Camera crews record President Harry S. Truman announcing the surrender of Germany, May 8, 1945

I spent a good portion of the evening working reference on my library’s online reference service, answering questions not just from our own students but from those around the world within the consortium to which we belong. I rarely break through the fourth wall but almost always play it completely straight, unless something humorous happens or there is some other reason to break character so to speak. You always know where the person is because they log on from their institution’s website. Today around 5:00 pm I clicked on a query from a school in London. Often the patrons on the other end do not realize they are getting the 24/7 reference service and figure, if they think about it at all, that they have gotten someone from their home site. This happened with the patron from London because they apologized for bothering me on a bank holiday. I broke through the wall immediately and told them that not only were they not bothering me but that it was not even a bank holiday here in Brooklyn, New York. I had understood immediately that their bank holiday remark was in reference to today being V-E Day.

Usually when I field questions from across the pond–and there are always a fair number of them–I like to think they’re sitting in a pub having a pint while doing their schoolwork. It was 5:00 pm here, and so would have been after at least 10:00 London time. Yes, it was a Friday but I doubt given the upside-down nature of our current moment that they were pub crawling, and no I did not ask. While looking into their reference need the two of us had a fair back-and-forth on the V-E Day commemoration, which despite being the 75th such occasion was rather subdued given the pandemic. They patron mentioned a few virtual events being held online for social distancing purposes. There were few, if any, in-person events.

This patron was one of three people (the others not being from virtual reference but people emailing and texting) who mentioned today’s Victory in Europe anniversary. It has been cold and rainy all day here in the Big Apple; anniversaries such as this are not really there for celebration but reflection, and the weather has suited the occasion. Given everything going on in our world today this year’s V-E Day has been that much more poignant. No one knows the future–just ask anyone who remains today who was there in the spring of 1945–but it seems that seventy-five years after the surrender of Germany the world is entering a new era.

(image/Truman Library Institute)