Working with special, rare and archival materials

Within librarianship, there is a unique group of individuals that aspire to work with historical and unique materials. It truly is a fascinating field of work that combines a variety of facets, from material studies and history to language and culture.

This week I spoke with John, Liz, Bethany, Hannah and Caroline, who all share my passion for these unique and historical materials. As SLIS students that all currently work in rare book, archive, or special collection institutions, we wanted to use this episode as a chance to dialog on the significance and challenges inherent in collecting and preserving these materials and why we are interested in a career in this field. We also give some insight into some of the special projects we work on at our jobs: processing a cookbook collection, cataloguing miniature books, crowdsourcing metadata for artist books and processing the newly donated Tom Brokaw papers.

“Working in special collections gives you a taste of what’s out there. You have this ability to see behind closed doors, to see what exists, that I would have never thought of before.” -John Fifield, 2017

It’s clear that the dynamic content, the individuality of special collections and the ability to constantly learn are all reasons why at least this group of students have chosen to pursue a future in this sub-field of library and information science. We also take some time to discuss some of our favorite items we’ve encountered and how our experiences have played a valuable role in guiding us to a future career. As a bonus, John gives us insight into his recent experience interviewing for a rare book seller job.

“[Special collections] is such a big collection, a varied collection, no matter what you’re interested in we can find something for you.” -Elizabeth Riordan, 2017

If you’ve never taken the time to visit an archival, special collections or rare book institution before, I highly recommend you do! You never know what you could find.

Comics and the Library

Of all library collections, comic books, graphic novels, and manga are perhaps some of the most challenging materials to steward. For many of us, that challenge starts with the basics: terminology.

“There is a misperception that comic books are treated often like a genre, but comic books are a format, a medium; there are lots of genres within comics.” -Dennis Cooper, 2017

This week, Allie Paarsmith, Dennis Cooper, and Caroline Allen (SLIS students and some of our local resident comics experts), hash out the common conundrums, misconceptions, and challenges inherent in the role libraries play in stewarding comics, graphic novels, and/or manga.

“It’s starting to become a more accepted medium, and so I think that libraries need to react to that and have them available for checkout.” -Allie Paarsmith, 2017

Across different libraries, comics are handled using a variety of methods; librarians across the country often disagree on the proper way to catalog and provide access to these materials. In addition, many patrons that enter the library express mixed feelings on the place of comics in the library and in schools. And yet, time and again, comics have proven their ability to introduce diversity into communities and bring readers closer to different types of literacy.

“With text, some of our implicit biases can come across in our reading of it, and with a graphic novel it can eliminate some of those opportunities.” -Caroline Allen, 2017

Even if you are someone that doesn’t read or catalog the comics in your library, it’s important that as we enter our careers in librarianship we are aware of the issues surrounding this unique, multi-dimensional medium of materials.

Politics and Libraries, part 1

Politics, policies, government, partisan divides…it all matters when we’re talking about the potential and the ability of libraries to continue providing services to their communities today and in the future.

We don’t claim to be experts on this subject…in fact, we are far from it. But in light of recent national news, in this episode Kyrstin, Caroline and I take a stab at grasping and articulating the implications of politics on and in library world. We briefly touch on topics such as gun legislation, funding, collective bargaining and Caroline’s experience at Iowa Library Legislative day.

“Libraries leverage the tiny amount of federal funds they receive through their states into an incredible range of services for virtually all Americans everywhere, so produce what could be the highest economic and social return on investment in the entire federal budget.” –Julie Todaro, President of the American Library Association, 2017

There’s definitely a lot to stay informed about, which can sometimes be overwhelming and challenging to do amidst our busy lives. Still, as professional librarians it’s important that we seek to understand the impact of politics on the work that we do and make an effort to publicly advocate for our libraries. If we do, we will have the potential to help bring about positive change for our communities.

Unique Library Collections

 

Libraries just loan books, right? Wrong. Libraries across the country contain more than just books. Recent University of Iowa SLIS program graduate Beth Paul conducted research  about the unique, non-book, “non-traditional” library collections that are currently active in libraries across the country.

“I was really interested in how the library is more than just books and how they [interesting collections] can bring in interesting people.” -Beth Paul, 2016

A screenshot of some of the music tools you can check out from the Ann Arbor District Library.

These unique library collections allow community members to borrow anything from artwork done by local, high quality posters, seeds, musical instruments, gardening tools, and board games, among other items. In addition, Iowa libraries have led the way in the establishment of a cake-pan lending system.

