28 years and counting: from pen and paper to blogging!

In January 1988, aged 25, I started work here as a library assistant. Now 28 years later and aged 53 I’m still here! I’m not sure if that is cause for celebration or a worrying sign of my extreme procrastination! My colleagues decided it was a cause for celebration and on my 25th anniversary, presented me with a lovely cake at a surprise party.

anniversary cake

To my embarrassment I was also handed a copy of my job application.

On it I wrote: “I am very keen on this position of Library Assistant, since there appears to be quite a wide variety of tasks to be undertaken and I would also like the chance to use microcomputers”.

Microcomputers! That sounds so quaint now! When I first started at the library we did make as much use of the modern technology of the time that we could, but a networked personal computer on every work desk was still a few years away.

To borrow books our library users stood at the library enquiry desk and wrote out by hand onto small index cards, the bibliographic details of each book they wanted to borrow.


There were no barcodes to be swiped using an automated library management system quite yet, that came later. Each day, a member of the library staff typed the information from these cards onto a shared PC, using a popular word processing package of the day, called ‘WordStar’, closely followed by ‘WordPerfect’. Yes I remember life before Microsoft’s ‘Word’.

So I did sometimes get to use a microcomputer, but mostly in those early days I used a typewriter for many of my daily tasks, including, occasionally, a very old manual typewriter. This involved hitting the keys from a great height and with gusto to produce anything vaguely legible! The arrival of an IBM ‘Golf Ball’ electric typewriter (with correcting ribbon, no less) was a great help and was the height of sophistication to me then.

Our library users browsed through catalogue cards to find items in the library and unbelievably I used the very attractive machine below to punch the correct shaped holes into some of these cards to enable them to be held securely in the card drawers. I have actually seen very similar equipment in a real museum!

hole punch

I also got to use the school’s Telex machine which we used to send messages to our off-site store for retrieving older journals and books. 28 years later I still retrieve items from store, but now I just send an email from the comfort of my own desk. My access to email and the internet in the library arrived in about 1994 and I can’t imagine life, at work or otherwise, without it now. By the way for those who don’t know what a Telex machine is, it involves two teleprinters and a phone line in between. It’s a bit like texting but with wires attached.

With the support of the school’s wonderful IT Services team, the Library has constantly embraced developments in technology over the years I have been here and continues to do so. I came here at an interesting time. I have seen pen and paper and typewriters give way PC’s, computer networking and, of course, the birth of the internet and the use of social media. When I arrived in 1988 I had no idea I would be doing this thing called ‘Blogging’ in 2016 and that I was to navigate a technological revolution via my working life here. If I had I may have taken notes!

And just in case some of you are sniggering at the idea of using a telex machine, or bashing away on a museum piece of a typewriter, remember that it all becomes history in the end, given long enough!

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