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A Step Back in Time

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In these days of worldwide pandemic and accompanying fear of contagion, Morrisson-Reeves has had to limit its services in response.   Programs have been cancelled or moved online.  Until recently, patrons have not been permitted inside the building to be able to browse the shelves looking for the next book to read or movie to watch.  With curbside service, patrons could get material, but they had to search the catalog online at home to make a choice.

Morrisson Library around 1890

MRL is in some ways returning to the situation when it first opened in the summer of 1864.  The building on the corner of what was then called Broadway and Marion included offices on the lower floor, and the south half was a residence.  The library proper was one single room with a balcony.  All of the books – and it was only books then – were literally locked away behind glass doors.   Long before there was even a card catalog, access to the collection was through a printed book ( a copy of which can be seen on the ledge at the base of the column at left).  Patrons were expected to purchase a copy of the catalog for home use, then make their selection at home, and write down the relevant information on its location.  They would then bring that to the librarian, who would retrieve the book and issue it to the patron by writing the transaction in a ledger.  There’s no place to sit (except one uncomfortable chair) so the patron took his book home with him. 

The library then was simply a repository of books, and right now it seems as though we may have stepped back in time a bit – but only a bit.  Today’s visitors can’t spend as much time inside the building as they could mere months ago, but they do still have access to Reference Services and a world of electronic material unimaginable to earlier library users.  Today’s patrons use the library’s services to read (e-books and e-magazines), listen (audiobooks and music) and watch (movies and documentaries) all from home.   

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