In this podcast we talk to Beth about what she discovered in her research regarding the popularity of these unique collections, why these libraries went about adopting these collections, how they maintain them, why these collections might be controversial, and how they might complement a future of maker spaces in libraries.

Check out these sites for additional inspiration :

 

 

Working as the Peace Corps Librarian

 

We’ve all heard of the Peace Corps, but have you heard of the Peace Corps librarian? And what exactly does a Peace Corps librarian do?

Recently, we were fortunate to speak with Kelly Grogg, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science. In this episode, Kelly provides us with a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be the Peace Corps Librarian.

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“Since I am the only librarian and I have so many different roles, I get to do a little bit of all those things. There’s a little bit of the public librarian aspect where I get to answer questions from the public, I am managing a small library, I am sort of the default historian and archivist for the Peace Corps, and I get to do a lot of in depth research for people here at headquarters like an academic librarian would do, and I get to do a lot of international calls and talk to people all around the world.” -Kelly Grogg, 2017

As the Peace Corps Librarian, Kelly is busy serving, supporting, and communicating with four different audiences: library staff at all Peace Corps offices around the world, Peace Corps volunteers in the field, staff at Headquarters at Washington D.C., and the general public. Kelly describes what it’s like to work as a solo librarian for a federal entity and she speaks about some of the projects she hopes to work on during her term as the Peace Corps librarian.

Although she will only hold this position temporarily (for five years), as a former Peace Corps volunteer, Kelly is grateful for this opportunity to educate others about the PeaceCorps and to share her library expertise with current Peace Corps volunteers in the field. As for the future…

“I know that I would be happy anywhere, as long as a got to work in a library and do work that I believe in, which is why I decided to become a librarian in the first place.” -Kelly Grogg, 2017

**This podcast was prepared or accomplished by Kelly Grogg in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are her own and do not reflect the view of the United States Peace Corps or the United States government.**

Interning at the U.S. National Archives

 

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Erica examining the watermark on a document while rehousing the oversized collection at the Library

This past summer, the summer of 2016, two of our local SLIS students made sure that they did not waste their summer vacations. We wanted to make sure we captured a little bit of their experiences.Erica Knapp spent her summer working at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. Kara Wentworth spent her summer break working at the National Park Service Headquarters in Washington D.C. in the Tribal Relations and American Cultures department. They were both selected for their positions from an initial pool of applicants from across the country.

In this episode we speak to Erica and Kara about their experience delving into special collections work at the federal level, getting to know individuals through the intimate work of collection processing.

“Eleanor had a pen pal that she met in the early ’30s[…], she called her Tiny. We have Tiny’s half of the correspondence, but Tiny’s daughters [recently] donated Eleanor’s half of the correspondence to us. So I got to go through and read all of Eleanor’s letters.” -Erica Knapp, 2016

That summer, they also participated in special events, learned about the workflow and logistics of a functioning national archives, gained a unique understanding of national archive and federal agency standards, and became familiar with the responsibilities of an archivist at the federal level.

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Kara standing in the Main Interior Building, the headquarters of the United States Department of the Interior, located in Washington, D.C.

“I was working in a building with a bunch of anthropologists. I processed a 100-square-foot collection for the chief ethnographer of the Park Service from 1978 to early 2000. They wanted to get an archivist in to go through it [the collection] because they weren’t sure how much of it was personal and had to be removed and redacted. [The job] really appealed to me because I wanted to get an understanding, a working knowledge, of the National archive standard.” -Kara Wentworth, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Your Local Library

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The homepage of a new website created by Rachel Black, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science. The website’s URL is: https://atyourlocallibraryblog.wordpress.com

 

 

There’s a new website in town, and we think you should know about it!

Rachel Black, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library & Information Science, has started a new local website project.

“I started a website, called “At Your Local Library,” which I wanted to use to kind of, challenge perceptions of librarians and libraries. When I was doing my research, I realized that a lot of people just don’t see their library as an active agent in their community.” -Rachel Black, 2016

Rachel describes how she got her inspiration for the website from the well known website called “Humans of New York,” and how that type of approach could be used to introduce the community to their local libraries, and more specifically, to the people who work within them.

“I really wanted this site to reach people who don’t really think about their libraries, who aren’t already passionate about them, or don’t realize what a great resource they are.” -Rachel Black, 2016

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To gather content for the website, Rachel conducted and transcribed interviews with librarians in the state of Iowa, releasing each interview to the public in segments that gradually reveal how that librarian and their library benefit their local community.

