O is for occupation: librarian, NY SBDC

It was a radical innovation when the discs were on a LAN

October 19 marks the 25th anniversary of when I became a working librarian, all, as it turned out, at the Research Network of the New York Small Business Development Center.

Now it’s not the first job I ever had in a library. I spent seven months as a page at the Binghamton, now Broome County (NY), Public Library back when I was in high school. I used to help people use the microfilm machines, find and then refile the magazines in the closed stacks, and check the shelves to make sure the books were in Dewey Decimal System order.

After 8.5 years at the comic book store FantaCo and a dreadful year at an insurance company, I was nagged by two librarians and a lawyer, all friends of mine, to go to library school. I was resistant to return to graduate school, having suffered a disastrous experience a decade earlier.

But this time, I survived, and even thrived in grad school. I worked in the dean’s office and one of my tasks was to calculate the demographics of the students. I discovered that I was, at that time, the average age of a student at UAlbany’s School of Information Science and Policy. There were lots of returning students.

The task has always been to provide reference to remote SBDC counselors who were meeting with their would-be entrepreneurs and active businesspersons, Still, the job of this librarian has changed a lot over the quarter century. We used to send packets of information via the US Mail or UPS.

My first phone was a shared line with the fax machine. When it would ring, I was never sure when it rang if I would pick it up and hear a wall of aural pain.

In the days before the wide use of the Internet, we had a number of CD-ROMs to use, and we had to take turns using them. It was a radical innovation when the discs were on a LAN (local area network) so that two or three librarians could use ReferenceUSA at the same time.

The World wide web, of course, changed our reference ability, but it was a gradual evolution early on. We wanted to be able to deliver data via email. Now EVERYONE has it, but in the 1990s, it was hardly a universal service, even at the colleges and universities where our SBDCs were housed.

When email became more universally available, sometimes the data packet was so big that it would bounce. Now, there’s a location on a closed website where counselors can pick up the information.

Being a librarian has changed a lot in the past two and a half decades, but finding the information remains the goal.

For ABC Wednesday