This week I had my first day as a volunteer at the Reading Public Library. I was warmly welcomed by all the librarians, and after a tour with Assistant Director Amy Lannon, I sat down to work under Rachel Baumgartner’s supervision.
The first project Rachel set me up with was relatively straightforward. Using an Excel printout which lists records housed in the local history room, I was to check in the Evergreen system to find out if they were available at other libraries within the Noble network. Making notes about availability outside of the Reading Library will help librarians decide which books can be put in storage during the move to temporary space (the library will soon undergo a two-year renovation project). I found the process very satisfying. I created an efficient routine using keyboard shortcuts and the time flew by. I was excited to be using Evergreen, one of the open-source Integrated Library Systems (ILS) I’d read about. After checking in Evergreen, I marked down how many copies exist for each record on the excel printout.
The second project was much less formulaic, involving the review of materials in two large boxes. Boy Scouts master, long-time Town Forest Committee member and all-around local legend Ben Nichols had specified that these boxes should go to the library when he passed away, and no one has had the time to look through them. Rachel explained that the boxes contained maps, notes, and correspondence relating to the Reading Town Forest. She hoped I could review them and create some kind of a system to organize and catalog what was there.
The first problem I encountered was simple: I didn’t know how long to look at any given item. I found many small, pencil-scribbled notes and maps. I found notes from Town Meetings. I wanted simultaneously to be thorough and efficient, which suddenly seemed impossible. I was unsure what to write down about any specific item, but felt I wasn’t making progress by merely flipping through the papers without describing anything. I didn’t know what to do, but just kept looking, and took notes on a legal pad.