“I wanted the post to be something that the librarian who was talking to me was passionate about. At the end of the day, what is their message? I would take these themes that kept cropping up, and I would try to create an overall story.” -Rachel Black, 2016

In this podcast, Rachel also speaks on some of the logistics involved in putting together a project like this and presenting it to the Library and Information Science faculty. Rachel hopes to one day obtain funding that will allow her to continue this site in the future.

Check out the At Your Local Library website or follow the project on Facebook.

2017 Iowa Library Association Conference, part 2

 

What do you get when you combine students and professional librarians in one space for a couple days? The Iowa Library Association annual conference!

For this episode of B Sides, we meet with a couple University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science students who attended the 2016 Iowa Library Association Conference, which was held in Dubuque, Iowa in October. The ILA Annual Conference is “a unique opportunity to engage with our colleagues from around the state, participate in and glean new ideas from conference sessions, and build and broaden our professional expertise.” (ILA 2016 Conference Program)

Despite not being able to stay for the entire conference, second-year students Emily Friend and Beth Paul were able to attend a variety of sessions: from talks about board game collections and copyright to discussions focused on outreach for children.

“I went to five different programs – I went to a weeding one, one about summer reading for children, programming ideas for Tweens, an outreach one, and one about forming a book club for boys.” -Emily Friend, 2016

There, Emily and Beth learned that sometimes, conferences don’t always provide you with defined answers. As the library expands its resources and services, there aren’t always standards or best practices for integrating it into the workflow.

“She said at the end [of the session]: ‘there’s no right answer; do whatever works for your library. Go ahead and get these items in your collection, because it’s something that patrons are really using and excited to get from their library. And just do what’s right for your library with regards to cataloging it.’” -Beth Paul, 2016

Librarians for social justice

In the midst of a divided society and a controversial political climate, what role do libraries play, and what responsibilities do librarians have to their patrons and collections? In this episode, we chat with Bekah Walker, John Fifield, and Alonso Avila, members of the University of Iowa’s Librarians for Social Justice group, about what social justice is and what it should look like within the library profession and among evolving community values.

“There’s a difference between neutrality and equality, and I think that’s something we need to look at as librarians. […] We as librarians have to hold ourselves accountable to upholding these values of equality.” -John Fifield, 2016

“You shouldn’t have to be neutral and not be advocating for the people that don’t have access to the things that other people do.” -Bekah Walker, 2016

“Through that [the election] people have started to become more aware and realize that we need to work towards building those bridges between communities that we may not have had contacted or connected with previously. So this is pushing us into areas that we need to be in, in order to start affecting change.” -Alonso Avila, 2016

Bekah, John, and Alonso also update us on the current activities of the Librarians for Social Justice group. On an ongoing basis, group members volunteer at the Anchor Center, which  is a prison transitional facility in Cedar Rapids.

In addition, the Librarians for Social Justice group will also hold their annual fundraiser, the Book Brunch, from 10am-12pm on Saturday December 3rd, at Public Space One in Iowa City, Iowa. For $5, attendees will receive a delicious brunch and have the opportunity to participate in a silent auction. Donations of books and crafts prizes for the silent auction will be accepted until Friday December 2nd. Proceeds of the silent auction and the breakfast will benefit The Lisa Libraries. We hope to see you there!

If you have questions about the Librarians for Social Justice group, their fundraiser, or are interested in joining their email list, you can contact them at libs.social.justice@gmail.com.

2017 Iowa Library Association Conference, part 1

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The 2016 Iowa Library Association Annual Conference logo.

 

For this episode of B Sides, we meet with a couple University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science students who attended the 2016 Iowa Library Association Conference, which was held in Dubuque, Iowa in October.

The ILA Annual Conference is “a unique opportunity to engage with our colleagues from around the state, participate in and glean new ideas from conference sessions, and build and broaden our professional expertise.” (ILA 2016 Conference Program)

Second year students Laura Sauser and Shari Neal share with us why they decided to go to the conference and why they recommend others attend.

“For me, coming to library school is looking at a career change for myself. I’m going to school and getting the foundational classes; I’m also working at a public library. We walked in with some technical expertise and this [conference] made it more real-life.” -Laura Sauser, 2016

For Shari and Laura, the ILA conference was a opportunity to practice advocacy and build networks with potential future colleagues and employers. It was also an opportunity for them to learn about current issues and glean inspiration from practicing librarians throughout the state; inspiration they could potentially walk away and immediately use in their own jobs.

“It’s interesting to know what the issues, and what’s coming up…what’s trending in libraries. […] She [the speaker from St. Ambrose) talked about how to educate undergraduates to handle archives and primary sources. It was a CSI course that she had set up with artifacts and crimes [that had been committed unto them].” -Shari Neal, 2016