Sunday, April 23, 2017

MARAC Spring 2017 in Newark, N.J.

The Spring 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference in Newark, N.J. (#maracspring17) had this for a theme: Adaptable Archives: Redefine, Repurpose, and Renew. From the sessions I attended on Friday (more about why I only spent 1 day there, later), it appears that the theme is well on the minds of many in the field.

Plenary

For the plenary, MARAC requested Dr. David Kirsch, associate professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland. His topic centered on the records of failed entrepreneurial ventures, specifically those of Silicon Valley start-ups. He rightly asserted that business records are at risk, due mainly to the litigiousness of society. I remember when I worked at IEEE, over a decade ago, annual data shredding events would occur throughout the company.

What company can afford the physical space to save all that paper, as well as server space to save (and, more costly, people to maintain) the electronic records? The end product is a history of American business that is spotty at best, and is told by those who kept their archives rather than deleting them. Or, in the case of Kirsch and his colleagues at Sherwood Partners, history will be told by failed Silicon Valley companies and those who supported them. Sherwood Partners swoop in and claim selected data from failed companies (doing what we archivists call appraisal), work with the Library of Congress for subject headings, and eventually move the records to the Hagley Museum. One of the aspects of this concept that bothers me is that Kirsch said they only take the text files (OK, Lisa Gensel, I'll give you that something is better than nothing). His example was that they found an organizational chart in a text file. What if that was in a GIF or a JPEG file? It is my opinion that they miss out on the context of their record collection by only choosing text. Moving on...

Empire Archival Discovery Cooperative (Session S4)

During the beginning of this session on the Empire State Library Network's Empire Archival Discovery Cooperative (ADC), the chair Deirdre Joyce of the Central New York Library Resources Council reminded the attendees that the ADC was born out of a New York Caucus meeting at a MARAC in 2010. I'd attended that meeting -- sometimes I attend other state caucuses because I'm interested in what stuff is happening in other states -- and I've been following this project ever since. The speakers were Jen Palmentiero of the Southeastern New York Library Resources Council, Laura Streett of Vassar College, and Greg Wiederman of the University of Albany, SUNY. Another speaker, whom it would have been very useful to have, didn't make it. That was Ethan Gruber of the American Numismatic Society. He's the incredibly talented developer of the EADitor for finding aids, which is an integral part of the ADC web site.

Overall, the session was a very helpful explanation of the history of the project, it's importance to the New York archival community and surrounding region, issues they encountered, and the state of the project now. It's pretty exciting to hear that after all of the work put toward ADC, there are now approximately 1000 finding aids on the system that had been harvested by Ethan (via GitHub) in the last week. Even more relevant to all of the small historical societies is that the beta release allows them to use a relatively simple interface to create DACS-compliant finding aids via the EADitor. The object of the project is to allow previously "hidden" collections to become finadable, and it looks like it's much more cooked now. Those of us in N.J. should be thinking about using this good work as a model.

We Like to Move It, Move It: Renovating Special Collections Facilities (Session S8)

The session chair, Katy Rawdon of Temple University first introduced Elizabeth Beckman of George Mason University, who focused on what it was like to move to a new facility on the same grounds, and some of the challenges she encountered. She said that likely the biggest challenge was that she had not double checked in person the measurements of the shelves with regard to the number of document cases they would hold. She ended up with a top shelf that was about a third of the height she would need to hold the boxes, and that presented a numbering/labeling issue that required some shifting afterward. I felt for her as she described it. Measure twice, cut once, they say.

Next, Bruce Hulse of the Washington Research Library Consortium, a group of 9 universities in the D.C. area, spoke about his experience expanding their off-site shelving solution over several iterations. He detailed his process of working with the contractors in the planning and construction phase, most recently to expand the space by about 30 percent. He also spoke about measures he took to bring down energy costs that had dramatically increased with the new construction.

Finally, Katy introduced Karin Suni of the Free Library of Philadelphia, who spoke about moving the theater and rare book collections. She provided many helpful tips including: document the whole process with many photographs, make lists, be patient because planning can take several years, communicate the types and sizes of materials to movers, and take lots of notes at all of the meetings (and there will be many) prior to and during the move.

