On a college tour sometime in the past year, we were in the library when the guide pointed out the catalog room. My son and I ducked into it and pulled open a few drawers. They were predictably empty.
My son asked me what used to be the drawers. "Little cards," I replied, "that you'd then copy the number of the book from and write it on this scrap of paper with the little pencils. Like so." I then reached up where relics of pencils and scrap paper laid.
"What then?" he asked, practically scratching his head.
"Well, then you'd take this piece of paper to the circulation desk, and either they'd get the book for you, or you'd retrieve it from the stacks."
"You're joking, right?" he muffled a laugh.
"No. And in my college we'd take a whistle from the basket and bring it up to the stacks with us in case a creep tried to hurt us." But by then, the tour was moving on and we had to rejoin it.
My son turned back to me. "So you've got the book from the stacks and then what?"
"Well, then you'd come back down, pick up your spear and go out and hunt for dinner."
At least I got a good laugh out of him.
Digital literacy. It's in their DNA. And I am happy for them. But I recall with great fondness the way the drawers slid out. I will forever love the smell of libraries. I can recall with precision the color and texture of the velvet cushions on the window seats in my childhood reading room. I love the "hush" atmosphere that libraries invoke. These things will forever be in my personal and mental time capsule.