As part of the coursework, interns have to keep a weekly journal of our experiences. Blog entries are acceptable and I thought this would be a great way to keep everyone updated on my library activities at the Lilly Library!
August 31 – September 4
Monday, August 31 (3 hours): File renaming! I sat for quite a while at the computer moving and renaming files in the Public Services folder. There were 15 years of research notes for classes and my job was to go through them to determine which were worth saving. I organized the files by date and moved all of the pre-2012 files into a folder. Going into that folder I started at the top of the list, opened the file, looked at what information was inside, and either renamed the document (class name, professor, librarian, semester) or dumped it in a “Delete” folder for my adviser to peruse. It was super interesting to see the level of detail that many of the documents held! Many of the classes are usually one-offs and the level of detail depends on the audience, the length of class, and familiarity with the materials. For example, elementary students need to know different amounts of information than graduate students. Some of the documents that I sifted through only had catalog records; these were lists of possible materials for classes or reminders of what to pull… I put those in the delete folder.
Tuesday, September 1 (5.5 hours): This was a super chance to meet with several of the librarians and the director of the library. Rebecca, my adviser, wants to expose Sarah and me to as many different people in the library as possible to see how the cogs in the machine fit together. Today we met with Rebecca, Isabel, and Erika to receive a teaching demo and compare their different styles. They took turns delivering their treasures speech and showing us 2 or 3 of their favorite Lilly treasures. Here’s a quick summary:
- Rebecca: welcome, statistics, emphasize primary research, rules, questions
- Edgar Allan Poe letters to Sarah Helen Power Whitman (the original “goth” girl)
- Isabelle: welcome, Lilly history, statistics, museum/library, rules
- Ptolemy, Infant’s Library (link to Laura Forsberg blog), Silmarillion book sculpture (see picture below)
- Erika: welcome, statistics, importance of artifacts, rules, contact
There were slight differences because each had different interests and backgrounds to emphasize. Rebecca has an English literature background; Isabelle has an history/art background; Erika has an art history/fine arts background.
Later we met with Joel Silver, the director of the Lilly, to learn how the library was organized. Today, the library is divided by the type of service: public services and technical services. Public services are the librarians who answer reference questions, give tours, teach classes, and interact with patrons in the Reading Room. Technical Services are those who catalog the materials, organize the stacks, and maintain the collections. Obviously these are generalizations and both areas do more than what I’ve outlined, but this gives you an idea of them. Well, Joel told us that this division only occurred in the mid-1990s. From the 1960s when the Lilly Library was opened to the mid-1990s, the library was divided by Book and Manuscript departments. The Book people weren’t allowed to touch the manuscripts, and vice versa. Certain materials in the collections are shelved oddly because of these past divisions: books are with the manuscript collections if the Manuscript Curator took an interest, etc. Every library will have its quirks and I think it’s important for new librarians to learn the history – even the dirty, gossipy history because those “truths” can reveal how materials are organized.
Friday (2.5 hours): I got to look at two illuminated books from 1478 and 1490! Specifically, I was looking at the watermarks in the paper for a patron who emailed us. We sent him a digital photo of a single watermark from each book, but he wanted to know if there were multiple kinds within the books. My job was to determine the answer.
**Spoiler: there WERE multiple watermarks used in each book**
I replied with my answer… now we wait to see how he wants to continue. The librarians I’ve been working with think that sending him a single image of each of the watermarks isn’t too much to ask, but if he wants to know how many pages, or some other more intense question that it starts to get into research territory. We’re only here to help with reference work, not research work. It’s a grey boundary that can be difficult to define, but is important to determine. I also did some manuscript reshelving!