By Amber Spratlin
Dr. Arthur Robinson, a Georgia librarian for 22 years, will retire in August from LaGrange College, where he serves as the Reference Librarian. You have likely met or seen him at GLA or GALILEO conference events, or benefited from his help with a particularly tricky interlibrary loan request. Dr. Robinson took a few moments to reflect on the past two decades, both personally, and with an eye on the field of librarianship.
Dr. Robinson began his professional academic career teaching Classics for ten years, but posits that his library work began well before: “I first worked in a library in 1971 at age 15, shelving and shelf-reading the French books in the school library. I worked in libraries as both an undergraduate and a graduate student…I was appointed ‘graduate student librarian’ by the Classics department chair in my second year of graduate school in 1979. Apparently she decided I was a librarian long before I did.”
Dr. Robinson received his MLIS from Indiana University in 1998 after coming to terms with the inevitable reality: he was meant for librarianship.
Since beginning work as the Reference Librarian at LaGrange, Dr. Robinson has seen the field of librarianship change in significant ways, but technology, he says, has made the biggest impact. “Technology has changed librarianship tremendously, and will continue to do so. When I went to library school in 1996, the Internet was a new thing—at least to me; the university where I’d taught in 1995 didn’t have web access, even in the library (we still used dot matrix printers). When I came to Georgia in 1998, we had GALILEO (though most citations lacked full text), but no e-books. We still used print indexes a lot. I spent my first few years at LaGrange College seeking out inexpensive used copies of the Dictionary of Literary Biography to build our collection from 6 volumes to 80; now, we have all 386 volumes in a database—no more checking the index for the volume number. Interlibrary loan didn’t become web-based until about 2006. Now, with COVID-19, technology is more important than ever.”
“Technology has changed librarianship tremendously, and will continue to do so…Now, with COVID-19, technology is more important than ever.”-Dr. Arthur Robinson
Dr. Robinson is well-known and beloved on the LaGrange campus, not only for his immense knowledge of the library’s resources, but for his often hilarious stories and reflections. He says, “I have many memories: the wonderful colleagues I’ve been lucky enough to work with; patrons ranging from a 90-year-old who’d returned to college to get another degree, to middle school National History Day students who encountered microfilm for the first time and thought it was ‘cool.’” He also shares that, not long after beginning work at the reference desk, he learned the meaning of “other duties as assigned,” when he had to catch a bat that had made its way into the library: “I spent half an hour chasing it around the library before snaring it midflight in a plastic Kroger bag. I released it a block away—and it flew right back to the library…animals love libraries, too!”
Given the opportunity to impart advice to other librarians, Dr. Robinson emphasizes the importance to use every resource available to you—electronic, print, or human:
“Do whatever you can to help patrons, but don’t hesitate to call on your colleagues. Older librarians can learn from new, and new from old. Some of your colleagues may have expertise in areas that surprise you.”
We thank Dr. Robinson for his longtime service, and wish him the best in retirement!