There was a time when white pages and yellow pages were on every desk in the Journal Sentinel newsroom. We used to print our names on the books, a fresh one every year, so no one walked away with them. Now I spot just a few, and they're outdated by several years.
And there was a time when public libraries maintained extensive collections of phone books in their reference collections.
I recall browsing the La Crosse Public Library's collection while in town for the annual Wisconsin Library Association conference. 1985, I think it was. In my memory, the array of mostly white- and yellow-bound volumes took up more than 72 linear feet of shelf space, an impressive sight beyond a welcoming reference desk. I figured, correctly, that I'd find a comprehensive collection of Wisconsin directories and an abundance of out-of-state directories for major cities, but I wasn't expecting to find one from a small town of 12,000 in northwestern Pennsylvania, the place where I spent my so-called formative years.
But there it was.
Warren PA 16365
Here's a photo, one of a series used in a 2009 PowerPoint "now and then" of reference collection walk-through, of the Madison Public Library's telephone book collection. It had obviously been extensively weeded since the heyday of extensive print reference collections in resource libraries. Numerous volumes, I noted, were outdated by several years.
And now we're down to Madison's last chapter of phone book collection development.
All but a few of the Wisconsin directories shelved here are up-to-date.
Postcard from Retiring Guy's collection. Photos by Retiring Guy.