Monthly Archives: October 2015

Light in the Darkness

“Every book is a little light in that darkness”- Scott Landon

My job at the library resembles the craft of archaeology. On any day, I may come home from work with several centuries of dirt on my hands.

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This can be from crosschecking in world cat whether we have Der Kleine Katechismus Dr. Martin Luthers mit Erklarung Fragen und Antworten, or finding a 1921 map of Congo Belge in a box of uncatalogued materials.

Sometimes it’s a bit more like Octavtio_cart2P.I. business where I have to figure out if this anti- catholic tinged flyer suggesting doom for protestant America should JFK be elected president was written by the same group as that pamphlet suggesting the public school system is a “captive” of Popish control.

But sometimes my job is like a gardener, what with all the dirt.  I uncovered the bulletin for Booker T. Washington’s Memorial service, which took place 100 years ago. The effects of time on these documents end up on my hands.

Closer to my own research interests are reprints of executive order 9066 from FDR ordering the Relocation of Japanese Americans along the west coast during World War II. There was also a photo bulletin showing the lives of Japanese Americans in the Internment camps, and another entitled “70,000 American Refugees made in America.” Perhaps most important about the experience for me is the chance to be reminded of what has happened to bring us to where we are. Pieces of history are in these stacks and archives, and every day I find out something I hadn’t known before.

The thing I would most like to share is an interview I found with Dr. Vincent Harding in SGI Quarterly. Among the other quiet gems of Harding’s spirit and words, are his cautious approach to memorializing the phrase civil rights movement, which he thinks can be seen by our generation in terms of “success,” and therefore conclude that the struggle is “finished.” Harding would encourage us to speak instead of “the expansion of democracy,” reminding us of our responsibility to our ongoing task.

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I perform a very small role in the vast process of memory and integration that is ongoing here at the Burke.  While it’s not often pretty, it helps us remember, and understand, and hopefully participate in taking responsibility, together.

 

Musings on the Burke and Libraries

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Books of all kinds here at Burke Library

As a recent graduate in art history and archaeology, I am thrilled to be employed as the Burke Library’s circulation and reserves desk assistant. Prior to this job, I worked as a general assistant at Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.

As someone who grew up in Queens, libraries have been important in my life. Queens Library is one of the largest libraries in the United States in terms of patronage as well as collection size. When I was younger, I would wander/circumambulate the labyrinths of books at Flushing Library and marvel at the worlds contained within the library. When I would read there, I would marvel at all the desires that were coming to fruition in that space. Fellow patrons would be ravenously learning English, perusing comics, or studying to reach their professional goals.

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Student note at Circulation

I believe that libraries are essential radical spaces of resistance. As (relatively) public, free spaces, they stand in opposition to “productive” spaces of consumption. What particularly intrigues me about research libraries, such as the Burke, is the way they are inhabited by specific knowledge communities/worlds. Despite the five-minute walk from Burke to Avery, the set of concerns and questions of the Burke’s collection and patrons are worlds apart from that of Avery’s.

Since starting my job in late August, I have been enjoying getting to know patrons, student
workers, and different Union spaces. Patrons and student workers have diverse interests ranging from theological pedagogy to religious textual performance studies. I attended the “Do not die” chapel as well as the people of color blessing. While both drew from religious traditions I do not belong to, I found them to be powerful, cathartic reflections on the grave injustices of the contemporary world.IMG_2380

My favorite part of my old job at Avery was creating novel situations with patrons. An Avery denizen/food theorist/architecture critic and I would potlatch our lunches of parsley potato soup and zucchini/shiitake spring rolls (not in the library of course). I am excited to develop different languages of play with Burke patrons and colleagues so as to activate the small pocket of resistance that is a library.

So exactly why an MLS?

In 2003, around the New Year’s holiday, I spent a little over 30 hours (in the span of two days) teaching myself how to use Microsoft’s now defunct program FrontPage. By New Year’s Day, my eyes burned, my right wrist ached from (self-diagnosed) carpel tunnel syndrome, and most importantly, I completed my first website (a volunteer effort to redesign my employer’s web presence). I guess back then I should have figured I was on to something when the shooting pain in my wrist really did not bother me as much as the difficulties I had in embedding Flash files into HTML (I was determined to include a Flash banner, which provided the visitor with a dazzling text tween that displayed the name of the program I worked for).

The above anecdote is probably the best way I can sum up the curiosity and enthusiasm I exude when learning and working with new technologies, whether at home, at school, or in the workplace. I have earned the moniker “Techie” among family, friends, peers, and co-workers alike. From my supervisor to my eighteen year old stepdaughter, I am sought for technical advice and counsel on a daily basis. Frankly, the technical knowledge I have and continue to garner truly exists as a result of self-exploration and a sincere feeling of joy and fulfillment. I always tell people, “You can’t learn anything unless you try, and maybe fail at, something you know nothing about.”

At this point, you are probably asking yourself, “So exactly why an MLS? Can you get to the point already?” Well at the moment, I am at sort of a fork in the road. While I have come to realize how much I truly enjoy imparting and applying my technological knowledge, I am unable to engage in this sort of instruction on a regular basis.

One additional not-so-simple task that I enjoy undertaking led me to explore the profession of librarianship: research. Every semester, my wife calls upon me to assist her in finding resources – books, journal articles, anything she needs to assist in completing her doctoral studies. I do not share this with anyone, but I enjoy the hunt for hard-to-find sources (whether it be a paperback book or a digital manuscript). Going to old (and sometimes dusty) library shelves to find a book or scouring the internet to find a PDF document is like hunting for treasure (and a guilty pleasure of mine).

In addition to my research interests and technology-skill application in the work place or classroom, I am learning about the librarianship profession this term in one of my classes, Technology and Society. The concept of blended librarianship was introduced, implying “that blending the perspectives, expertise, and skills of instructional design, technology, and traditional librarianship will open new avenues of practice and professional development for academic librarians… Blended librarians are new professionals who are knowledgeable in the traditional roles, but they also develop competence in information technologies and curricular design” (p. 109)*.

Some people often get caught up with the term “Library” and fail to see the opportunities a degree in Library and Information Science can afford. Admittedly, I was one of those people. And for those who really know me and my background, my decision to pursue a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree from Queens College make perfect sense to them – light bulbs go on in their heads.

Librarianship will provide me the opportunity to apply my technological skill set, while also learning how to search, maintain, and provide information resources to those I serve. It will also allow me to impart practical and sound advice on research best practices.

*Cline, H. F. (2014). Information communication technology and social transformation: A social and historical perspective. New York: Routledge.