Radical Honesty in Descriptive Practice (S13)

This session was one where you could hear a pin drop. I sat with my friend from Penn State Behrend in Erie, Jane Ingold, and listened to speakers Michael Andrec of the Ukrainian Historical and Educational Center of New Jersey, Christiana Dobrzynski of Bryn Mawr College, and Sam Winn of Virginia Tech cover some pretty heavy ground about what we can do as archivists to improve the way we not only populate our materials, but more importantly, describe them. I am all about honesty in description. You might remember a few years ago the torment I experienced when trying to describe the records of the Superfund site in Chester. The speakers weren't going over that kind of ground, though, and I was more intrigued by that session than by many others I have attended over the years.

A couple of years ago during a NJ Caucus meeting, I had visited Michael at the Ukrainian Center (it's local to my home) and seen some of the collections that described the horrors experienced by the Ukrainian people. It was a stark reminder of what populations of immigrants have endured in order to experience religious and personal freedom.

Christiana spoke at length about the type of erasures faced by Black and LGBTQ Bryn Mawr students in terms of the lack of documentation and institutional racism. I was very impressed by the way she engaged with students and inspired them to write new descriptions that acknowledged the previous descriptive practices. She also worked with underrepresented communities to obtain donations and have students of those communities create the language for the finding aids.

Finally, Sam Winn used many quotes (that I wish I had to share with you, and I hope she makes her slides public so that I can link to them here) to talk about how we, the predominantly white, mostly female group need to do much more to ensure that we do better about making our collections reflect the diversity in our communities. Her point could be applied to where I work -- Chester is an overwhelmingly white area, but there have been families of color who have lived and who do live in the area. I need to do more to show that in our collections. I also need to seek out members of the Chester LGBTQ community so that they are represented, as well.

Marching for Science

So, the reason I wasn't there for the Saturday of MARAC, was that I, and many others, were marching for science in Trenton. Here's a photo taken by Mary Clarkin Ahern:


I'm holding the Walter Cronkite quote, "Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." On the back, it says, "Archivists Have Your Back!" I met at least 15 other librarians and archivists, and I was very happy to participate. This IS what democracy looks like.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"What Do You Do?" "Among Other Things, I Read a Lot of Old Mail."

Recently, I've had the opportunity to talk to individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, education/training, and life experiences about what I do for a living. Many of them did not know what an archivist is or what one does. I started with what I do as a local history librarian, and gradually worked my way into the archives work I do.

"That Sounds Like a Fun Job!"

"It is," I say. It's the most fun I've ever had at work (although my first job out of college at the recording studio was pretty cool, too). What makes it fun? A great number of things, actually. For me, one of the draws is that it's never the same day twice. Someone might walk into my office to donate a county wall map from 1977 and leave having made an appointment to sit with me the following week to record a video oral history interview. That same person may later, in an interview, reveal that he had worked on the Nike Ajax missile program during the Korean War. He might return for another recording session carrying photos and all of the license and permit cards from his wallet in the Army, which he allows me to scan and return to him on his next visit.

Another day, I might research how best to describe in a finding aid all of the electronic visual materials in a collection. I then reach out to professional friends I've met at the Society of American Archivists and Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conferences and ask what they would do. I send a link to the finding aid for their feedback because it's good to have a second/third set of eyes look at a finding aid, especially since I am what is called a Lone Arranger -- the department head of my department of one. Later, after all suggested edits are implemented, I will publicize the finding aid so that researchers can find the collection (here is one: http://chesterlib.org/local-history-room/finding-aids/rademacher-family-collection-finding-aid/).

If you walk into my office in the coming week, you might see me putting together an exhibit. The image below shows an example of a holiday-themed exhibit I had developed. I made facsimiles of postcards that had been lent for the purpose of digitization, as well as ads and articles from a local paper and newsletter. The little turkey is a salt shaker that I bought at the dollar store, along with the fabric leaves.


On rare days, it's not as much fun. For instance, when links began disappearing from the .gov site, I had to update some of my Local History Resources to links from the Internet Archive. Sometimes, I have to take a stand (https://concernedarchivists.wordpress.com/). Other days, to keep positive energy flowing, I update my Facebook page with news stories of great work by archivists, conservators, and librarians. On the tough days, the updates include puppy videos.

"What's the Most Interesting Thing You've Found?"

That is a tough question. However, my favorite archival materials are maps, especially this one (http://hereandthere123.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-am-map-magnet.html). I'll be talking about that map at the upcoming annual New Jersey Library Association meeting (http://njlaconference.info/). The information about the map can be found here: http://chesterlib.org/local-history-room/about-our-1860-new-jersey-topographical-wall-map/.

