Internship – Week 6

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!

September 28 – October 2

Monday, September 28th (3 hours):
So, I thought I was going to teach a section of Hispanic Culture today… but I didn’t. While prepping for the class before the students arrived I was trying to force myself to remember what each item was… and I got nervous. I was already nervous, to be honest, but not remembering the significance of the items made myself freeze up even more. Rebecca, my adviser, was in the room and asked if I wanted to sit through the class while she taught it… hear the talk one more time. It gave me another chance to hear the information before I gave the class on Tuesday. It’s a humbling experience, especially when you feel like you’ve let someone (yourself included) down, but one lesson that is important. I needed help. I didn’t know the materials as well as I thought and Rebecca was able to step in for me.

Tuesday, September 29th (2 hours):
Teaching went well today! I showed up to the room a little early to review the items and thinking of things I wanted to mention. A few people showed up early and I talked with them fairly easily, but when it was time to start the room was full. Librarian mode switched on, but it wasn’t a smooth transition- I was tense. I got through my introduction speech and could tell that I had some nerves, but the cool thing was… I relaxed! About halfway through I felt myself relaxing and talking more normally. I may have rushed through the information a touch, but that’s to be expected. I was at my most relaxed when they students came up to look at the materials – I like answering their questions and interacting with them. Obviously not everyone is going to think books are “super cool,” but the few who do make it worthwhile.

Wednesday, September 30th (3 hours):
Today was a day on projects. Erika Dowell, the head of Public Services, asked if I could help her ascertain certain information on the Orson Welles scripts. She is in the process of writing a grant proposal and need numbers for her document. I spent the entire time tracking down the correct scripts and then counting the pages. This meant some quality time on one of the manuscript floors in the stacks.

Friday, October 2nd (4 hours):
I spent the early part of the day renaming files. This time, though, on the post-2012 materials. I checked at 2pm to see if anyone was waiting for a tour, but alas, there was no one. About halfway through my time I went to help Rebecca set up for an Islamic Studies class and the instructor guided us on her preferred order. I was there to watch over the materials during the lecture. Rebecca gave the introductory speech and the lecturer invited the visitors to the table. Unfortunately as soon as the group started to move towards the front, some people immediately went to the back materials and began to handle them. By handle, I mean pick the books up out of their cradles and flip through the pages as if they owned them.  I had to jump in quickly and tell them to kindly put the materials back… and then gave my speech on how to touch the materials.

Qur'an (juz' 9 of 30) (source: From Pen to Printing Press, Lilly Library and IU Art Museum)
Qur’an (juz’ 9 of 30) (source: From Pen to Printing Press, Lilly Library and IU Art Museum)

Some of you reading this may think, “they are just books,” and you would be partially correct, though these rare materials are also museum-like objects. You wouldn’t go up to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and take it off the hanging, nor would you pick up a Ming Dynasty vase.

“But Kelsey – those are fragile materials. Books aren’t fragile.” Well, some books and manuscripts are fragile. Very fragile. Just touching them may cause the edges of the paper to break off due to paper acidity and time.

What I’d ask… is that for patrons to ask before touching materials or taking pictures. Every library is going to have different policy. (I learned this from visiting places on the British Studies Program.) The Lilly Library and others like it are trying to balance user access and material preservation. My guiding thought is that we’ve preserved these materials in order to use them now, but we also need to continue preserving them for future generations’ use.

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