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The Sky's Up There

A project that's been ongoing at work is the removing of old checkout cards from the backs of the books. It's another sign of the evolution of the job: once these were necessary things for tracking who's got what where, but now with all checkout done electronically, they're just charming and quaint reminders of the past.


Yes, yes they are.

OR ARE TH-- [stop that]

Ahem. What my repressed personality is trying to say is, they also have the potential to cause problems later on down the line, like a World War II mine buried in a French farmyard. Those cards often contain what would now be considered sensitive information on patrons, like full name, address (sometimes), and various ID numbers of interest. Sometimes they'd been blacked out, sometimes not. There'd been an ongoing removal project for the last several years: whenever a book gets checked out, the card gets pulled. Simple enough...except that, if a book is never checked out, the card is never pulled. Ergo, last week the card pull project became active, with every book being checked and disarmed. So to speak.

I did my pulls in the American literature section, which proved a bit dusty at times. It's interesting (well, to me) to see the rise and fall of some authors and how they're studied (or not). Books by and about Henry James or Herman Melville, all the cards were already gone. Books by Henry David Thoreau had no cards, while books about Mr. Thoreau did (apparently people are reading him but not studying him). And poor, poor Washington Irving. His works are neither read nor studied. Tragic.

Reading: At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft, another author whose position in literary reputation has changed over the years.



This reminds me of how the checkout card for my high school physics text let me know that someone had been using that exact book the year I was born. Truly, history is being thrown out with the cards.