Dear Library: From James

Librarian

Dear Library,

1731. That’s the year Ben Franklin and his friends decided to pool their personal libraries into one. It became the Library Company of Philadelphia and it still exists. American libraries had been around before that (Harvard’s Widener library was started in 1638), but this was the first time you could actually take a book home.

Franklin was 25 years old when he had that grand notion. What did I do at 25? I didn’t invent public libraries,but I used them.

I worked in them. I’ve worked in libraries since the summer between by junior and senior year in high school. I started through the local Summer Youth Employment Training Program. I was offered 2 jobs: either on a road crew patching holes or as a page at the Wellston Public Library. I still wonder what was in my aptitude test that suggested either of those 2 directions. I spent most of that first summer re-shelving the entire library. They had just gotten new carpet and the carpet-layers had to move every book to work under the shelves. They had done a haphazard job keeping the books organized and I was taxed with re-filing every title. Fortunately, it’s a small library and I got to know the collection very well. I spent the next summer working there, too, and was offered a permanent part-time job that autumn as a clerk. It’s been about 25 years since I took that aptitude test and I’m still happy with the direction it suggested. Working at the Sylvester Memorial Wellston Public Library helped pay my own way through 6 years of college at Ohio University and paved the way for the rest of my life.