Southern Belle's History

History from a southern belle.

The place that time has forgotten, the Library

I recently visited both Auburn public Library and Ralph B Draughn Library on Auburn University’s campus. I was amazed at the amount of information that I, a self-proclaimed historian and researcher, had forgotten a library holds. I was doing research on a book I am co-authoring with two of the best local historians I know and I found myself not wanting to leave. I stayed hours in the special collections, reading all about anyone who was anyone in Lee County, Alabama, and I felt almost ashamed that I had replaced the great rush I used to feel spending hours in the library for a computer and my couch. Don’t get me wrong, the Internet is a wonderful research tool, but it cannot always give you the excitement of holding a document in your hand that is so old you must wear gloves to touch it, knowing that your favorite author had held it in his/her hand as they autographed the first-edition copy “To RBD library, thanks for all your help, I couldn’t have done it without you!” and letting your imagination wonder, for just a moment, that maybe someday you’ll be autographing the same thing.

Innovation is a wonderful thing, and computers are available for a great deal of use even at the library. But, as historians, it is up to us to keep the library going. We must take our children there, encourage them to read real books, and smell that wonderful musty book smell that only a library holds. We must visit the microfilm and microfiche section and browse the old articles and papers with such eloquent and educated writing styles, that anything published today looks like a school newspaper. We should be encouraged to sit down with the staff at the library, and use them as a neccessary tool in our research. These men and women are about more than the Dewey Decimal System. Furthermore, it is important for us to REMEMBER the Dewey Decimal System! There is so much that can be learned from a book than a section scanned in an online library. 

One day, I strive to visit the University of Texas library in Houston, Texas, just so I can feast my eyes upon the feet after linear feet of journals written by Samuel H Stout, the head surgeon of the Texas Confederate Hospitals. We should all strive to visit the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., and admire the beauty and vastness of its architecture. We should appreciate the many documents they have hidden, locked away in some dark room because the light fades the ink, and it is almost impossible to read, and we can only dream that we may one day get to look at such a document and know that the ink was put their by our founding fathers.

Each of us should re-commit ourselves to learning history, not only from the Internet, but from a real book from a public, or even private library. I am ashamed to say that I had forgotten just how wonderful a resource the library is, and perhaps time has forgotten it as well. I know that I have re-committed myself to checking with the library first, if nothing else, just to smell those wonderful books!

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March 5, 2011 Posted by | History | , | 2 Comments