Well, I'm getting mail from all over requesting the answers to my trivia
e-mail. Also, it seems to have opened a floodgate of reminisces and library
technology trivia, such as the one below, several others from Karen G.
Schneider, and others (including one witty post from "KWIC and KWOC,
the Tappit Brothers of Libraryland"). Also, I have been stumped by
all the library technology I don't know and don't remember.
What's a beehive?
A "beehive" is a old term for the OCLC m100 terminal. The dumb
terminal looked remarkably like the beehive used in the state symbol of
Pennsylvania, California and several other states. Alternately, it was
to resemble a woman's hairdo style called a "beehive." This
used by librarians before the m300, circa 1976-1985-ish. I couldn't find
picture of one on the Internet, but a beehive was prominently displayed
the Smithsonian's recent "History of the Computer" show.
A bone folder?
A bone folder is an object much like a ruler, sometimes with a pointed
end, often not, that is used to bend the cover of a book where the cloth
or leather covered cardboard meets the spine, into what is called a "spinal
gutter." Also, it is used to smooth glued surfaces or straighten
bent pages or make to make creases or to define folds in paper or to smooth,
bend or fold binding cloth such as buckram.
Library lore (which often means it's really not true) states that the
original bone folders were taken from the corset stays of early pupils
of Melville Dewey at Columbia U. Hence, they are "bone folders"
because they were made from baleen, a cheap bone-like substance taken
from the mouths of whales and used for corset stays, rulers and other
functions, very prevalent during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
BTW, bone folders are still available from Gaylord and you can see a photo
or at Brodart
, and other library supply houses, although nowadays they are mostly made
from plastic instead of whales' seines.
Red tape is a narrow cloth ribbon that came on large spools, and was used
to tie papers together in the long ago days before Manila folders.
The librarian would wrap the ribbon around the paper, then loop the tape
and wrap it around the other axis of the paper, giving it a cross-shaped
wrapping, like a Christmas present. The ends of the tape would then be
tied together in a bow tie. As you can imagine, items tied together like
this became lost, disorganized and confused. Larger sized documents could
not be held together with red tape along with smaller sized items. Think
of trying to add 3x5 inch index cards to a sheaf of legal sized papers,
and you can imagine how quickly the system falls apart. Over time, this
became associated with government bureaucracy, and became a by-word for
officiousness and inefficiency.
Red tying tape is still available from library supply houses. You can
see a photo and order a spool from here
What item was used before the paperclip was invented
and why did it often bring tears to the eyes of librarians?
The paperclip was invented when someone got mad because they were stung,
once again, by the sharp point of the straight pin which was used to pin
pages together. They got so mad they bent the pin, and thus history was
made. For the librarians, not only were there tears of pain from punctured
fingers or piercing under the fingernail, but often paper files had small
blots of blood on correspondence copies, etc., showing the "Red Badge
of Librarianship!" Quelle horreur!
BTW, in the British military establishment, the common paperclip is also
often referred to as "the court martial clip," because far too
often classified documents would transfer from one set of papers to another,
when paper clipped pages were stuffed into or withdrawn from open files.
Many a Chief Petty Officer's career was ruined when an added page from
a confidential file was sent to the wrong office by mistake, or never
sent at all.
See the comments about the engineering and development of paperclips
in Henry Petroski's "The
Evolution of Useful Things"
What's an electric eraser?
The electric eraser is a rubber eraser similar to the ones found on the
end of a number #2 pencil. It had an electric motor which rotated the
eraser rapidly, and helped erase stray marks from books, album covers
and circulation desktops.
As an aside, it also helped put a shine on the narrow edge of a man's
shoe sole, but you never heard that from me, since it ruined the eraser
tip and covered it with black shoe polish. I think there is still a faded
Wanted poster of me somewhere on the walls of some library someplace where
a librarian went to use the electric eraser and instead put shoe polish
all over an expensive book. But, Oh my! Didn't my shoes just look dandy
and shine so bright!
