Me working in Special Collections
I realized that I never spoke about my time in Special Collections. If you’ve read my blog doing the early months then you probably know that I entered grad school believing I wanted to work in Archives or Special Collections. It soon morphed to me not really knowing where I wanted to fit it and only recently have I felt like I’ve found my calling in the Reference department.
When I got a chance to tour special collections and archives at ZSR, I took it as a chance to get some hours and experience in. I still love special collections and archives because at heart I will always be a history geek. One day I hope to be able to combine reference and archives but that’s for another day. Today we’re going to talk about my three weeks in Special Collection, specifically Rare Books.
While there I started an inventory project. ZSR Rare Books is basically built around the library of one man. Charles Lee Smith, a professor, university president, publisher, bibliophile. He donated his entire collection in 1941. The inventory project came about when they noticed that some of the books where not showing up in the catalog. While some books are in multiples and housed in different departments it was important to note the ones in Rare Books.
My part in the project was to check each book against the catalog. Note the ones that weren’t in there and any strange occurrences. Thinking that I would find one or two in a section. Imagine my surprise when only one or two on the shelf WAS in the catalog. Here’s some snapshots I took.
The Alcove where I worked
Shelf full of old books
One of the books protected by a wax paper cover
Showing the catalog card Charles Smith created for his library
The call numbers, the collection is organized by this system
In the end I was able to handle the rare books and learn from the librarians about rare books. Even though this wasn’t the point of my practicum I’m still glad I was able to fit this in. It was a great experience and now I can say I’ve handled rare books and have knowledge of special collection management.
After serving my reference desk hours which started off slow thanks to the dreary weather today, I was able to change up the normal schedule some. I sat in with my supervisor as she conducted a personal research session with an undergraduate student. The personal research sessions aren’t something unique to my site however it was still good to sit in on one as I’ve only been involved in one from the opposite side of the coin. It was fun because the topic dealt with history. The way they do their sessions is the student requests a session, using a form they can find on the library’s webpage, which is then automatically emailed out on a specific listserv. The whole department gets the listserv, which allows anyone who is interested in the topic, or maybe has some background with the student can then take the appointment. I know that in my school the student has to email the librarian that works as their department liaison. I’ve noticed that most students don’t know who that is, usually it’s those who has had a professor ask the librarian into the classroom. I think my site’s system works a bit better because even through it’ still on the student to initiate the help, it makes it easier for them to get help. They don’t have to search and then email a librarian who might not have the real time to devote solely to the student as much as the student need.
I then met up with Special Collections Librarian for a one or one tour and an introduction to Special Collections. Most of you know I have a thing for Archives and Special Collections. Although as I learn more I realize I have a thing for all departments. Which is why I know I’m in the right field since I’ll find joy in any part of the library world. Any way back to my point, meeting with the Special Collections Librarian was great, we talked about the job market particularly Special Collections and Archives. I was sharing how I wasn’t find many job postings for entry-level work in that part of the field. He agreed that it was a hard to break into. He gave me some tips on where to look and then offered a chance to come back for a project or two. I’m going to definitely take him up on that. If all learn is how to repair a book I’d be stoked.
I’m so glad that I listened to my advisor and made sure I did a practicum. Even though I’ve done the internship. This is proving to be more than about earning skills as it is dispel some of the misunderstandings and having awesome discussions about this field.
Image via Wikipedia
These last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to visit three different local archival depositories. The first one we visit was the site of our professor Gwen Erickson at Guilford College. Even though I had done my internship there and was convinced that I had already known what she was going to show us, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still enjoyed being in that space and looking at all the artifacts and documents.
Next we visited the Greensboro Historical Museum. I’ve wanted to visit that museum since I learned about it but never got the chance. It’s such a wonderfully designed place and the exhibits are breathtaking. Their preservation/conservation set up was interesting and they really seem to love their job.
The last one we visited was Jackson Library’s Archives and Special Collections. I had working in the Archives over five years ago when I helped the then University Archivists on a major project that surrounded the women of UNCG. That was a fun and interesting project and really was the first time I thought about working in archives.
It was interesting to see three different types of depositories: university, religious, and museum. While there were many difference they overall still faced the same issues, namely not enough money, not enough staff, and not enough space. It makes me think about how the things I’ve read and learning about in my digital libraries course plays a role. Especially this weeks readings, digitization is not preservation. And makes me wonder is new technology really solving problems are creating more?