Reading the Stacks: Remnants of Community in the Circulating Collection — by Brandon Harrington

For the past year, I have been reading the stacks at the Burke Library. Not reading every book, but reading the collection: how it is organized, what subjects have more texts, what sections see more traffic.   Since December 2016, I have been playing the vibrations between student and Library Circulation Assistant. The library is […]

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Circulation Team Re-Orientation: New Year, Fresh Start

The Burke Library is of course a world-renowned research library and serves as the steward of rare volumes, sacred objects, and archives of Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. But the Burke is also home to a thriving circulating collection; thousands of books, bound periodicals, microforms, and audio-visual materials change hands at our front desk […]

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Behind the Stacks: Born’s Natural History of Monks

Browsing our special collections stacks surfaced this amusing plate depicting what at first glance looks like random shorts, sandals, and… rope? The book is Ignaz Edler von Born’s Specimen of the natural history of the various orders of monks, printed in London in 1783. It turns out to be a satirical, anticlerical pamphlet that describes […]

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Behind the Stacks: You had me at “charts”

Since my last “Behind the Stacks” entry on R. C. Shimeall’s A Complete Ecclesiastical Chart, I have been noticing more charts, awkward formats, and too-large items within our special collections. As a redux of that post, here featured is another circular chart of history and yet another exhaustive production from Shimeall. Enjoy the images! To […]

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Behind the Stacks: “At a single view” – Shimeall’s A Complete Ecclesiastical Chart

One of the joys of my job as Collections Services Assistant is the ability to browse the closed stacks where we store our rare books and special collections. One item I happened to find recently was too large and unwieldy to simply peek at, and since there’s no telling when some reader will next request […]

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Behind the Stacks: Church Missionary Juvenile Instructor

Children’s missionary periodicals have some of the most charming, amusing, and eyebrow-raising content I’ve come across in the Burke Library’s collections. The Church Missionary Juvenile Instructor is one in particular that caught my eye with the delightful cover shown above. The Burke has fairly comprehensive holdings of this periodical, which was published in London by […]

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Behind the Stacks: literally

Sometimes the most interesting views are not the front of bookshelves with all the book spines facing outward, but rather the back, where you can find various edge decorations, hardware, and conditions that make for a visual treat. I often find these during shelf maintenance tasks that involve removing a range of books from a shelf, […]

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Behind the Stacks: Manuscript facsimile

In youth, I spent interminable hours copying out by hand long passages of the Bible for Sunday school. I also remember dutifully copying out lecture notes in school and feeling grateful for mechanical pencils (no sharpening!). These days, I use my phone to snap a picture of some text, printed or handwritten, and in a […]

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Behind the Stacks: Unheard-of Curiosities

As the Collection Services Assistant at the Burke Library, I am constantly in and out of the stacks and handling materials from both the special and general collections. In the course of my work, I frequently stumble across interesting items, images, or views that may otherwise go unnoticed or are even inaccessible for the public. […]

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