My career as a Librarian: 1 of 3

 

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I stumbled into teaching and then stumbled into School Librarianship. My first courses were in the summer of 1978. I learned a lot of philosophy about the organization of all the knowledge of the universe and then how to serve it to patrons. To my University program (University of Texas in Austin) I am very grateful. We did multimedia. We called it slide tape presentations. I did some cool science fiction pictures from some classic books and then added some eerie sound that I recorded twice and off-set the sound by about a quarter of a second so it sounded echo-y. It was great. Mostly, though I learned about what could be. They took us in small groups into a dark room where we were introduced to probably one of the first computerized card catalogs anywhere. The screen was green and the interface was awkward, but I loved it. Somehow, I knew then that some day all information could be accessed via computer. I guess watching Star Trek then seeing part of it come true on the green screen convinced me that if we could think it then it could be done.

 I was hired to open a new “Learning Resource Center”. Since I knew the card catalog would be replaced with computers then I was not too concerned about making changes on the cards with pen in hand. Some of those still haunt me and that Library to this day. I was fortunate to be able to have some of the first Apple/Bell & Howell computers in my LRC. We wrote and stored simple math flash cards on cassette tape that plugged into the computers. I figured out a system to run every student through our little room of 4 Apple/Bell & Howell computers. We were all amazed.Apple II Bell Howell

For some reason I wanted more money than a Librarian in K-12 education so after Regan fired all the Air Traffic Controllers, I took the rigorous test and past, left Libraries and started my training as an Air Traffic Controller. I learned several valuable lessons. One was that Air Traffic Control was hours of boredom separated by moments of shear terror. During my training I learned that I could learn anything and that I had an aptitude of recognizing patterns. But most importantly I learned what could be done with computers. The huge cold room full of main frame computers ran the Air Traffic Control System for our section. With the computers you could project where the air planes would be in 5, 10 15, 30 minutes out. It was magic. To make even more magical impressions, I learned that the Air Traffic Control technical folks where experimenting with a single computer the size of a small TV (it was one of the first Macintosh computers) in the basement that could do everything that the room full of mainframe computers could do. Miniaturization was already happening.first Macintosh

Air Traffic Control was not for me so I moved back into the School Library world in 1984 (portentous). We were just starting to transfer our catalog cards to a stand alone computer system. We typed on an Apple IIe and stored the data on 5 ¼ inch floppies (really floppy). I remember when I had at least 800 entries on a floppy and did something to loose all the data. I just had to start typing all over again. There was really nothing else to do. It kind of made getting frustrated a waste of time. We finally made the transition from paper circulation to automated circulation. We were “up-town”. Our Apple had 2 floppy disk drives. We could leave the program in one drive while we recorded the circulation transaction data on the other. We next started exploring using something new called a hard drive. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. Then in 1991 I was able to convince our superintendent that with Keith Curry Lance’s first study and the most modern union catalog on the market we could raise student achievement by spending 1.2 million dollars and putting dumb terminals on every campus. But we had a nightmare migrating our data from stand-alone systems to a union catalog. We survived and even had time to investigate other technologies like laser disks and CD towers for multiple access encyclopedias. Alas, life was good.

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