I believe it was in 6th. Grade that my Teacher assigned me to give a written report on the Lewis and Clark expedition and I ,being a History Buff and a part-time day dreamer screamed as loud as I could while running down the hallway ” I can’t do this” But as always once I get involve with a project, I can’t put it down till I’ve completed it.
That afternoon when I got home from school I told my Mom of the project that had been given to me and she told me that all the information you needed was in the Library and that I should plan a few days to visit the Library and research the shelves of books pertaining to the Lewis and Clark Expeditions. “OK” I said and started to plan my trips to the Library. It would have to be on Saturdays as I can’t give up my play time with my friends after school. I gathered up my sharpest pencil and a spiral note-book and reviewed my route down to the Library. Borrow a dime off my Mom, take the Western Ave. Street Car to the Elevated at Wilson Ave. Hop the El down to Division St. walk about a block East to Clark and I’m at the Library.
Saturday came early and I apologize for not going shopping with Mom, But I was on an Adventure, An Adventure to learn about History and Explorers trekking across the country. I often think about my youth in Chicago back in the 40’s as do a lot of us who grew-up back then. There was no fear of living back then, no boundaries that couldn’t be crossed oh there were neighborhoods that you shouldn’t be in because of Racial ignorance, but one didn’t fear for their life as they do now. There was a lot to be said about Racial Segregation in keeping the peace. Everyone stayed on their own side of the fence and there was peace, It may have been the wrong way to treat people but having two different societies worked. OK, I got away from my story.
I entered the Library and stood for a moment and took in the size of the building, the shelves of books the floors of books all these people walking around with grim faces on. I realized that this building contains every bit if information I needed, then it hit me. How do you use a Library? I never have been in one before. How do I go about finding what I came here for? Nobody ever taught me how to use a Library! Not in school, not at home, My eyes searched frantically for a friendly face to help me, there, It says Information. I shuffled over to this desk and waited to ask a question to this lady with horrible complexion. I know, I was taught by the Nuns that we’re all Gods children and everyone is beautiful in God’s Eyes, but I mean, If you looked in the Dictionary under Ugly, There would be a picture of this woman. ” I’m looking to gather some information On Lewis and Clark and I’ve never been in a Library before and I don’t know where to look?” I said, “Son” she replied, “I haven’t the time to teach you how to use a Library, Bring someone with you next time to show you how to research the information in this library”. “Yes Ma’am” I replied. I thought, ” Here is another case of me progressing thru life without the basic knowledge of gathering and storing information.” So off to home I went. When I got home Mom ask me how’d it go? I told her about my dilemma and that I need someone to teach me how to use a Library. Ask your Sister to help you she replied, Tomorrows Sunday and after Church the two of you can go back to the Library.
I guess the procedure for obtaining information was supposed to be inherent in my Genes. I knew how to ride a two-wheel Bicycle, Operate my Dads record Player, Unlock doors all of which I was taught. I don’t ever remember being taught in how to use a Library, not in school, not by my Family, nor by any of my friends. I guess by the age of 11 years I should have known, but I didn’t. Back then if you needed some information, no matter what, You wrote it down on a piece of paper stuffed in your pocket and walked, drove, or took Public Transportation down to the Library and proceeded to acquire what you needed using the tools of the Library. Boy, Do we have it made now. Don’t we! I love to Google!
Well, needless to say, I learned how to use the library and it wasn’t till High School that I was taught the Dewey Decimal system and the systematic way books on shelves were laid out. I don’t remember what grade I received on my report nor what ever happened to it, but knowing the Nuns at St. Benedict’s they probably burned it and added the ashes to the Palm Ashes that were used on Ash Wednesday.