My first day in Rare Books & Special Collections

May 13, 2014 1:45-4:45pm

Today was my first day working with Lynda and Betty in Rare Books and Special Collections. I was over the moon with excitement, and both Lynda’s and Betty’s passion for what they do only increased my excitement. Lynda and I began by going over many of the basics of what I will be doing: taking a box of donated correspondence, researching the items within them, documenting the items, figuring out how to organize them, placing everything in acid free folders and sleeves, and creating a finder’s aid once the box of correspondence is completed. I also read the Processing Manual for the Rare Books and Special Collections at Boatwright Memorial Library. I was not able to get started on processing the correspondence box; however, I did learn several things from my time with Lynda:

  • When creating a folder for documents you should always write the label directly onto the folder and in PENCIL. Pencil is used in case the folder’s title needs to be altered and also because the ink from a pen is damaging and could eventually eat through the folder. Adhesive file labels are not used because they can fall off of the folder and adhere to one of the documents inside or the label could become lost entirely, leaving future researchers and archivists unaware of the details of the documents.
  • There are “two schools” of document handling: to wear white gloves or to not wear white gloves. The Rare Book Room at Boatwright Memorial Library is party to the not wearing white gloves school because the gloves can inadvertently cause more damage than protection. This is due to the loss of touch when wearing the gloves, which causes people to handle documents and books roughly, leading to torn and damaged pages. I’m not sure how many libraries follow the NO white glove policy, but it might be an interesting tidbit to find out!
  • No more than two boxes of documents should be placed on top of each other. This is due to the weight of the boxes. The ideal situation being that each box of documents has its own shelf.
  • “Don’t do anything that you can’t reverse!” Lynda made this statement several times. I also ran across it in the Processing Manual; between Lynda and the Processing Manual I am under the impression that this just might be one of the most important rules in archiving!
  • “Think like a researcher.” Lynda was going over ways to organize a collection and when she made this statement I immediately understood the importance of how collections are organized. Do you organize by date? or by person? or by various historical events found throughout a collection? or whether personal papers in a collection are written in ink or pencil? This last one would normally strike me as odd, but today that exact specification was written on a folder. It made me think about the various research papers I have written and how helpful the organization of a collection of documents can be.

Though I only spent three hours in Rare Books and Special Collections today, I am certain that I learned several very important things about archiving!

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