The Secret Life of Library Books

The Secret Life of Library Books


*light piano music* hello internet! Long time no see. This is the first in a series of videos designed to chronicle my professional field experience as a library student. I’ll start by introducing myself. My name is Katherine Stapp. I studied English at a… variety of schools… and sort of focused on Medieval English lit? I didn’t take it TOO seriously… …but UConn has a great medieval program. So I thought I would take advantage of it. Regardless of what I’ve studied and where I’ve done it, I’ve always tried to connect my learning with games. That’s my real passion. I’ve written and hosted games based on Beowulf and Hamlet and with my husband worked on a version of Monopoly based on Arthurian legend My major research project in this Master’s program was all about running Dungeons and Dragons campaigns in libraries. Gaming is my LIFE. As for library science… I’ve been sort of interested since high school, but I didn’t decide to make that my career until a few years ago. I’ve also been studying part time, so it’s been a really long haul, but this is my last semester… as long as my teacher likes this video series. *ding* Professional field experience is basically the same thing as student teaching. Student librarianing! I’m working at the Jesse Smith Public Library in Burrillville. It’s the library I’ve used my whole life. That made it a nice safe bet. but that was very attractive to me, because I’m terrified of what’s going to happen in my future. I’ve been there a little over a month now, and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going. I’m shadowing the library’s assistant director, Robin Nyzio and she’s been a great teacher. She answers all of my dumb questions, which is good… but she also listens to my ideas and helps me bring them into reality. It’s going really well. I wanted to start this series off simply, but with sort of a BANG So, today I’m going to talk about weeding. The woman who directed this library for… over 40 years, I think?? recently retired. And the new director, Beth, has some major changes she wants to make to the shelves. Some of this is just… reorganization… heavy lifting for our page, Paige. But, some of it is going to require some vicious weeding. I love the term “weeding.” I think it’s evocative. The stacks are our garden, and in order for it to flourish we have to get out there, and get our hands dirty. It’s not always fun, but there’s something very satisfying about removing books from the shelves. If every book that was ever purchased just stayed there, not only would there be a HUGE space problem, but it would really detract from the collection. There would be books about… how to use Windows 95, and travel guides from the 1980s. My first couple of weeks were partly devoted to weeding the end of the non-fiction section. (the 890s and 900s, if you know your Dewey Decimal classifications). We’re embarking on this project because the library has a large number of books on animal husbandry. (questioning tone) The previous Director had it set aside as a special collection. and Beth doesn’t want it that way. And, honestly, I can see both sides of this argument. We have like 800 books on animal husbandry. Giving them a special spot makes sense. But, it also makes the books harder for patrons to find, if they’re not just shelved with the rest of the non-fiction. To use a special collection, you need to know about it! Anyway, it’s not my decision, and I’m glad of that. I just helped make space. I wheeled a cart out into the stacks, and took my list and pulled all of the books that had only been borrowed a few times in the past five years. When the cart was full, I brought them all back to the computer, and checked on them, to make sure that they actually were unpopular, and started making decisions about what to keep, and what to get rid of. Most of these decisions, Robin actually left up to me??? *confused noises* It seems like a lot of responsibility for basically an intern, but, I… I guess I know what I’m doing. And it would be hard to screw it up, since I was working off of a list. We discarded things if they had never been taken out, or if they were outdated. For example, we did take a TON of travel guides from the 1990s off of our shelves. Still, there were a few tough calls, and I thought I would give you a couple of examples of the decisions we made. The first was A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani. It was published in 1991, and that’s probably the year that we got it, but it has never been taken out. We decided to keep it, though. It’s in good condition, obviously. And, it’s an important topic, and we don’t have many books about it. I’m really glad that Robin agreed with me about keeping this one, because I feel BAD for it. I’m definitely going to borrow it, when I have time. Maybe we can do a read-along. Are you up for that, Internet? On the other hand, we had Historic Houses of Britain by Mark Girouard. Uh, this was published in 1979, and, again, I assume that is when we got it. This book definitely WOULD have left us, Most books that are just pictures of things, that are old, the picture quality isn’t even that good, compared to what you can take on your phone, now! Things published back then aren’t as impressive. The internet exists to look at pictures of houses… etc. However *Downton Abbey Suite plays* Downton Abbey is really popular. This book was taken out a couple of years ago, in 2013. It just seemed like a bad idea to take it off of the shelves right now. Since Downton Abbey is ending, maybe it’ll come up for re-evaluation in 5 years or something. We’ll see. Something that you learn EARLY on in library school, is that librarians can get VERY defensive about weeding. Mostly I think this is because librarians love books. All librarians love books. Even the ones who are super into tech. And, when you take books off the shelves, they basically just get thrown away. Or… recycled. I don’t actually know what they do. When I asked Robin, she very delicately said that they are “physically discarded.” And… there’s a good reason for that. There’s not much else that can be done with them. If we don’t want a book? It’s because nobody is interested. I didn’t spend all of my time weeding. This internship has been designed for me to learn all about adult services in a public library. The other thing I started in my first week was building displays of books, for, sort of, monthly holidays. I started in February, so I made a Black History Month display. Burrillville is a VERY white town, so I wasn’t really sure how popular a display like that would be, but I still think it’s an important thing to have. Now that the month is over, I should probably look up the statistics to see if anyone took the books out. There were tons of great things on there. There was a biography of Ida Wells, which seemed so interesting, but way too long for me to actually read right now. It took me a really long time to put the display together. It was kind of embarrassing, actually?? I only work 3 hours a day, but it took a whole day to come up with my list of books. It took another day, a little bit less, to actually build the display. Set up a table… books on it… I made a sign. I thought it was ugly Everyone else liked it. You can see it on Facebook, probably. I’ll see if I can put a link in the description. And I was sort of underwhelmed by the results. At the beginning of this month, I worked on a display for women’s history month. And that went a lot faster. I’m not sure if that’s because I had the experience, so I know how it would go… or if I was just more familiar with the topic. That’s another thing I’m learning. I have to work on reading more non-fiction about a bigger variety of things. Keeping on top of your reading is an important part of being a librarian. They don’t actually tell you that in school, and school makes you so busy that you don’t have time to read. But now that I’m at the end, I’m realizing I have to read some BOOKS. I haven’t really sat down and read a ton of books for years. That’s probably all I have time to talk about today. In my next video, I’ll be talking about a letterboxing program that I’m working on. It’s a really cool project, so I hope to see you back for it. Bye! *groovy Incompetech music*

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  1. Every detail is right up my alley.
    Love this.
    Lots of luck with your projects and winding up your studies, Katherine.

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