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|
|The Huntington Library|
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.
Oh, those times were lovely ...