Preserving our heritage, one book at a time

I wish I had time to write more updates on how my practicum's going. I wish I had time to write anything, actually.

It's going well, by the way, even if it does mean some very, very long days. Good news is I'm probably around the 3/4 mark with my initial project. All the papers are in order, all folders marked, all slides in protective sleeves. Now I'm photocopying all the newspaper articles on acid-free paper, since newspaper disintegrates quickly. Kind of a pain working on this part, but it's crucial.

Did I mention the drive there and back – through the countryside – is beautiful? It's especially pretty right now, with the leaves in color and all the barns and such. Yesterday I took my camera with me, thinking "I'll take some pictures on the way there." Unfortunately, there was never a time I felt safe enough to pull over. Some jerk was always right on my bumper (can we not SHARE the road?). I was afraid if I hit my brakes I'd lose the back bumper. Annoying.

I realize not every detail of my practicum would be interesting to anyone not geeked out, as I am, about all matters library-related. Like archiving. Anyone else feel his/her heart go all pitty-pat when I talk about archiving someone's personal papers?

Are those crickets I hear chirping? Or could it be snoring.

Be honest, when I mention librarians and archiving, do you get the mental image of a frumpy woman with a severe bun working in a dark room (a single bulb dangling from a wire over her head), dust in her hair, perhaps a little hunched over? Even I had that mental image before. But the reality's a lot different. The complete opposite, actually.

And speaking of the image of librarians, they are not, not, not what you think. Most wouldn't believe how varied their jobs are, how few of them actually work with books. Do you know what percentage of my own job involves books? No more than 10 %. Probably lower. Circulation works with the books. And the shelvers/pages. Not to say I don't read them. Don't be silly! But I hardly work with them. Weird, eh?

I'm not sure you'll find this any more interesting, but I've volunteered to stay on at NIU  -  starting again after the holidays – and intern in the digitization department. I'll be doing my practicum supervisor a favor by scanning the dime novels from her department's collection. They're printed on very low-quality paper, which crumbles if you're not careful. To those of us who love kitsch, they're a priceless part of Americana.

NIU is one of the few repositories of "pulp fiction," and few institutions bother to digitize the books, due to the time, money, and manpower. Especially when really rare books are languishing on the sidelines.

And yes, I can see that. It's hard choosing pulp fiction over very rare and fragile documents. Money's very, very tight. Not everything can be digitized. But with me on the job, working for the experience, I can at least help NIU's collection get online, to be accessed via the internet.


Because how could you not love this?


Or this?

Does this not scream, "I am cheap and easy?" Would you turn down the chance to read this book?

Admit it.


Or this one?

Both are by the famous novelist Erle Stanley Gardner, for goodness sake! How could they not be worth saving? Yes, most of the books seem to be by nobodies, but some are actually by somebodies.

Our popular culture should be saved and protected. I didn't think about it much before I started my practicum at NIU, where they specialize in pop culture materials, but also have a decent rare book collection, including the most gorgeous facsimile copy of the Ellesmere Chaucer, complete down to the notes of previous owners, defects, etc. It's an exact duplicate, but on paper you don't have to worry about ruining. And it's breath-taking.

Ah, well. So much time, so little to do, as Willy Wonka said. Time to get moving.

5 thoughts on “Preserving our heritage, one book at a time

  1. Ignorant question from England, what does NIU stand for? I should really Google it for myself, but maybe you could tell me, and why you chose it.


  2. Not ignorant at all. I should have spelled it out. I’m so used to abbreviating it. It’s Northern Illinois University, where I’m doing my practicum. Here we abbreviate most state schools without a second thought. They’re just too long to say. Either that, or we just call it Northern.


  3. Yes, those books are worth preserving, if just for the covers alone!
    What is truly inspiring though is the fact that in the midst of your crazy schedule and many varied projects, you still find time to maintain a manicure.
    Loved your comments about Jane Austen on my blog, and I always appreciate your book recommendations. Thank you.


  4. Hello — I’ve just discovered your website thanks to the SER Writers’ Regimen. Lots of happy browsing awaits. Meanwhile, who was the cover artist for Some Women Won’t Wait? I don’t see a signature. Was it Jon Whitcomb? Back in his heyday as an illustrator, I used to enjoy recognizing his work at one glance. This could be Whitcomb…or maybe not….


  5. Hi, Anna, and welcome! I’m not familiar with the SER writer’s regimen. Now you know I’ll have to look that up…
    I don’t know the illustrator for that one. Next time I’m there I’ll try to remember to have a look and see if it says who it was.


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