I've found things that document the unattractive aspects of a town's history. The importance of telling the whole story, not just the parts we like, cannot be overstated. Consequently, when I uncover evidence of minstrel shows and KKK activities in a town's past, it is my responsibility to make that material just as accessible as the turtle races put on by the Optimist Club.

The most interesting things aren't artifacts or archives, but the stories given to me by the oral history interviewees. They are gifts that give to me as well as the giver. I might be the only person the interviewee talks to in a day. The patrons win by experiencing local history in a completely different way than they would otherwise. Researchers can use the impressions of the people who lived in the times they describe. I gain by meeting and getting to know some pretty fascinating people whom I probably wouldn't have met had they not happened to walk into my office while I was processing a collection of library records.

Maybe, someday, I'll write a book about it.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Spring MARAC, April 14-16 2016

As always, the Spring Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, held in downtown Pittsburgh, PA, provided a great deal of bang for the buck. Attendees were favored with excellent weather, a fine conference hotel, and a lively location with plenty to see and do. It’s hard to say what was the best part of this most recent MARAC, but I’ll share the highlights of my experience with you.

The Plenary
Many of us are familiar with the plenary speaker, David Carmichael, State Archivist of Pennsylvania and former State Archivist of Georgia. He spoke on the conference theme, Archival Confluence (Pittsburgh is where three major rivers meet), as we as archivists are “at the confluence of past and future.” The thrust of his message was “What value does our repository create, and how do we measure and articulate that value?” The answer is through the stories of use and value to our patrons. What are the key record series that our patrons cannot live without? He spoke about using metrics to demonstrate our value. Many of us do this through counting patrons, tabulating hours spent on reference work, etc. He also suggested using surveying tools to expose the economic impact of our collections and institutions.

What he has learned through his work is that the value of what we do is not self-evident. We have to believe we have value to add. How do we communicate what the value is? He said that it’s about who benefits directly by our work. Additionally, we have to collect the stories and data – what can be measured and is it meaningful? We need to be able to draw the line to the value that the story delivers. Finally, his last, but key message was that because the “urgent gets in the way of the important,” we need to talk about why we do what we do, not just what we do.

Sessions I Attended

Culture in Transit (CIT): Digitizing and Democratizing NYC’s Cultural Heritage
CIT is a grant-funded partnership between the Metropolitan New York Library Council, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Library. They use the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) as a platform for the materials created at community digitization events. These scan-a-thons (my term) aren’t just about getting grandma’s scrapbook online. The CIT team members help the donors with licensing, creation of metadata, and most importantly, the contextualization of the materials.
The speakers, Maggie Schreiner of Queens Library, Sarah Quick from Brooklyn Public Library, and Caroline Catchpole of the Metropolitan New York Library Council, emphasized the need for a great deal of planning and outreach, especially media planning, to ensure success. Friends of Libraries groups also were used to raise awareness of scanning events. One of the patron groups turned their oral histories into podcasts as a class project. Overall, the session provided great examples of how to create, host, and publicize small-scale digitization services to the community that also help the library.

“Scope Drift” and the Changing Role of the Archivist
The speakers here represented a varied group of archives, including The Abraham Lincoln Foundation of The Union League of Philadelphia (Theresa Altieri), University of Baltimore (Ben Blake), Maryland State Archives (Maria A. Day), Eastern State Penitentiary (Erica Harman), and Seton Hall University (Amanda Mita). In addition to sharing their individual experiences with jobs that became nearly completely different than what they’d originally signed on to do, the speakers shared some very practical tips. Here are just a few:
  1. Recognize things out of your control. 
  2. Prioritize your time and resources. 
  3. Focus on the things you can control (e.g., mission, collecting scope, preservation, job description, etc.). 
  4. Be assertive, diplomatically. 
  5. Challenge the business perspective (i.e., expectations of revenue generation). 
  6. Get the appropriate access you need to accomplish your goals.
Hearing about the massive challenges these folks face/faced in their work and how they approached them was inspiring, to say the least.

