set of principles for Novel Conversations, Indiana Humanities’ statewide lending library for book groups.
Meeting and working with librarians all over Indiana has been one of the best experiences of my career. They are among the most innately helpful, dedicated and cordial people I know. In so many small towns around the state, the public library and the folks who work there are civic treasures and sources of local pride.
From a storied past to a future of continuing service, libraries are essential in every way and to everyone.
This blog is part of a blog series, All Good Things. The series, written by Nancy Conner, will run throughout the year to reflect on topics that have been central to our work at Indiana Humanities.