DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


May 8 2009

Tools of the Trade

by Lesley B

scraper-003b We use a fair amount of stickers at the library and I was picking at an old one with my fingernails when a co-worker handed me a little tool and said, “Here, use this. It’s a label-scraper.” What appeared to be a tiny spatula was placed in my hand. Despite working in libraries my whole life, I’d never seen one before. A gentle push under the paper and the sticker came off with that quiet satisfaction you get when a tool works exactly right. I love them. Lately I’ve been wishing I had one at home, but you won’t find label scrapers at the big office supply stores. I’ve looked. You need the special to-the-trade catalogs; specifically, the Demco catalog. Actually Demco calls it a “Metal Label Peeler”, but it’s still a very small “blade sharpened on three sides for easy operation.” I’m thinking about ordering the set of five and giving some as gifts. No, really. It’s a great tool.

There are a number of companies catering to the library market and you don’t have to be a librarian to order from them. They offer archival storage products, lots of sturdy kid-sized furniture and those little metal bookends that don’t take up much space on the shelf. I know no one is shopping right now, but there are quite a few library products that I think could easily transfer to civilian life. Like to keep your dust jackets looking like new? Brodart sells book jacket covers to fit even the largest art books.  Highsmith has reusable magnetic shelf labels, just the thing to organize the garage. Gaylord has a cool orange book truck and oh, look  — a “Label Remover“. In packs of 24!  Christmas is done.


card-catalogPublic libraries have gotten great press lately as a way to save money and I’ve noticed a lot of new faces coming up to the information desk. These people look pleased but a little confused and they say, “I haven’t been to the library in a long time. I guess you all don’t have a card catalog any more.”

No, we don’t. I don’t know when DeKalb County Public Library switched (help me out here, DCPL oldtimers), but generally public libraries retired their card catalogs many years ago. The computer OPACs (that’s Online Public Access Catalogs) are an improvement over the little drawers in every way — except aesthetics and ambiance. Somehow libraries looked more ‘libraryish’ when the card catalogs lined the walls.

One of our prodigal patrons asked me, “What happened to all the cards and cabinets?”  The cards show up in crafts and in projects like Cartalog, a memorial to the card catalog created from salvaged University of Iowa catalog cards. Los Angeles Public Library lined an elevator shaft with the old cards, matching the card subjects with the department on each floor. The cabinets have been resold, recycled, and repurposed. I’ve found old card catalogs used as coffee tables, kitchen storage units and sewing room cabinets. A quick search on eBay turned up a few card catalogs, all with multiple bids, so they are very collectible.

If you’d like to extend your trip down library memory lane, check out The Library History Buff. It’s a fascinating collection of librariana, and there’s a section on card catalogs. Sigh. Now I miss them.


don\'t throw it awayAre you looking for inventive and resourceful ways to save money? Perhaps you’ve resolved to be “greener” and more environmentally friendly this year. If any of these apply to you, there is a great book here at DCPL that could help you along that path. Don’t Throw It Out: Recycle, Renew and Reuse To Make Things Last (Rodale) is a treasure trove of ideas combining two of my favorite things: being economical and being creative.

This book offers numerous tips and ideas for conserving common household items and getting the most out of your appliances, furniture and gadgets. Do you have an old nightstand that’s becoming an eyesore? Why not turn it into a hideway/sleeping spot for your cat?  Perhaps you can salvage an old nightstand or end table by decoupaging it with pressed flowers (I’m not that crafty but it sounds like a great idea).  Page 84 of this book lists six great ways to repurpose your old dresser drawers, including yet another sleeping spot for your cat (pets make out like bandits when it comes to reusing old items!).

One of the main reasons that I like this book is that not only is it informative but it’s also kind of inspirational. Reading about how to turn a vinyl LP into a wall clock (!) made me really start thinking of ways that I can make the most out of the stuff that I’ve got lying around the house. Each item–whether it’s an old work boot, a stack of worn-out CDs or an out-of-commission baby crib–can be given a new purpose or function. And during cash-strapped times such as these it’s a nice reminder to look at the things we have with an open mind and a little imagination.

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