Since finishing my master’s degree last year and obtaining my professional public librarian certification, I think it is pretty safe to say that I am “officially” a librarian. Yet often I find things coming out of my mouth that many seem to consider the antithesis of what it means to be a librarian. I’ve been shushed in my own library, defended video game playing boys to patrons who believe that libraries are only for books and pushed for the purchase of movies I have found to be of great merit or even just interesting (e.g. Django Unchained, Howl’s Moving Castle and Tetsuo the Iron Man.) In my position as program coordinator, I’ve worked on literacy-centered programs, for sure (like preschool story time and author talks) but more often, they have to do with science, games and the outdoors.
Being a lifelong student studying library science, I guess it makes sense that when I started playing Skyrim back in November, I gravitated toward the Winterhold college quest line. (For those unfamiliar with the game, Winterhold College is the mage’s college and if you complete a somewhat involved quest for them while a student there, they promote you from gawky freshman to Arch-mage with nary as much as an undergraduate conjuration course required.) So while I was completing this quest line and hanging out at the college carousing with my mage-y cohorts, doing mead keg stands and the like, I discovered the Arcanaeum.
The Arcanaeum is Winterhold College’s library, there for the research needs of Destruction Mages and Restoration Mages alike. The books are kept, for the most part, inconveniently locked up in cabinets and display cases, so browsing is generally not feasible. There is also a marked lack of computer terminals or card
catalogs, so your ability to find research material in this library is entirely dependent upon the expertise of the staff. There is a nice little open area in the middle of the room,
however, with several tables available. Apparently this library is very forward thinking in some respects, too. Not to be outdone by libraries housing coffee shops, this one apparently allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages as well.
Oh, and the ambiance is fantastic! In addition to all the cool, old books and bottles of wine and mead everywhere, there are skulls. Lots and lots of skulls. There’s nothing that makes a library feel more inviting to me than skulls, I can tell you that much.
Oh, and the Arcanaeum is blessed with its very own super dedicated keeper of the books, named Urag Gro-Shub. Whatever possessed an orc to become a librarian escapes me. (Jp and I call him the “orc-brarian.”) He’s known for saying things like “Disrupt my Arcanaeum, and I will have you torn apart by angry atronachs.” He doesn’t really seem to know the meaning of the phrase “user-centric,” and he takes his work seriously. Like really, really seriously. I think it drives him to the hooch to be honest with you, as he’s often hanging out in the corner with his mug o’ mead, and I found extra bottles stashed behind the circ desk.
Head of Collection Development
So anyway, upon discovering this little enclave of scholarship in a harsh world torn apart by civil war and dragon attacks, I also discovered that I could go on quests to help Urag Gro-Shub expand the college library’s collection. Now, in Skyrim this doesn’t mean the same thing as in our world. I don’t order the books off Amazon or buy them in a book store. People rarely donate anything. No, I have to go into dungeons and giant camps and fight ferocious, blood thirsty enemies in order to secure ownership of these books. And since the wussy orc-brarian isn’t the one putting his life on the line to grow his
collection, I decided to dub myself “Head of Collection Development” at the Arcanaeum. Hey, I can do that. I am the Arch-Mage after all.
So when Urag Gro-Shub wants a new book, he tells me where to go to get it and I fight my way to the prize. Pretty straight forward. Today, he wanted me to get a book called “Chimarvamidium: Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part VI”. Not sure how that is of particular use to mages, but I’m always up for a challenge, so I made the arduous journey to the book’s location. I fought a dragon, two bears, a skeever, a few wolves and a troll. Then I found it in a chest with some glass arrows (score!) and 35 gold
pieces. This may sound like a pain but believe me, I’ve seen worse. This book was relatively easy to obtain.
Then it was back to the Arcanaeum for me to give our new addition to the orc-brarian.
I have to say though, sometimes I feel like he’s not totally appreciative of the lengths I go to in order to improve our collection. When I hand him the book, he responds with a nonchalant “Looks like you’re still in one piece. And more importantly, so is the book. Thank you.” Um, at least he said thank you?
