IST 511 – Day 3: Library Systems Panal and Rare Books

Today we had many guests:
Kellie Connor
Bobbi Gwilt
Deb Lewis
Christina Pope
Steve Weiter

Each one had a position that required great knowledge of library systems and an even greater sense of patience. The speaker I found most interesting was Kelly Conner. She works for a vendor (often referred to as the “dark side”) but she had a lot to say about what not only her company but vendors in general could do for the good of the library. She received her degree in library science so I found it particularly interesting and refreshing that she opted to use her knowledge to help improve the way a library ran. It would seem to me that most libraries would find it incredibly helpful to have someone with the same background knowledge helping from the other end of the business spectrum.

This afternoon was by far my favorite part of grad school to date (which, admittedly, has only been about a week so it’s possible that this is a very skewed perspective). We split up into groups and saw book preservation and a sampling of the rare books in SU’s collection. Anyone who loves books as much as I do would have been equally horrified to watch the book preservation process.

The instructor began by showing us a very beat up, worn book whose cover was in definite need of repair. He promptly took a razor and cut the cover off at the spine. That’s right–he just went ahead and sliced it off. I was not the only person in the class who gasped a bit.  Once I had recovered from the shock of supossed heresy being performed, I found the process quite interesting. Using strips of Japanese paper, he was able to rebind the cover and spine in such a way that the integrity of the orignal was not lost. In fact, unlike art restoration wherein trained artists will attempt educated guesses at filling in what time has worn off, book preservationists do not recreate what may have once been there. Once part of a page is gone, the words are gone forever even if the original size of the page is recreated to structurally help the book retain its form.

The part of the day that made my little future-librarian heart go all aflutter was the presentation on rare books. A secret history nerd, there is nothing that quite combines so many interests I have as old literature. Seeing an original printing of Darwin’s Origin of Species was enough to make me want to jump up with excitement (I didn’t – we were in a class and I felt it would be somewhat inappropriate). We saw ornate books with jewel-encrusted covers, facinating books with pictures printed on the edges, 4,000 year old Egyptian papyrus scrolls, but the book that made me actually catch my breath was a book on Roman imperialism with Queen Elizabeth’s crest on the inside pages and passages underlined and annotated. Queen Elizabeth, the woman credited with encouraging English citizens to partake in theater, art and a good orange, found this text helpful during her reign. I cannot begin to describe how incredibly lucky I felt to be able to see that book. Sometimes it’s not about the content of the book – it’s about where that content can inspire others to go.

It just goes to show you what a good library can do for the preservation of our history.

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