Archive for the ‘Library Life’ Category

Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day.

–Queen Jocasta (Oedipus Rex by Sophocles)

You leave the office for day and the whole place falls apart. I was off yesterday and returned to work to discover that another one of my archival colleagues, ground down and burnt out from trying to keep things running while the Arnorian government visits endless cuts on the university library, has given notice. That means that the Archives unit now only has two staff members to run the show which is completely impossible.  The impending shutdown of the Archives Research Room puts my Oral History unit in a quandary because we share space in the same area of the library. If the Research Room is closed, our patrons can’t reach us. We could move our operation, but where in the library would we go, space being at premium? And what will happen to the miles of manuscripts and millions of historical photos housed in the Archives itself which the university is legally obligated to care for? Unit heads meet next week to see if they can cobble together some sort of solution. If not, the day of reckoning will fall in about two weeks.

Of course, if the Arnorian State Legislature continues to shrink the university’s budget, the entire library will collapse in the new fiscal year thus rendering our operational crisis moot. The saga continues …..

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My colleague, Angie in the Film Archives, shared with department staff this lovely and articulate thank you letter that she received from a homesick patron, Aurora Lang, formerly of Alaska, but now living in Washington state. The letter is reprinted here with Aurora’s kind permission. Over the past four years, our library has lost half its staff and half its funding with more potentially to come as the state is buffeted by budgetary winds. Aurora’s letter lifted our hearts. Library work can be tedious, grinding, and, more often than not, underfunded. Knowing that what we do is appreciated by the public makes it all worthwhile.

Here is the clip that Aurora refers to:

The clip was put together by Dirk Tordoff, the former head of the Film Archives, now retired, and was designed as a spot for our local public TV station. The music playing is the “Bravura Variation on Alaska’s Flag Song” by Paul Rosenthal.

Dear Angie and the entire Alaska Film Archive Department,

This is a letter of gratitude for the work you do.

In the time since the election I have found enormous comfort in the 80
Years of Alaskan History film clips you compiled. I have watched it often
in the last few months, and at least a dozen times over the past few days.
It makes me tear up with pride and love each time.

Those five minutes remind me that our state is resilient and resourceful,
our friends and neighbors are our greater family, the boroughs our extended
community, that we value our wild places, and even though our state has
seen its fair share of ugliness and inhumanity, as a state we have worked
towards justice and, I believe, will continue to right our wrongs and work
toward a better Alaska.

Those five minutes remind me to be proud of the place I came from, and in
these past few months I had forgotten to be proud. It reminds me that our
state, like our country, has overcome seemingly impossible hurdles before
and will again.

Alaska is home, where I was born and raised, where my family and best
memories live. It’s the place I identify with and is what makes sense,
even during these past couple years when I’ve been down in Washington.
Those five minutes are invaluable when I’m homesick and overwhelmed with
freeways and people. I’ll move back, probably sooner than later, because
it’s home.

But in the meantime, as I’m trying to maintain hope for the future, belief
in humanity and justice, and draw upon wells of courage that feel dry right
now, I lean on those five minutes. Inevitably I feel better, more
courageous, and more hopeful.

Thank you for the work you do to preserve our history, to celebrate our
state, to inspire the future. Your work is necessary and invaluable.

With gratitude,

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Thought everyone would enjoy this video that my colleague, Erin, put me on to. It’s from the University Library in Olsztyn, Poland.


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Every library has at least one demonically-possessed copy machine …..

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What kind of scholarly book doesn’t have an index? Do they actually expect me to read the whole thing?
–Patron complaining about the lack of an index in a particularly tedious-looking tome

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The wall clocks on campus are supposed to be synced together. At least, that’s what the University of Arnor tells us. Several weeks ago, I noticed that the clock in the computer lab was running slow. Now the hands of the clock have become completely dislodged and are currently residing at the bottom of the plastic face plate.  Apparently, time no longer exists for the habitues of the computer lab ….

(Update: As of 3/23/16, the hands of time have been restored and time now moves on normally in the computer lab).

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Recently, the University of Arnor library got the urge to do a “Staff Picks” display for the end of term. You’ve seen them before: a little bookshelf with select titles pulled from the stacks and maybe some comment cards telling why the staff liked these particular books.  Not hard to do, right? Or so we thought.

As it turns out, over the years, we have been acquiring–as both a cost cutting and an improved access move–most of the popular fiction and a large portion of the new non-fiction as E-books. A book that exists as a computer file works great for the most part–unless it comes to creating  a physical display. Then it doesn’t work at all. We were forced to fall back to the stacks and restrict ourselves to what was already in print form (mostly older works). I could pull a copy of Robert Fagles’ translation of the The Iliad for the display, for example, but not a copy of Barbara Hambly’s Blood Maidens.

The net effect was to give the impression that the staff of the U. of Arnor Library is a bunch of pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing intellectuals when in reality we are the biggest bunch of pop culture junkies you would ever want to meet. Surprisingly, the books have been flying off the display shelves so the staff was asked this week for more recommendations. This time, I raided our miniscule collection of best sellers and was able to put up Jim Butcher’s Skin Game and Jessica Fellowes’ A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey which are a little more indicative of my normal tastes in literature.


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