The Duchamp Research Portal: Moving an Idea to Proof of Concept
This fascinating session was a rarity in that it focused on a single, international project that involves four different organizations. The speakers were Susan K. Anderson, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Christiana J. Dobrzynski, Deadalus Foundation; Matt Shoemaker, Temple University; and Deborah Wythe, Brooklyn Museum. Funded by an NEH Preservation and Access grant, the end result of the project will be an online research portal for the artist Marcel Duchamp. The session focused on the 18-month effort to research and plan for a very complex collaboration between archivists, curators, IT professionals, and other museum team members. Add in the additional levels of complexity in that the IT team is in France and requires French translation, copyrights aren’t the same in the U.S. as they are in the E.U., the metadata to be collected differed for each organization, and the collections of Duchamp pieces had to be inventoried at each institution. Subsequently, the group published a gigantic white paper which will be included in their implementation grant proposal. It’s going to be quite something when it’s finished, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

If You Give a Kid a Document: Bringing K-12 Students into the Archives
In this session, the speakers talked about the successes they had with kids interacting in a very hands-on way with the materials in their collections. The speakers, Kira A. Dietz of Virgina Tech, Stephen Ammidown of the Gilman School, and Melanie Meyers of The Center for Jewish History focused on specific experiences, whether they were connected to a given event or collection. Getting the kids to share their observations about an object or record was of specific importance, especially in the effort to bring a new understanding about what is “old.” All of the speakers had good tips, but the ones that stood out for me were:

  1. Keep groups small, especially if you are limited as far as staff is concerned.
  2. Keep to 15 minutes of talking – 5 minutes on what I do, 5 minutes on what we have, and 5 minutes on what they could do with the materials.
  3. Expect troublemakers, and have extra hands available to deal with them.
  4.   Engage with teachers.
  5. Be clear about the teachers’ goals.
  6. Don’t underestimate the kids.
  7.  Know your limitations – they might know more than you do on lots of different topics.
  8. Create an opportunity for the kids that they wouldn’t ordinarily have.
  9. Create a photo contest for kids who take pictures of materials.

The End of Archival Adventures in Small Repositories: HCI-PSAR Findings and Methodologies
For this last session, I was very interested in learning the details on the Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories project that just came to a close (2011-2016). The speakers were Jack McCarthy, Anastasia Matijkiw, and Sarah Leu of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Focused on private non-profit, volunteer-run history organizations, the project sought to bring to light (in a digital sense) collections that had not been adequately described in finding aids. The project also did a great deal to bring archival and preservation training to groups on a monthly basis. The end result was the development of an assessment tool that includes information on collection condition, housing, physical organization, intellectual organization, and research value (developed by the HSP previously). Conference attendees participated in exercises to determine how they would survey collections. It was highly educational.

While I’m conferenced-out for the year (recently participated in NJLA, too), I’m already looking forward to next spring’s MARAC, this time in Newark, N.J. It should be a blast.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Service to the Profession

It's been a very busy year, as far as service to the profession goes. Since July 2015, I've been serving as President of the New Jersey Library Association's (NJLA's) History and Preservation Section (H&P). Besides representing the Section and NJLA at meetings and events, it's been my responsibility to develop a year's worth of meetings with tours and/or workshops, as well as plan for professional development opportunities for members and non-members in the archives, local history, and special collections fields. I recently gave the Section's annual report to the NJLA Executive Board. During the report, I spoke about our meetings and workshops:
  1. Meeting and workshop: July 27, 2015 at swanky Lawrenceville School's gorgeous Bunn Library – after the meeting, we had a tour of the archive and had two 1-hour photo preservation workshops by The Better Image photo conservators (and luncheon).
  2. Meeting: Sept. 30, 2015 our traditional meeting at the Monmouth County Archives/Library during Archives Week. The lunch meeting is sandwiched between great programs on local history and archives.
  3. Workshop: Dec. 1, 2015, a concentrated, hands-on, half-day Photo Process Identification and Care Workshop, produced by and held at The Better Image in Milford, NJ. The conservators own a great old opera house, and even have an original theatrical background that was conserved.
  4. Meeting:  Dec. 7, 2015 a meeting at the Morristown National Historical Park, Washington’s Headquarters, after which, we had a tour of the archive and viewed very cool samples of the special collections.
  5. Meeting: March 14, 2016 meeting at Trenton Free Public Library in the Trentoniana Room, co-hosted by the NJ Caucus of MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference), after which, we had a tour and saw the treasures of the special collections.
  6. Workshop: March 22, 2016, a hands-on, half-day, Archival Basics for Librarians workshop, in Alexander Library’s Pane Room, taught by Rutgers’ Associate University Archivist, Erika Gorder. We received very good feedback from students who attended the workshop, and will likely make it an annual program.
I also spoke about the new About Us page, which grew out of an elevator-type speech that I put together to explain H&P to another "sister" organization. After the first draft had been sent to the Section for comment, we were able to post it online as the new About Us page on the NJLA H&P Section page. It's too long to include here, but click this link to view it for yourself. Please let me know what you think. 

