It's not everyday that you get to build a library.
Somehow, thanks to my Library School™ one of my focuses was Collection building. And thanks to my degree, and a lovely woman with fashionably bobbed white hair in Columbus Ohio Library Administration, I popped out of my first phase of librarianhood with a few gold stars on my chart.
My first library was an image collection. Upon being hired, I was shown into a room that can only be compared to a garage filled with boxes... and told "This is your library!" I almost died.
But instead of keeling over, I started opening boxes. In a year, 65,000 images were ready to be used or scanned. All organized by subject, medium, and geography. I had all the furniture taken out, and built ins put in. I was given 4 workstudy students...and before I knew it...it was fully functioning, and being used by staff.
This one is a little different. Again I was shown into a crowded, cob web filled room filled literally like a bad used book store with books, desks, and boxes.
And then led into another room lined with book cases. More?
And then shown a room on the first floor filled with boxes of books that had been donated by elderly people, that had never been carried upstairs...because they were too heavy.
And then I was informed that the second project office contained more materials.
I was nervous, and a bit overwhelmed. I had pictured a sunlit (with filtered UV of course), gorgeous mahogany shelved library. I guess if I wanted that, I'd have to work for it.Then I remembered I wasn't a celebrity librarian for no reason. So, I went to the scientific surplus store, and bought myself a white lab jacket, and set to work. And presto. The magic started. I am now literally weeks from being in this fantastic new space.
So, for all of you new, still wet behind the ear, celebrity wanna be's, yet another deluxe pointer list. This one is called:
"So you want to build a special library from scratch."
A)Find out what the organization's mission and goals are. Collections need to be built on something.
B)Write them down. Type them up on letterhead, and post them above your desk.
C)Now, it's your turn to write something original. It's called Policy and Procedure.
D)Go over it with your supervisor. Unless that's you. Have another "higher up" take a look at it. It's going to need official approval...whether that is board approval or upper administration.
E)Policies should outline your collection development strategy and describe your collection. This is going to be really important to you in the very near future.
F)Now that you have permission to "do what you do" and "how you plan to do it"...it's time to start shopping for a catalog.
G)Catalog shopping is NOT FUN. It is boring. You need to make sure that you buy the catalog that best fits the projected direction of your collection. You do not need a super deluxe catalog. Unless you have a large collection. Be aware that catalog vendors will tell you anything you want to hear. ANYTHING.
Does this catalog allow for media attachments? Sure! Does this catalog have customized search features? Sure? Does this catalog come with hookers? Sure!
Try them out. Make sure their systems are compatible with yours. Did I say try them out? DEMO!!! I could go on for days...this is a whole other post.
H)While you are catalog shopping, does an old system exist? How did they catalog the collection before you? Or didn't they? Assess the old system. It may save you a lot of time in converting into the new system if you don't have to redo everything.
I)Create a "play budget" with dream $$ figures. What expenses are you realizing you'll encounter? Write it up on letterhead and submit it to the powers that be...next year they won't be shocked when you ask for a library cart, glue or that conference in Anaheim.
J)Buy a lab jacket. Do you really need to? No. But I am single handedly shaping the next generation of hot librarians. This way you can dress well, and not get dirty while being productive.
K)Start assessing your collection. Does your current collection actually meet the standards of your organization? Or the needs of the organization? Where can you get materials to fill in the gaps?
L)Shop for a book vendor. Set up some accounts. They are free to set up, and some require a minimum of spending, double check on that. This is also a good time to find out what other libraries do what you do...and get in touch with their administration / librarians. If you don't belong to some organizations, join them...SLA, ALA, ARLIS, JLA, etc.
M)Do you have business cards? No? Get some. And hand them out to EVERYONE. Not your parents...network your ass off. Start a buzz about your organization.
N)Now that you have chosen a catalog, you can start cataloging. Is it private? or a public catalog? If its public, make sure your web portal is accesible, and easy to navigate. I actually chose to make my Donors searchable, so people can see what they have given, and in whose honor, if applicable.
O)You're going to need to start thinking of facility now. Where is this stuff going to go? Do you have enough shelf space? Figure out how much you'll need, and put it in writing. Share it with administration. Is your collection going to grow? Plan for empty shelving. It might not be pretty at first, but you'll be happy in 10 years when you don't have to put books on your own desk. Talk with your operations team, and your architect. Desks, lighting, security....its all on you to make it happen. Make sure you have what you need.
P)Are you going to lend? Or is it a private collection? If you're gonna lend, get moving on that OCLC contract. Now you can share with everyone via Inter Library Loan AND you're collection is searchable by many many libraries.
Q) Seriously invest in scanning equipment. Trust me.
R)Weed while you work. Notice you have 5 copies of something? You won't need that many. Many organizations hold on to everything that is donated. Remember, if it doesn't fit the collection policy GET RID OF IT. Seriously, someone will want it.
S)Supplies! Oh My G-d! Book Jackets, Bone folders, glue, Clear Spine Labels, Call Number Tags, Donor Labels! Set up accounts with Vernon, Demco, Gaylord, etc.
T)Volunteers! A pain in the ass at first, a G-d send later. You can't be the cook, the waiter and the bottle washer forever. A few hands on training sessions, and you've just tripled your working capacity!
U)Send out library updates. If you don't let administration & co-workers know what's new and happening in the library, they won't ask. Be the face of the library. Don't make the library an unapproachable place. Include a column in the newsletter...and it doesn't have to be about new books. It can be anything to do with your subject or subjects.
V)Be sure the library is a line item in all staff meetings. Consider this internal PR.
W)If you need help, more supplies, more money...ask for it. You may not get it, but if you don't express the need...they will always be shocked when it "comes out of the blue" later. Prime the pump. That projected budget will be your best friend in years to come. When you write your first official budget, you will find you are treated more generously.
X)Consider your users. Make your users feel useful, put a suggestion box on your desk, or online. Let them suggest titles. Do they have to be IN facitlity to use your materials / information? What are your user hours? Are commonly used materials on a convenient shelf?
Y)Call a near by grad school. Organize professional librarians in training for internships. Benefit to both parties involved..they get a grade, you get free professional help.
Z)You are vital to the organization. They hired you for a reason. Groom your collection. You now represent the knowledge & know how of the organization...make sure you always keep your game face on, and keep on studying your subject. The day you stop learning, people should be attending your funeral.
There is more, but this is a good idea of what a librarian needs to do to get a library started. It takes time, energy and committment. Some people aren't cut out for this, and there are lots of other great library opportunities for you. For those with the drive to lead...this is where it's at.
Moral of this blog: If you build it, they will come.