Has anyone been to a bank in the last six months and performed their perfunctory banking duties with a live teller?
How about making a phone call to your telephone company or electric company for service? Did you speak with a person when you called, or were you magically directed to some kind of machine that had you feverishly pressing 1 for service, 2 for repairs etc.? Let’s look at driving. Have you heard the voice of a sultry female admonishing you to wear your seat belt if you hadn’t already fastened it before turning the key in the ignition?
I could go on until bedtime listing the times when technology plays a role in our everyday lives. Here at the library, we are not immune to technological advancements. Much to the contrary, we are powered in large part by technology, which helps in serving you more efficiently.
Do you all remember the card catalog? Where has it gone? The large wooden box filled with 3-by-5-inch cards, which conveyed all the pertinent pieces of information concerning a given book, was omnipresent in libraries up until about 20 years ago. Now these unwieldy, wooden dinosaurs have been replaced in most 21st-century libraries with a robust network of computers, which connect to a central database known as the electronic library catalog. With a brief explanation, patrons can find what book they are looking for, plus other books written by that author, additional books of the same genre, or even see if the library has ordered the latest by said author, all by navigating our online catalog.
These advancements ultimately work for the patron in allowing the desired item to be located by the most productive means. In the “olden days” if you were looking for articles to fulfill your professor’s requirement for writing research papers on a given topic, you had to search the library’s multivolume reader’s guides or other indexes by flipping back and forth within each volume. Then you had to walk back and forth to peruse the specific volume that you were directed to seek out on the shelves. By today’s standards, this may seem archaic as we now have subject-specific databases that promote ease of use, a plethora of citations, and even the ability to print out the article in its original format, including graphs and photos.
Another library leap in this computer age is the use of self-checkout machines, such as the one in the children’s room at our own library. No need to wait in the long lines — my apologies if you do have to wait; we are working on solving these problems — at the circulation desk when you can check out your own items just as efficiently as one of the circulation staff. Fortified with library card and password, patrons can take care of their library needs while saving time.
The electronic catalog also serves by allowing us to “borrow” from another library a book, CD or DVD that we haven’t yet purchased for Dracut. The chances are rather high that if we don’t have what you are looking for, one of the neighboring 35 other libraries in our consortium will have it and deliver it us, allowing us to notify you that your requested item is here for pickup in Dracut.
With all this automation, one might think we at the library suffer from a blank slate on our daily “to-do” list. However, our high levels of efficiency and competency have spawned some of the busiest days the library has ever witnessed. We thank you for your patronage and look forward to your next visit to the library.
Dana Mastroianni is the director of Dracut’s Moses Greeley Parker Library.