Most often the electric eraser was used on book spine labels or pockets,
to remove incorrect call numbers or other stray marks. At one time, it
was the height of luxury to have the eraser rotated by electric current,
and saved the staff from cramping their fingers while using a manual art
gum eraser, or before white out became universal. It is hard to imagine
today, but only twenty or more years ago it was considered déclassé
to have labels or items easily viewed by the public with an obvious correction
on it. Librarians would either remove the incorrect spine label and replace
it with a good one, or go to great pains to hide the correction. No one
has the time to be such a perfectionist proclivities today, which has
both good and bad points. The electric erasers are still available from
a number of library supply stores. See the photograph of one.
Do you say "Press the Return key" or
do you say "Press the Enter key" when you are giving computer
instructions, and why?
"Return" is the key on an electric typewriter that brought the
typehead back to the left hand side of the page, and replaced the L-shaped
protruding arm on the manual typewriter. Old key entry rules followed
earlier typing conventions, so older people still use the term "Return"
for what is now consider the data "Enter" command. How ingrained
are these old typing conventions? The QWERTY keyboard was invented before
1900 to slow the key entry on early typewriters, which would jam because
the new key would strike before the previous key was released. We still
have that old format keyboard as the standard. Plus, ergonomic and alternative
keyboards have been around for years, but are seldom purchased, because
they are "different."
Apropos, The Hirschorn Museum in Washington, DC, has a giant sculpture
of a typewriter eraser, but most people have to spend so much more time
explaining what a typewriter eraser is that they don't have time to explain
pop art. Sic transit gloria...
Do you know why writing tables often had a smooth
leather covered top?
Writing tables have a smooth surface so the pen would flow over the face
of the paper placed on the table top without bumps from the grain of the
wood or warps in the veneer. A luxury writing table has a solid wood top
covered in soft leather, often the fine kind of leather found in men's
wallets or gloves. This surface allowed the steel tip of the pen to flow
even more smoothly over the paper, while allowing a little bit of indention
into the paper surface to allow a slightly greater absorption of ink which
made for clearer letters on fine paper. While this consideration is lost
on the people who are used to only ball point or fiber-tipped pens, it
is wonderful for those of us who still use fountain pens or inkwell dipping
Most people can describe an ink well for dipping
a pen, but can you describe the special tin contraption that was used
to fill up ink wells every morning?
In classrooms, each desk station had an insert for a glass or porcelain
holder of ink for the pens. Most often the desk had a slightslope to facilitate
writing, and a ledge along the top for the inkwells and grooves for the
pencils or holes for the pencil box. Other desks were flat-topped, but
still had the well for the ink. One of the early morning tasks on Mondays
and Wednesdays was for the teacher or janitor or the children to fill
each inkwell at each desk. While ink was purchased in large bottles, often
they couldn't be used because the ink would coat the inside of the bottle
and not allow the child to see how full the bottle was, or to watch the
run of the liquid into the inkwell. Instead, a tin can, similar to a watering
can, was often used. However, the spout was of unusual shape, often like
a raven's beak, which was a wide, V-shaped spout that allowed the child
to observe and control the flow of a black liquid into a recessed bottle.
Often the child would carry a "pen wipe" or other scrap of cloth
to catch the inevitable drip from the end of the ink bottle filler can.
Nevertheless, going into an old school, one can often tell where the desks
were arranged by the ubiquitous ink stains in front of each child's station,
where the ink well was filled, often to overflowing, sometimes everyday.
And yes, little boys, sitting behind, would dip the pigtails of little
girl's hair into the ink bottles for fun and to make them mad, back in
the days before sexual harassment consciousness had been raised.
How was a special electric iron used in book preparation?
Hope this answers your questions about the "old days of libraries"!
The electric iron was used for a number of years to apply heat sensitive
labels to books. The heat would liquefy the heat-sensitive glue on the
back of the label, and help smooth out the labels as the iron was passed
over them. It is also used in book binding, lamination and other odd jobs
around the library. Alternate terms were "heating iron," "sealing
iron" or an "Oucher!" if you picked it up by the wrong
end when you thought it was turned off. The electric irons are still available
from library supply stores, and you can see one here.
|Info zu dieser Seite
| In der Liste DIG_REF lief eine Diskussion
über die "guten alten Tage" in Bibliotheken.
Die Mail von R.L. Hadden gefiel mir so gut, dass ich sie auf
dieser Seite (natürlich mit seiner Genehmigung) aufbereitet