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Memory Lane

Before I move on to highlight any of the spiffy online resources of today, I’d like to take a brief trip down memory lane. Come with me now as we travel back through the dim recesses of time to those simple days before e-mail and the Internet…1987.

In 1987 I began work in the Documents Department at St. Louis Public Library’s main branch. I was the State Documents Specialist, but I also worked with the federal documents. For those who may not have personal recollections of how the FDLP worked in those days, here’s what I recall:

* We had two very important sets of cards—our shelflist, and our item selection cards. When we processed a shipment of documents we checked in serials on a serials check-in card and typed a new card to represent each new monograph. There was much pulling and re-filing of shelflist cards to be done each day. The item selection cards were divided into two sections—items selected, and items not selected. Those cards got updated each time an item number was created or discontinued, and when we changed our selections in the annual selection update.

* At the beginning of the selection update we’d get a printout from GPO that listed all the active item numbers. Things we selected were marked with a “Y” and those we didn’t select were marked with an “N.” We went through the list and highlighted the Ys. We then went through a copy of the List of Classes and highlighted our selections there. That allowed us to do our “zero-based” analysis and decide which items to add or drop. It seemed to take forever each time we went through the process.

* The Administrative Notes newsletter was our only way to get news from GPO. We devoured each new issue when it came in. Before the creation of the Administrative Notes Technical Supplement, we received pink “corrections” sheets in our shipment boxes that listed call number errors and so on.

* We lived in fear of the periodic onsite inspections that GPO would do. God forbid they should find a paper clip in your stacks or a rubber band in your microfiche.

* Microfiche was the most cutting-edge format in our collection.

By the time I left St. Louis in 1991, we’d experimented with the Electronic Bulletin Board (where you could get CPI statistics on the same day they were released!), had mastered the art of loading CD-ROMs along with their floppies of accompanying software, and had heard that there was something out there called GOVDOC-L that was proving to be a very useful tool.

Since then I’ve seen the birth and death of technological tools like Vax terminals, DOS commands, CD-ROM caddies, Gopher, Archie, Veronica, Mosaic, etc., etc. It seems I may within my lifetime see the end of documents on paper.

It’s been a long strange trip thus far, and I think we’re cresting a hill and preparing to pick up even more speed. From here on out I advise that we hang on for dear life and try to enjoy the ride.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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