Friday, November 12, 2010

A love of libraries

My parents met in a library; my mother was an associate librarian working at the Brooklyn public library together with my father (he was head librarian). I grew up in a family that loved books and everything related to books and publications of all kinds. From the earliest days of childhood, we were taken to the local library (Warner Library in Tarrytown) by our parents and encouraged to find books of interest and to explore the library. I can remember watching children’s films at the library; I can also remember the feelings of being in the library. It was an interesting and peaceful place—serene. But I knew that it contained a wealth of knowledge, all of it at my fingertips. My father wrote his Master’s degree thesis about the history of the Warner Library; after he died my mother gave a copy of his thesis to the library so they would have it for historical/ research purposes. I read his thesis and it was quite interesting. I can see in my mind’s eye him sitting and writing the thesis, mulling over specific sections and trying to best formulate his thoughts. He moved into the world of atomic energy when he went to work for a nuclear energy company in Manhattan as their chief librarian. He always came home with some interesting stories about his day and we would sit at the dinner table and discuss them in detail. And when I decided to major in science in college, he would come home with different publications from his library about different technologies and research projects being done at some of the national laboratories around the USA, e.g. at Los Alamos, New Mexico. One of those publications had to do with the technique of flow cytometry and how it was developing at Los Alamos; the quirk of fate (and synchronicity) here is that it was the utilization of this technique in the flow cytometry core facility at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center that became my job during the 1980s. And to make the story complete--in 1985 I attended an excellent flow cytometry course offered by the lab at Los Alamos. I got a chance to meet a lot of interesting people and to see a lot of New Mexico together with two of my colleagues, Haika and Bob, who attended the course with me.

My mother did not give in to old age. She kept herself active both physically and mentally. During her seventies she volunteered at the Warner Library up until she began to have dizzy spells. Working at the library was an activity she loved and I understand completely why she did so. It kept her involved with other people—both fellow librarians and the many different people who frequented the library. If I was visiting her during these years on my annual trips to New York, she was always proud to tell me that she had to go to work at the library for a few hours. It never bothered her that she was not paid for her work; that is how much she enjoyed being there.

Libraries are such interesting places; there are so many nooks to explore and aisles of books to wander down. I remember that about the Warner Library from my childhood. I bring up the topic of libraries because I have spent some time this autumn doing consultant work for the science and math library at the University of Oslo. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable and fun experience so far, and I am thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with the world of libraries and to otherwise connect with a dynamic and enthusiastic group of women who are an inspiration to me. I have helped promote the library’s extremely interesting lectures and conferences through the use of Facebook and Twitter. One thing is certain--libraries now are quite different places than the ones I remember from my youth; they are digital media educational institutions and it is fascinating and fun to experience them as they are now. 

No comments:

Post a Comment