Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A little light research

I did my first piece of research when I was in high school. I was 13 at the time. In those days I had the heady job of running the school library as well. (Before you get the wrong idea this was a country school that catered for about 350 5-15 year old students and the library ran to about a thousand books.) There were no school librarians back then. A teacher would normally be in charge but the job was handed to me- no doubt with the idea that it would keep me out of mischief. I had an assistant, another student. One lunch period each week we would take the key from the rack in the staff room and open up the library. It was a small, square room with bookshelves on three sides and a 'map cupboard' on the fourth. There were two tables and some chairs. One of the tables was used as the 'library' desk. On it there was a wooden box which held the card catalogue. There was a due date stamp and stamp pad and a few other necessities in the drawer. It was a quiet room. Nothing much happened in it. Books would be returned and more would be borrowed. Most children never entered the library and I suspect some staff never entered it either.
We kept the place tidy and covered new books in the strange combination of plastic and brown paper provided by the Department of Supply through the School Libraries Branch. I taught myself to catalogue in a simple way with the help of a single volume version of Dewey. It was not an onerous task. New books came, at best, in twos or threes.
There came a point where the teachers wanted some new books. Some of this may have been because I complained loudly that my assistant and I had read all the books in the library and that some of the other children had too. I probably had read all the books - more than once.
I was asked what sort of books I thought we needed. The School Council might come at spending a little money on the library if I could show the books were being used.
School holidays were coming up. I spent the next week working away in the library. At the end of the week I had produced a bar graph showing the borrowing habits of the students. I was rather proud of that bar graph. It showed fiction and non-fiction. It showed picture books. It showed the books that had been borrowed the most frequently - the only Simon Black book in the library for the boys and a horse story for the girls. Biggles and a ballet book ranked second.
I cannot remember what the non-fiction ratings were.
I handed the bar graph over and wondered if the School Council could afford the new footballs the boys wanted as well as the library books. There was no doubt in my mind as to what was the most important. We got neither.
My youngest nephew is now at university. He is doing a little light research for his degree. It is concerned with people's knowledge of domestic solar power facilities. I imagine that most people will continue to get coal-fired electricity. Back then we got a new shelter in which to eat our lunch-time sandwiches.


Adelaide Dupont said...

Now children in this situation might read magazines like Magpies to get good books they have read, or they might get onto the Internet.

And books were so much cheaper in that time, so you could get much more bang for your buck.

It would have been good to have more Ivan Southall (for one author), and for the girls too.

Also now there is Library and Information Sciences for young people who want to train to be librarians in all sorts of fields, certificate and diploma level alike, as well as university, all the way to a doctorate.

Let's celebrate the humble librarian!

As for your nephew's research: we are all trying to use less coal. There is a graph every week to show the emissions we are making.

catdownunder said...

Books have always been relatively expensive in Australia. It is due to 'protection' of the local publishing industry by the Federal Government. They argue it protects Australian authors and offers them a greater chance to be published. There are differing opinions as to the efficacy of the measure!

Rachel Fenton said...

Books in NZ are not cheap either, not compared to UK - here I pay as much for second hand as I would for new in Britain! I'm all for authors getting the dosh from their books, and for each country to support its talent, but I just don't see how censoring choice through pricing makes sense! It doesn't foster a nation of book lovers, rather it narrows the cultural scope, and that cannot be good for any country.

80% of NZ electricity is, I believe, reusable! But it is far from green with regards to traffic and petrol lawn mowers/strimmers etc...what is it with men and lawn mowers?

catdownunder said...

I can see this needs to be a subject for discussion - as for men and lawn mowers I was just thankful when Dad gave up mowing the lawn and our friendly lawnmower man took over. These days he can come in. I put out the cordial, the jug and the glass and he sits at the kitchen table and helps himself, charges us almost nothing to do the lawn and has even borrowed the woodworking clamps from Dad!