On a slightly different note, I have to say here that I think the degree to which books and reading are integrated into Skyrim is very cool. I don’t read every book I pick up in the game, but I think it is a really nice touch that you can. Another thing that I find cool: You can download all of the in-game books in either EPUB or Kindle format and read them on your E-Reader anywhere. For help downloading the file to your device, just ask for help from your not-so-friendly neighborhood orc-brarian.
For the last few weeks, I have been doing this internship at the Hyde Park Free Library. The bulk of my time so far has been dedicated to setting up their official Facebook page and working on other online endeavors. But this past Thursday, the library director, Greg, asked me if I wanted to help him with weeding. (For those not in the library world, weeding is what it sounds like: removing books from the collection that nobody is reading). Eager for the experience, I responded with a resounding “Oh hell yes!” and got to work.
The idea of weeding is appealing to me I think because I’m always looking for ways to downsize and streamline in my own life. I bought a Nook so that I could have one device instead of many books. I don’t collect things just to collect them. If I own an item, it’s generally because I intend for it to be used, and if it’s not used, I usually have no problem getting rid of it. Maybe I’ve been watching a little too much Hoarders, but the idea of streamlining the collection sounded fantastic. (As an aside, I kind of wished we were weeding out that copy of Snooki’s book sitting on the New shelf and throwing it back into the stinking pit of deepest Hell from which it came, but I can’t get everything I want.) I also figured this would be a good chance to write a blog entry about my experience. So here I am, writing a blog entry!
Basically, the process went like this: For the last twelve years or so, the library has been using a program called Millennium to do pretty much everything with the materials they have (checking out, checking in, putting on hold, sending to other libraries, etc etc etc). Greg made a print out of all of the books that hadn’t circulated in the entire time they’ve had Millennium–so, yeah, nobody had read these books in at least twelve years. Then I just took the list, found the books on the shelves, took them out of the computer system (by marking them as “discard”), stamped them with a fun DISCARDED stamp and blacked out the barcode. (Well, there was a little more to it than that–I looked to see if Hyde Park was the only library with the book. If no other library in the system had it, I would put it aside for Greg to look at and decide. Same for “classic” authors. Nobody had taken out a Balzac book in God-knows-how-long but I felt funny just discarding it, so I put it aside for Greg to look at before getting rid of it.)
So, now my observations! What did I learn about people’s reading habits? What kinds of patterns emerged among these unwanted books?
Ok, so here’s the deal. I have a bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies. When I started my degree, back in ye olde year 2000, everybody told me “oh, it doesn’t matter what you get your degree in! Having a degree in anything will get you a job!” Well, come to find out that’s not exactly true. I don’t regret my degree, don’t get me wrong. If I could do it over again I’d probably go back and get the same degree all over again, because I didn’t go to college to prepare myself for a career, really. I went for my own intellectual development.
Anyway, the end result is that I have a bachelor’s degree but I work in retail as a cashier (for now!) I am, as I’ve said before, going to grad school for library science, and it wont be long now until I am done. Come back in four months or so and you will find that I have become (as I tell JP) the MASTER OF (LIBRARY) SCIENCE. (Insert evil laugh here.)
Working in retail though, in the mean time and well… I have to tell you I am surprised at how unsupportive my coworkers are of my career goals. In passing, I mentioned to another associate that I was almost done with my master’s degree. “In what?” she asked. “I’m getting my MS in library and information science,” I replied. “Uhh, good luck with that” she answered. I chose to take that as an actual statement of good will and encouragement and thanked her. She clarified, in a nasty tone “I mean good luck getting a job doing that.”
Her reaction is typical among my coworkers, it seems. When they find out what I want to do with my life, their responses range from calling me a nerd to telling me I’ll never be able to secure employment doing that to saying things like “You must really like books, huh?” and then bragging (?) about how they haven’t set foot in a library or read a book since they were children. Uh, good for you? Does that make you cool or something? One coworker, upon hearing my plans, responded by asking me why I’d want to be the “nerdy librarian lady.” Um, I think you meant to say awesome librarian lady, right?
So I don’t get this really. What’s not awesome about librarians?