Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oh, How I Love Librarians! (Part 4)

Once I started work researching my books on Jack London, Mary Shelley, and Edgar Poe (Amazon Author Page), I discovered a whole new world of libraries, a whole new world of library services.

For most of my life--until those years of research--my experiences in libraries had comprised browsing, borrowing, reading, returning late, paying fine.  That was about it.  I don't think I'd ever used any of the special services the libraries provide--no archival work whatsoever.  (If the Carnegie Public Library in Enid had archives, I didn't know about them--or care; I wanted only the latest biography of Buffalo Bill or Wild Bill Hickok.)  And in Hiram--public school, public library, and college--again I restricted myself to pleasure reading or to the types of resources I could find myself with the aid of a reference book or a publication like Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, where I found articles to help me write (awful) papers on Frank Norris and Tennessee Williams and Philip Freneau and the like.  I also figured out how to operate microform readers (microfiche, microfilm spools)--and those were about all the arrows I had in my Library Quiver.

Oh, but then! 

Beinecke Rare Book Lib
As I began diving into the Jack London pool, I was soon corresponding with and visiting libraries and archives all over the place.  The annotated edition of The Call of the Wild (1995) took me to Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library where I read the actual diary of Marshall Bond, who'd traveled to the Klondike, met the young (and unknown) Jack London.  It was Bond's dog that London so admired and later plopped into his novella The Call of the Wild.  At the Newberry Library in Chicago I was able to read some very rare books about the Klondike and its gold rush.  At the California History Room in the Oakland Public Library (which young Jack himself had used voraciously) I found out all sorts of stuff about the Chinese lottery, some restaurants that were popular with London and his wife.  At the public library in San Jose--I was able to pin down the date that Jack London had actually visited the Bond Ranch in Santa Clara (where Wild begins).  At the University of Windsor (Ont.) Leddy Library I read the printed reports of the North-west Police during the gold rush years.

The Huntington Library
At the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. ... treasure.  Here are stored most of JL's original manuscripts and papers, and there I met the wonderful archivist, Sue Hodson, who has remained a friend.  At the Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley I found many photographs of the Londons--some of which appear in the book.  At the Library of Congress (!!) I used the Geography and Maps Room to find authentic period maps of California, the Bay Area, the Klondike ... and on and on and on.

In these wonderful facilities I learned about a whole new world of library work.  About high security--entering, working there, leaving.  About wearing white gloves while handling some material.  About being in a world where professional librarians are enormously skilled and knowledgeable about the materials I wanted to work with.  About how incredibly generous they were with their knowledge, their time.  How imaginative they were about helping me find some pretty weird things.

Shelley and Poe took me to many other places--the University of Virginia, the University of Indiana, the University of Rochester, the library at Ohio University, at Ohio State, and on and on.

Cleveland Public
Main Library
And one of the greatest resources of all? The Cleveland Public Library and its fabulous ClevNet system.  I spent many days at the Main Library in the History room and Literature room reading books about the gold rush.  I'd ride the Rapid downtown from Green Road, walk to the library, work all day, stop back at Tower City for a snack, hop on the train, ride back to my car, my brain a-swim with all I'd discovered that day ...

Oh, those times were lovely ...

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