I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the warmer weather! Despite the real arrival of spring and sun, the Reference Desk is expecting a huge pick-up in the library and in citation and research questions as we move towards the end of the semester and the due dates for final research papers.
Apart from regular work at the Desk, I am still working on the Collection Development Project, now in the online section of the project. I’ve been working a lot with MUSCAT and WorldCat, trying to discover how many copies of the Parkin books are available in other libraries and to see how rare each book is. Some of the books could only be found in ten or so other libraries worldwide!
After finding out how many other copies were available and making sure they were the same edition, I looked through Hathi Trust and Internet Archive for links to digitized publications of the books. Hathi Trust and Internet Archive are great sites for giving the public access to older books, specifically books that are out of print and no longer under copyright law. Hathi Trust can provide a multitude of contemporary reactions to events like World War I or the Spanish-American War for interested scholars. In our collection development, we were looking to see if Parkin’s books could be found in digital publication in order to make a decision about moving rarer books upstairs into Special Collections.
Finally, I move onto searching for the books through Amazon. Amazon is very much a “buyer-beware” for collection development; many of the offered copies for these older books are cheaply produced print-outs of the digital publications. On Amazon, I have to look for later editions of these books and avoid the digital reprints and other first edition copies.
Collection development often feels like a balancing act. Older and unused books take up space on the shelves and some of these books are damaged and would be safer in Special Collections. However, we still want to keep these books accessible to the patrons and so we look for digital publications or new editions in order to do so.
After the Collection Development Project, I will be working with Alexa on the Finals Week Study Break! Everyone should come (there will be free ice cream!) to de-stress and catch a breath from studying for final exams!
Sorry, I haven’t posted in a while; I’ve been holding out until I got to the finishing stages of the Collection Development project. Yes, that’s right, for the past couple of weeks, when I was pacing up and down the stacks on the second floor, I was not actually going crazy.
The project was designed for me to look through the collection of older books on World War I and find books donated by Major Harry Parkin. Many of the books donated by Parkin were broad historical surveys or memoirs by participants. Curiously, some of the books he donated were marked up, either with pasted in book reviews or with Parkin’s own assessment. Parkin’s marginalia is incredibly interesting as he either praises books as “first-class war novels” or derides them as “unimportant.” As presumptuous as it might sound, I begin to gain an understanding of who Major Parkin was through his choice in books and his scribbling. A product of early 20th century race relations, Parkin wrote in a book on black soldiers in WWI that it only proves “the negro soldier led by the white officer is first class, led by the negro officer he is simply no good.” Parkin’s donations offer insight as to how soldiers of the war responded to the subsequent early WWI literature.
Now, the project drives us to decide which books to retain in the main collection, which to potentially move off-site, and which to move up to Special Collections. The process is called “weeding” and can almost be considered a consistent and continuous house-cleaning that never really ends. Looking at how else the books might be available, through Interlibrary Loan, through databases like Hathi Trust, or through Amazon, we have to decide what would be most helpful to our patrons.
It’s been a long project but as we look to complete this one, Alexa, Mallory, and I are already looking forward to planning the Spring Finals Week Study Break!
In the past two weeks, I have become much more comfortable at the Research Help Desk. I have been asked a whole variety of questions, from printing to citation to looking for books and articles. Despite a few challenging requests, I feel more confident in answering difficult research questions (which is good, because next week I’ll be working my first solo shift!). I will miss working with staff members at the Desk, largely because I enjoyed chatting with them about research skills, politics, sports, or anything that piqued our interests.
The big highlight of my past two weeks was working with Janelle and Alexa in an instruction session for Environmental Science 125: Marine Megafauna. Despite some initial nerves, I enjoyed teaching about how to use MUSCAT and research books to an assortment of first-years, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I am hopeful that there will be more opportunities to participate in instruction sessions, even in subjects I am not an expert in.
As we move on, I look forward to collection development with Clint and Carolyn and my first solo shifts at the Desk, as library patrons begin to delve into their big research papers and projects.
Hi! My name is Jake Farias and I am the Fortenbaugh Research and Instruction Intern for the Spring of 2016.
I am a graduating senior with a major in History and minors in Education and English. Last summer, I worked as an intern in the Civil War Institute, researching the New York City Draft Riots and designing a mock debate focused on key perspectives during the riots. I was born and raised in Massachusetts, own a dog and a cat, and I have a little sister who is beginning her “teenage angst” stage of life.
I have just completed my second week at the Research Help Desk and feel as though I am starting to get a good handle of the work. Even after our intense boot camp training, I felt nervous to start fielding questions. But after working through printer issues, citations, and some source searches with patrons, I am feeling more and more comfortable every day. With that said, I still have loads more to learn in the next few weeks.
It’s been a great first two weeks at the Research Help Desk and I am hopeful for many more to come!