Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Service Side of Being an Archivist and Local History Librarian

Some may characterize library service as being available at the reference desk for appointments, phone calls, email and web requests, and "walk-ins." However, library service is all-encompassing, from the moment a patron enters or contacts a library until (s)he leaves/disconnects. Libraries are places that people trust for their ability to provide answers whether via the reference desk, a book or database, a special collection, or any number of resources, especially the library workers. It is for that reason that I take an holistic approach to library service.

At both of my employing libraries, I regularly work with some terrific volunteers. In Chester, one is a Friend of the library who shares great photos of her husky dog and clips newspaper articles for Local History. She had attended one of my "Caring for Your Family's Treasures" workshops and asked if I might help her with some specific preservation questions concerning some old photos and a Bible. I readily agreed because

1. She asked for my help, and that's what I do...HELP.
2. Preservation isn't work for me, it's fun.
3. I was excited to see what she would bring to my office.
4. The request entailed shopping for archival supplies, and those web sites are my kind of candy stores.

Later, the Friend brought to my office a huge family Bible, cabinet cards, and larger mounted photos all dating from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. The Bible clearly had some binding issues and had been used (as many are) to hold genealogy documents, which had become acidic and fragile. Some of the photos were in better shape than others, however all were notable not only for the sentimental value to the volunteer, but for the subjects' expressions, costumes, and poses. After we measured them, I placed the photos into suitable folders until she could put them into polyester sleeves.

She also asked me to help her select supplies and house the Bible because it was so large. The illustrated family Bible would require a custom sling to help place it inside (and remove it from) the box she would purchase. Typically, a special collections department would purchase a custom drop-front box for such an item, but these types of custom boxes can be cost-prohibitive for many people (such as our volunteer). In her case, I let her know that I would be happy to create a way of working with a box already available in dimensions suitable to her needs.

I guided her to items that she would need for this project. She navigated the University Products site easily and placed her order within an hour of her first showing me the photos. We were able to stay within her budget and begin her early preservation work.

The Friend was very grateful, and her gratitude was contagious. Not two days after our shopping session, she brought to my office the president of another local organization who needed help preserving the group's 20+ scrapbooks. As ever, I was happy to help.

No comments: