Clickety-Clack, Clickety-Clack

August 4, 2006 at 12:48 pm 20 comments

Just a quick observation and an inquiry for a Friday afternoon.

When we moved in to our lovely new state-of-the-art library a few years back we debated whether we should take with us our one remaining electric typewriter that worked with any sort of reliability. We used to have several typewriters and they were once very popular, but we wondered if we still needed on for public use.

For the last month or so I have been keeping an eye on our one lonely typewriter that is tucked away in a corner on our 2nd floor and am somewhat surprised by the amount of use it still gets. Several times each week I have observed a variety of people of all ages using it for filling out forms, typing letters, and so on. A few people have looked positively relieved when tell them “Yes, we still have a typewriter”. In fact, I find something comforting in hearing the clickety-clack of the keys and knowing that even though we are wired to the hilt with 100+ computers for use by the public we have decided to keep our typewriter for those that still need it or rely on it.

How many other libraries still maintain a typewriter or two for use by their patrons? Is it still in good use or is it collecting dust? I am just curious to see if my observations match those of other libraries.


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  • 1. Anonymous  |  August 4, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    We still have a typewriter. In fact, we just bought a new one to replace the old one we couldn’t find a manual for. It’s probably used 35-40 times per month. Granted, many of those are the same regular patron, but it makes him happy. For a while at least, I think we can assume that not all of our patrons are comfortable with computers, nor do they want to be.

  • 2. Diane Schrecker  |  August 4, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    We have a typewriter behind the circulation desk and as mentioned in the post, it is most often used by our international students needing to fill out forms. IRC computers have adobe professional making it possible for patrons to scan in forms and complete them in that manner, but very few have the skills (or time and patience) to go that route for a simple form.

  • 3. Angel, librarian and educator  |  August 4, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    We had two of them in one library I used to work. They were different models, pretty nice ones, but not brand new by the time I was there. Now and then we would get the one patron needing to fill out a form, often a form printed out from a PDF they could not fill out online. Only catch was that if the patron did not know how to use them, they had to look at the manual since the staff were not that “fluent” with them. Overall, we’ll probably have to keep at least one typewriter in our libraries, at least a while longer. Best, and keep on blogging.

  • 4. Vicky Chase  |  August 4, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    Lucy Robbins Welles Library in Newington, CT has a typewriter for public use. It is used weekly at least.

  • 5. Lynn  |  August 4, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    My former place of work still has a typewriter. When I still worked there the old one broke (this was around 5 years ago) and we quickly replaced it due to demand.

    Patrons use it for the following reasons: forms that can’t be filled out on line, addressing envelopes, typing on labels, typing on special paper that cannot be used in the printers or copiers due to warrenty restrictions.

    I think there would be a riot if the typewriter were removed.

  • 6. Jill  |  August 5, 2006 at 10:28 am

    Our branch has TWO typewriters: one in the circ office for typing up new labels (mostly) and another in a small office used for private study. I hadn’t noticed how many people used the public one until we ran out of ribbon and had to turn away around ten folks during the two weeks it took to restock.

  • 7. Anonymous  |  August 5, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Yes, we have a typewriter in our little branch.
    It is tucked away in a small closet. Staff will use it and occasionally a patron will ask if a typewriter is available. (The patron will usually have a fill-in form in their hand). Not every patron is willing to tangle with a computer/scanner, etc.

    …Still typing in Ocean County, NJ.

  • 8. LisaTheLibrarian  |  August 6, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    We have four at the Undergraduate Library at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We will be keeping them. They get a fair amount of use and it is almost impossible for students to find any other one to use on campus.

  • 9. Anonymous  |  August 7, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Vineland Public Library has a public use typewriter in its own pesonal office. It’s used often enough that the staff do not want it removed.

  • 10. Anonymous  |  August 7, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    We still have a typewriter in a carrel next to one of our computers set up with Word and detailed instructions for using resume templates.

  • 11. Anonymous  |  August 8, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    We also have a tpewriter and it gets a fair amount of use.

  • 12. Sedan Public  |  August 8, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    Sedan Public uses one at times and it is very popular with our patrons.

  • 13. Anonymous  |  August 8, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    We did have ours in storage for about 2 years. Patrons came asking for a typewriter about once a month. We now have it back out. No one has used it yet but I will give it a year and see if anyone uses it.

  • 14. Sue Kamm  |  August 8, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    We have four coin-operated typewriters for public use, and maintain several in our work areas to prepare labels, complete forms, and perform other tasks that can’t be accomplished using a word processor or spreadsheet program.

  • 15. Anonymous  |  August 8, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    We have one old Selectric still limping along (and two in the closet that quit limping). It gets used at least twice a week, usually for filling out forms but also the occasional letter. We have no manual so it’s up to the user to figure it out. We moved two “wordpacs” into the same room which only have office software on them, and they get more use.

  • 16. Anonymous  |  August 8, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    We still have a typewriter for public use. It is used constantly. We also have multiple typewriters for staff use. There are just some things that are easy to do on a typewriter.

  • 17. JD, Librarian  |  August 9, 2006 at 10:17 am

    We have typewriters for public use. They are old but in decent shape and are well-used on a daily basis by people of all ages who need to fill out forms or type an envelope. The days of seeing students type whole term papers on them is long gone, but they are not collecting dust either 🙂

  • 18. Elizabeth  |  August 9, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    My library still has a typewriter that gets used pretty frequently. It is most often used by people who are uncomfortable with computers or need to fill out forms.

  • 19. Anne  |  August 9, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    We had a couple of typewriters that we had a lot of trouble keeping in working order. It seemed that kids would pound on them, especially the one not being used while their mother filled out a form. When we replaced them, we put one only in a locked room. I expected it to last only a few months, but it has been several years of heavy use and little trouble. We just explain to the patrons that we are happy to unlock, and that the typewriters are locked up for their own safety.

  • 20. Tiny Little Librarian  |  August 24, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    When I started in my position 7 years ago, there was a typewriter being stored in what was now my office. My then-manager absolutely wouldn’t let me get rid of it but it wasn’t out for public use. I think she thought we should have one in case anyone asked for it, but I can’t imagine we’d actually have hauled it downstairs and set it up on demand, so it just stayed in my office gathering dust. This year I worked up the courage to ask our new manager if I could finally chuck it and she said yes, its time had come.

    Since I’ve been here I’ve had maybe a couple of people ask for one, but there’s been no real demand. But then, if it had been set up and not up in my office, who knows?

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