Other significant accomplishments include Bylaws changes that create a Web Presence Coordinator and an H&P Archives Committee, as well as edits that simplified wording, clarified responsibilities, and updated areas that had not yet included electronic publications and social media.

Last, but far from least, the current P-E Carolyn Dorsey did a phenomenal job putting together the six sessions (and one pre-session) from H&P for the annual NJLA conference taking place on May 16-18 in Atlantic City. She did amazing work obtaining co-sponsorship (as you'll see below). Here's a bit about each, but check out the conference site and the individual links below for complete info:
  • Municipal Records in Public Libraries, presented and moderated by Sarah Hull, Plainfield Public Library; Ellen Callahan, NJ State Archives; Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Sponsoring Groups: History & Preservation Section, Intellectual Freedom Subcommittee, Reference Section, and Urban Libraries Section.
  • Telling Your Library's Story, moderated by Janet Torsney, and presented by Tiffany McClary, NJ State Library; Ellen O'Keefe, Northvale Public Library; William A. Peniston, Newark Museum; and Michele Stricker, NJ State Library; Tuesday, May 17, 2016,-3:10 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sponsoring Groups:  History & Preservation Section and Small Libraries Section.
  • Fundamentals of Preservation Care Part 1: Book Repair Demo and Part 2. Presentation: The Fundamentals of Managing Preservation Efforts in Libraries; moderated by: Michele Stricker; presented by: Kim Avagliano, Monmouth County Library; Deborah Mercer, NJ State Library; Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 4:10 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sponsoring Groups:  College & University Section, History & Preservation Section, Small Libraries Section, and Technical Services Section.
  • Starting from Scratch: The Challenges and Triumphs in Creating a Local History Collection moderated by John Beekman, Jersey City Public Library and presented by: Debra Schiff, Chester Library; Aimee Fernandez-Puente, Elizabeth Public Library; and Marian Bauman, archivist; Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.; Sponsoring Groups: College & University Section, History & Preservation Section, Reference Section, Technical Services Section, and Urban Libraries Section.
  • New Jersey Authors Speak, moderated by Jessica M. Myers, presented by Maxine N. Lurie, Seton Hall University and Chair, NJ Historical Commission and NJ Studies Academic Alliance; Richard P. Carlin, Executive Editor, Music & Art in Higher Education, Oxford University Press; Richard Rockwell, Bloomfield Morris Canal Greenway Committee, Bloomfield Historic Preservation; Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.; Sponsoring Groups: College & University Section, History & Preservation Section, and Reader's Advisory Roundtable.
  • Keeping Up with Copyright to Protect Your Library moderated by Gary Saretsky, Monmouth County Archives and presented by Greg Cram, J.D., Associate Director of Copyright and Information Policy, The New York Public Library, Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 2:30 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.; Sponsoring Groups: Administration & Management Section, Emerging Technologies Section, History & Preservation Section, Intellectual Freedom Subcommittee, Reference Section, and Technical Services Section
  • Yes, Our Collections Have Been Digitized: How Lyrasis' Digitization Collaborative Gets "Hidden" Collections Online, moderated by Debra Schiff, Chester Library and presented by Laurie Gemmill Arp, Director of Digital and Preservation Services, Lyrasis and Paul Martinez, Cataloging Librarian and Archivist, Sprague Library, Montclair University, Pre-conference Monday, May 16, 2016, 10:00 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. Virtual (Adobe Connect) – all conference attendees are free to attend. Sponsoring Groups: College & University Section, Emerging Technologies Section, History & Preservation Section, Reference Section, and Technical Services Section
I'm happy to be moderating one session and speaking in the other. My specific area in the Starting from Scratch session will be documentation. I'll be presenting a brief overview of all the documentation needed for a local history department. In preparation for the session, I created a "hidden" page on the Chester Library web site where attendees could obtain PDFs of forms I created for the Library and use them as templates for their departments. Essentially, I wanted to make it as straightforward as possible, so that no one would need to reinvent the wheel.

