Libraries: Then & Now by Ann Fields

Jan 20, 2016 by

This week’s interesting spin on the meaning of libraries comes to us from guest author Ann Fields! Don’t forget, the Store-Wide Book Sale at the Friends of the Library Book Store begins this Saturday, January 23, and runs until February 6!


Libraries:  Then & Now

By Author Ann Fields


Recently on Jeopardy, one of the categories was the Dewey Decimal System. I was so surprised and apparently host, Alex Trebek was too because he commented, “Do we still have that?” My thought exactly. That reference to a long forgotten system led me to think about and note (see the list below) the changes libraries have undergone from the 60s to the present.



The Dewey Decimal System

A library card, paper, not laminated, with my name (first and last) on front

Card catalogue file system used to locate genre, titles and authors

Check-out cards (off white card stock with lines) with the due date stamped on it

A late fee of 25 cents (or maybe it was ten cents?)

Technology consisted of a microfiche machine and mimeograph

Reading circles and reading contests

Heavy wood furniture (bookcases, chairs and tables), all of which were dark, scarred and dotted with wads of chewed gum stuck here and there

A heavy silence that filled every square foot of space

Librarians who were passionate about serving the community and instilling the love of reading and books in all



ISBNs (and Google) seem to have replaced the Dewey Decimal System

A plastic, credit-card-type card with my name (first and last) on the front and a dark strip on back with embedded information serves as my library card. Also, a log-in (user name/password) is assigned for library access when at home.

Computers with a search function replaced the card catalogue. Computers are limited in quantity so one must sign up, wait your turn and abide by the usage time limit. Or, one can ask the librarian for help.

The due date is verbally stated by the check-out clerk and also written on a piece of paper, then stuck in one of the checked out books. Also, an automated phone call reminds me of due dates and in some cases an email notifies me of such.

Late fees? Are they still charged?

Technology consists of computers, copier, and assorted media.

Reading circles and reading contests remain, thankfully. In addition, other great programming exists such as story time, book festivals, author signings, teen centers and more.

Plastic and pressed wood tables/chairs have replaced older, solid wood furniture. There remains however tall, dark wood bookshelves (in spite of digital books) and a limited number of wooden tables/chairs, which are now grossly scarred.

Silence is still revered; a communally accepted silence that permeates the place.

Librarians who are passionate about serving the community and instilling the love of reading and books in all.


Are there “then and now” changes you would add to the list? How does your community library stack up to the “now” descriptors?


Ann Fields is the author of Fuller’s Curse (dark fiction) and Stop Stalling and Write (a Smashwords non-fiction booklet). Her short stories have been featured in The Writer’s Block:  A Legacy of African-American Literature, Voices from the Block, and Lyrical Darkness.

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