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"Patient" Librarians

Creator:  Library Group (authors)
Date: November 1933
Publication: The Polio Chronicle
Source: Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation Archives

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The Warm Springs Foundation library has been put in good order and is maintained by the patients. The lack of a good collection of reference books is the greatest shortcoming of the library. It needs specifically: an unabridged dictionary, an atlas, an encyclopaedia, and some fairly extensive literary reference work.


LIKE Topsy, the Warm Springs Foundation library has just "growed." Patients and friends, on leaving Warm Springs, would leave the book or two brought to read on the train coming down. Unable to hold the innumerable accumulations of a long stay, trunks and suitcases gave up volume after volume -- some good, some bad, many indifferent. Other books in the library can only be explained by supposing that someone thought it would do the patients good to read them. So, the library "growed."


It was a rank and unordered growth. The books received were stamped with a "Warm Springs Foundation Library" stamp and put, like needles into a haystack, into the unarranged shelves. Of course, if you put twelve hundred needles into a haystack you are pretty sure of being able to find a needle when you want one -- if it is just any old needle you want. Finding the one book or the one author you wanted in our "Topsy" library was something else again.


Christine Piper, of Irving, Kansas, thought something ought to be done about it. She was secretary of the National Patients' Committee and her idea was to have the patients manage the library. Her correspondence with the Georgia State Library Commission revealed that the Commission was most willing to help work out the idea.


Their tangible help came early in January, 1933, when Miss Beverly Wheatcroft, secretary of the Library Commission came to Warm Springs and spent most of two days initiating the patients' library committee into the secrets of book management. The properties and place were already prepared. There were 4,000 index cards, 3 by 5 inches, punched with a hole for a lock rod. They cost $10.20. There was a steel two-drawer locking card cabinet, capacity 3,000 cards, cost $7.50; a 120 division set of alphabetical guides, cost $2.20; two pasteboard file boxes, cost 90c each; a bottle of white ink, 25c; a 7 1/2 by 9 looseleaf notebook and filler, cost $1.00; a can of shellac, 20c; a 15c shellac brush, 3/4-inch flat; a, ball point pen and pen-holder, 10c; and a bound record book, costing 60c. There was plenty of shelf space, though some of the shelves were out of a wheelchair patient's reach.


Frances Porteous, of Quebec, was chairman of the group of patients to undertake the big, task of indexing and arranging the library.


The plan was simple. The books of fiction were first taken from the selves and listed consecutively in the accession book, as shown. The accession number was written on the back of the title page, together with the author's initial. Then three index cards were hand-lettered for each book; one, an author card, with the name of the author on the top line; another, the title card, with the title of the book on the top line; the third, a shelf list card on which appeared the accession number of the book. Finally, the author's initial was hand lettered, with the white ink, on the book and shellacked to prevent rubbing off.


Since fiction comprised the main part of the library, work on it was completed before non-fiction classification was attempted. There were nearly one thousand volumes. The author and title cards went into one big alphabetically indexed file in the steel file cabinet, using, the 120 division index tabs, and lock rods to prevent removal of cards. The shelf list cards went into the pasteboard file boxes as the list is only used by the librarians.


When the cards were done, the shelf indexing began. Starting with the "A" authors in the upper, left-hand, case and working to the lower, right-hand, cases, a case at a time, the fiction was arranged so that all of an author's books appeared together. The large, distinct, white letters made it easy to pick out at a glance the books of any author. If you wanted some "Winnowed Wisdom," from Stephen Leacock, you could find Mr. Leacock in his proper alphabetical place in "L" almost instantly.


The two hundred-odd books of non-fiction presented a much more difficult problem to the amateur librarians. An additional card giving the subject had to be prepared for each of the volumes. Running the subject to earth in a simple Dewey Decimal Classification (a nu akwizishun, kosting $2.50) proved a fascinating game. Biographies were lettered "B," with the name of the person studied in smaller lettering. All other non-fiction had to have the Dewey Decimal Classification numbers printed on them. They were shelf arranged by these numbers. Beginning with the zeroes in the upper left of the non-fiction section, they ran through to the nines, the last major classification. For instance, if you wanted a book on games, instead of a game with books, you looked for that subject card in the big card index and found, under, "Games of Skill," Hoyle's Book of Games with its number 794. A glance at the shelves located the "700's" and 794 was readily spotted.

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