My experience with creating the documentation for Chester Library focused on reaching out to fellow archivists who had to create their own forms, policies, and procedures. I used the list servs, especially the Lone Arrangers Roundtable list because the members have always been so helpful. Also, because they're like me -- one-person shops, where you have to be all things to all people -- they were able to give me guidance and perspective particular to my situation. Fast forward to five years later, I'm able to do the same for others, and grateful to be able to do so.

Even though I'll be cycling out and becoming Past President in July, I'll still be connected to H&P. The Past President heads the Awards Committee. And, I'm always happy to mentor those who come after me, as I've done with the current P-E and Secretary. I can already see that they're well positioned to keep up the mentoring with those who come after them. It is gratifying to be part of that legacy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thoughts on the Practice of Description

As an archivist and local history librarian, one of the primary elements of my work is the description of collections and individual items. Sometimes, this description ends up in a finding aid such as this one on the Combe Fill South Landfill Records (http://chesterlib.com/local-history-room/finding-aids/combe-fill-south-landfill-records-finding-aid/). The purpose of that work is to make it easier for researchers to find and use the collection. It also provides a much deeper level of documentation of the collection that previously hadn't existed.

Beyond the finding aids, I also create a fair number of exhibits each year, both online and in cases within the Chester Library. Each of the items featured in the exhibits requires some description, but the more exhibits I create, the more time I spend describing the items. For my latest online exhibit, I kept a friend of mine in mind as a potential visitor. He uses a screen reader to experience web sites, as well as digital documents (think Word files), because he's blind.

Last week, I talked with another librarian about these types of motivations and decision-making efforts when it comes to description. I was reminded of attending the ARLIS annual meeting in Boston a few years ago. In one of the sessions, the speakers touched on the nature of description as applied to artworks. Her talk was in the context of describing paintings and other works to patrons with varied abilities, such as my friend Ken

Thinking about how to make a meaningful experience for anyone who might use a screen reader drove my process. Here is an example from the Memories of Chester, Herman Rademacher Series exhibit, "West Main Street and Morris Chamberlain" (http://chesterlib.com/local-history-room/online-exhibits/memories-of-chester-west-main-street-and-morris-chamberlain/):

The postcard, copyrighted in 1915 by local printer George E. Conover, shows leafy trees lining the right side of the dirt road. On the left side of the image are businesses, a gas station, and a garage. There is an early Model T parked in front of the striped gas pump tower. A man stands in the doorway of the second building on the right (the Masonic Lodge). The Lodge is a two-and-a-half story building with a painted shield hung between two windows on the second floor. The garage is a single-story building with a flat façade.
It's been a few months since I released the exhibit, and without the pressure of a deadline, I can see areas where I could have been more descriptive. For example, I would describe the façade as a brick one in the block, Art Deco style. Here's a link to the high-quality, larger image of the postcard: https://librarychesternj.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/westmainstreet_front.jpg.

This week, I've been teaching a volunteer and Friend of the Library how to describe another set of postcards given anonymously to the library. These came fully captioned and annotated on their versos, but they still required more description. For the first postcard, I told her what I was seeing, and I brought out a large magnifying glass so that we could read a hanging sign in the card. (It reads "heste House," due to weather damage, but it should read "Chester House," because that's what the subject of the image is).

We talked about the fact that the trees had no leaves, which indicated winter (confirmed by the snow on the dirt road), and the possible time of the day based on the shadows. She understood right away why we were embarking on this project, and did a great first pass. This particular volunteer completed all the transcription work on the Herman Rademacher oral history videos, and enjoys her work in Local History. Because she was so familiar with that project, she was able to transfer what she learned onto her current project.

In my very compact schedules at Chester Library and the Plainfield Historical Society, it's a challenge to spend as much time thinking about projects as I'd like to do. Fortunately, I have a handful of smart and capable volunteers (who sometimes end up with the fun projects I'd like to do myself) doing great work and, through training, taking a some of that thinking off my plate.

Just as an aside, recently I've become President of the New Jersey Library Association's History & Preservation Section. That also puts demands on my time, but I'm happy to do what I can to help move our profession forward. For example, with great help from Jacqueline Haun, the Archivist at the Bunn Library, our next meeting on July 27 will be held with the Princeton Preservation Group at The Lawrenceville School. Importantly, in addition to our meeting, we booked a hands-on photo preservation workshop with Peter Mustardo of The Better Image. I also arranged a catered lunch for those interested in staying for it. It will be a day of filling our minds and bodies with very good things.