The path to working at a rare books library is not as simple as enjoying books. The Indiana Daily Student sat down with librarians in the Lilly Library’s Slocum Room to talk about what schooling and experience can help one get a job at with a rare books collection.
Associate director Erika Dowell
Librarians usually have a master’s degree in library science or an equivalent degree, Dowell said. From that point, there are various tracks a librarian can take.
There is a digital track for those interested in social media and website management. The reference track involves helping patrons with questions. The cataloging and description track creates records and processes manuscript materials for the IU Library Catalog, or IUCAT library system.
For librarians interested in repairing and taking care of books, the preservation track offers that opportunity. Curators work a lot with the public, dealers and donors to bring in materials; write about collections; present exhibitions; and talk about collections at conferences.
“Other library jobs are more related to stuff that’s online, and might help people find works,” Dowell said. “A lot of special collections work is focused on the physical materials and helping people navigate the physical collections.”
Having a bachelor’s degree in history and an additional degree in a humanities discipline is common for librarians, Dowell said.
Dowell said the newer pieces of the collection, such as Gene Roddenberry’s announcement advertisement for the production of the original "Star Trek" television series, are just as cool as the older works in the library.
“You get to show people books that are 500 years old or older and see their reactions,” Dowell said. “People are just astonished they can come into a library like this and see something like that and be allowed to touch it.”
Education and outreach librarian Maureen Maryanski
Educational and outreach librarian Maureen Maryanski recalled a moment at her local library from her childhood.
“I remember being six years old and asking a librarian at the public library, 'How do I become a librarian?'” Maryanski said.
As education and outreach librarian, Maryanski plays a role in the public presentations put on by Lilly. She plans and teaches classes at the Lilly as one of three primary teachers. Maryanski is also part of the public services team that answers reference questions, and does outreach and event programming.
“We’ll have lectures, we’ll have talks, we do the First Thursdays programming," Maryanski said.
The exhibition in the Lilly Library’s Slocum Room, titled “1968,” was co-curated by Maryanski and public services librarian Isabel Planton.
“Where else can you play with a Gutenberg Bible and Kurt Vonnegut’s papers, sometimes in the same day?” Maryanski said.
Maryanski went to IU as an undergraduate and pursued a double major in dance and history until an injury prompted her to focus on history. She said she realized how much she liked library work when she got a job at Wells Library. It wasn’t until she walked into the Lilly Library for the first time and saw “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” by Mary Wollstonecraft on display did she realize she wanted to work in a rare books library.
“I think that book is responsible for a lot of what I do today, and for me being where I am,” Maryanski said.
From that point, Maryanski earned her masters in history and library science, during which she gained experience working the circulation and reference desks at Wells and interning for public services at the Lilly.
After earning her degree, Maryanski started doing dance archivist work for a few months before becoming a reference librarian at the New York Historical Society Library, a library that specializes in early American history.
“This position is exactly what I want to be doing,” Maryanski said. “My favorite thing to do is to be in the classroom, and help other people have cool moments with materials and learn how to engage with them and interrogate them.”
Graduate student Megan Howes
Megan Howes, a graduate student studying library science, is a desk attendant at the Lilly Library. Whether in the front desk or the reading room, Howes helps answer reference questions and prepares patrons with their books and materials in the reading room.
Howes came to IU in the fall of 2013. She took classes with Professor Christoph Irmscher that met at the Lilly Library biweekly.
“That really got me interested in being around the Lilly and being around rare materials and books,” Howes said.
Howes started working at the Lilly just before pursuing her master's degree in library science. She said she enjoys seeing the enthusiasm people get when they experience the different things the library has to offer.
“This job has really helped me develop my career goals,” Howes said. “It really has helped me develop as a person and as a professional.”
Among her favorite objects are the medieval manuscripts and a collection of miniature books.
“They’re really tiny,” Howes said. “There are some you can only just kind of flip open with a toothpick."
Howes said she hopes to work at a rare book library at a university similar to IU as a special collections librarian or with public outreach.
“I would love to be involved in a library, especially public services or outreach,” Howes said. “I would love to have an education position and help to teach others what makes rare materials and books special, and why they’re useful for education and research.”
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