Thursday, November 13, 2014

Most libraries have probably turned the page to the last chapter of phone books

In My Opinion by Jim Stingl. Most people have turned the page, but phone books survive. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,11/11/2014)
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 Now I spot just a few, and they're outdated by several years.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  Numerous volumes, I noted, were outdated  by several years.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.

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