Sunday, October 20, 2013

Typewriters in the Library

Obsolete library technologies

This week a student, who looked a little lost, came to the library and asked, “Where are typewriters? “ I was a little taken aback. In all the time I have worked as a librarian, none of the libraries has typewriters for students to use. I asked this student if she meant computers. She didn’t. I asked what she needed a typewriter for. Did she need to file out a form? She needed to write her class paper. I tried to point her to a computer, but she was even more perplexed. She left the library in a haze. This person was not an elderly person or a 19 year old fresh out of high school.

Most of the students are very used to all kinds of electronic devices. At one time cell phones were forbidden in class, now teachers are finding ways to use phones as part of their instruction. Students have even photographed a cover of a book and come to library to find it.

Typewriters have a long history in libraries. Now they are obsolete technology. Back in 1975 I bought a library typewriter which is pictured below.

This typewriter has two keys near the return that have the foreign language accents, grave, acute, circumflex, and umlaut. I still have this typewriter as a relic. I haven’t used it in more years than I can remember, but below is a picture from 1977 when I used it to type catalog cards. Notice the correction fluid in the background. Now when people ask about correcting mistakes, I say, “Use the backspace.”

Before the days of library computers, libraries and dormitories had rooms with public typewriters. From the University of Michigan web site: here are two pictures of students from 1951 typing away. Notice the woman putting a coin in the slot to use the typewriter and the ash tray for her cigarette.

I remember the public typewriters, but since I had my own portable typewriter, I never used one.

Keyboarding skills are very important, but the computer word processing programs offer much more power. People can edit and perfect their writing so much easier than in the pre-computer days. A few minutes after the first student asked for a typewriter another student asked about typing his paper. He knew that the library had computers, but he didn’t know how to use word processing. Sorry word processing tutoring is beyond the scope of a librarian.


Robert L said...

I remember in college there being a room full of typewriters. I don't miss those days at all. Robert in Guam

Marian said...

We still have typewriters in our public library - though a) they are in a closet and b) they only get used maybe twice a year.

Marian said...

Send your students to a public library. Many of us offer word processing tutoring

Lynne said...

I NEED your typewriter!! Making spine labels is SO much easier on one rather than using the computer printer which constantly eats the labels and whose formatting somehow always comes out just a wee bit "off". Finding a typewriter in VietNam is impossible. They are GOLD here.