Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer update!

No vlogs this week!

I know, even I can hear the groans. Truth is, we're just busy.

With what? Fair question.

At this point, I suppose I should share the things on my mind (and desk) these days; it'll also reveal a little something about what's going on in the Library this summer.

The biggest thing on the collective plate right now is the collection shift.

You heard right. We're shifting the collection. I was joking around with someone not too long ago, actually; I told him we were moving the collection, and he asked where we were moving it to. I thought about it for a moment and said, "About five feet to the left."

Funny as it sounds, it's more or less an accurate description. And it's not at all minor; close to a quarter of a million books takes a lot of moving, whether it's five feet or five miles. This is happening largely because the Archives is expanding this summer. The current reading room will just about double in size, which will take up the space occupied by the 900s and some of the 800s downstairs.

Because this is a once-in-30-years kind of occurrence, we're seizing the opportunity to do a number of other things, too:

1) Clearing out space for ourselves. Right now, there's zero space for the collection to move into. This is mostly because the very beginning of the General Stacks is hemmed in by a set of microform cabinets. Those cabinets contain our historical records of The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and ERIC, the government's repository of education research. However, it's kind of silly -- we've got electronic subscriptions to the same stuff, this collection is duplicated across the Consortium, and it sees very little use for such a large collection. We're not the only ones facing this kind of issue, either; the other Consortium schools who have the same collection have been talking about moving one school's collection to the WRLC storage center and getting rid of the rest. We plan to follow through on our end and clear out space for more shelves at the beginning of the collection. However, even that won't be enough, because ...

2) We're moving Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences materials to the General Stacks from the Deaf Collection. The Library and Archives have been in a yearslong process of evaluating the Deaf Collection and its institutional role in general, especially within a larger cultural context. One of the results of this is that there's been increasing consensus -- within the Library and Archives, elsewhere on campus, and out in the rest of the world -- that deafness as a cultural phenomenon is markedly distinct from deafness as a physiological phenomenon (as in deafhood versus deafness). So all the items in the Deaf Collection -- from books to periodicals to films -- that focus on deafness in scientific and medical terms (audiology, genetics, speech pathology, etc.) will be moved to the corresponding sections in the General Stacks.

If this sounds complicated, by the way, it is. Patrick Oberholtzer, the librarian who's taken over the subject area in the past year or so, has been spending almost every working hour for the past few months figuring out the logistics of the move. Kudos to him!

However, given that our space is shrinking, even with the removal of the microfiche cabinets, and the collection is getting larger, this means we're doing yet a third thing:

3) Weeding. Weeding. Weeding. And more weeding. I've lost count of how many books I've cleaned out of the General Stacks in the 800s alone. If you end up in the Library this summer, you'll notice some odd patches where shelves are nearly empty, kind of like the "after" photo in this post. That's because we've been at work. So far these past few months, I've focused on getting rid of large, old sets of books between 801 and 840, clearing space in the language-related areas (e.g., linguistics, language education, foreign languages), and slashing and burning my way through 801-810, which are mostly focused on both theoretical and practical aspects of literature, ranging from discussions of Aristotle's thoughts on rhetoric to how to write a term paper.

Don't worry. I'm leaving the best stuff. It's astonishing how many books we have about computers and composition ... from the 1980s! These books are great if you want to learn word-processing, except I think they stopped making word processors a few years ago. It was very forward-thinking of my predecessors, but these books are museum relics! Once I've hit -- and cleaned out -- 810, I'll backslide to the 700s, most of which relate to the fine arts. Why am I not tackling the 810s just yet -- American literature?

The truth is, I'm a little scared. We have such a diverse collection of fiction that I keep thinking that someone will show up in the Fall and feel that we've completely neglected readers of his or her proclivities and might, in fact, be hostile to lovers of books about, I don't know, coincidental apples or something.

Not that there's anything wrong with those. Anyway, we are focused on shrinking the collection, which is complicated by ...

4) Ordering. Yup. Even while we're streamlining the collection, we're adding more to it. At this point, though, we're getting close to the end of our major annual purchasing period and the money's starting to dry up. We're also doing it in conjunction with the weeding -- don't view both activities in isolation! For instance, we do have a lot of relatively redundant books from varying periods that cover more or less the same topic. In my particular case, weeding often informs my ordering -- if I end up getting rid of 20 books on how to speak effectively in public, published between 1898-1988, I'll generally plan to replace them with three or four comprehensive overviews from different angles -- rhetoric, overcoming anxiety, organization and structure, stuff like that.

Of course, all of this gets more interesting when you consider that we're ...

5) Cleaning out the reference collection. We've got a huge number of dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, atlases, and other reference works that need to go. Most of that is because almost everything is either outdated or available online through our electronic resources or for free on the open Internet, and part of that is because we're moving the General Periodicals up to the first floor. This particular shift is relatively easy; as we've increased our electronic subscriptions, we've cut way back on our print material, which doesn't see anywhere near as much use as the digital stuff and isn't searchable besides.

Now, the reference collection is pretty sizable and is being cleaned out at the same time as the rest of the collection, so that's a lot of work! If you stopped by the Library last week, or plan to this week, there are a lot of carts full of books congregating on the first floor over by the Deaf School Yearbooks, which is not-at-all-coincidentally right by my office.

That's right, I'm fulfilling the "other duties as required" clause of my job description and removing a lot of the material from our system, along with our director, Sarah Hamrick. Because of that, I probably should warn you that this blog will go quiet for a week or two. We'll still get a post up later this week -- and this will be a fun one! -- and most likely a vlog if we're lucky, but then I go on ...

... wait for it ...

... VACATION! For a week. Sorry, guys. Even librarians need a little R&R from time to time. But after June 20, things should be a lot more active on the blog front!

Anyway, that's the big what's-the-Library-doing-this-summer update. You'll hear more as the summer wears on, though -- the list above is far from the only thing happening around here. Keep an eye out!

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