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Career Story: Stacks Manager At A Rare Book And Manuscript Library

Stacks Manager At A Rare Book And Manuscript Library

Job Title: Library Stacks Manager

Type of Company: I work for a rare book and manuscript library at an Ivy League research university.

Education: BA, Sociology, Yale College

Previous Experience: I worked as a library assistant in my department for 13 years before attaining this position. Before that I worked in another library on campus for three years as a secretary. I had paging experience as a student in a public library and a university library.

Job Tasks: My job involves managing the work that goes on in the stacks of a rare book and manuscript library. The stacks are the areas where books and manuscripts are kept. Activities in the stacks include paging (retrieving materials that someone has requested); shelving returned items; shifting to make room for new collections and returning materials that have been re-boxed or re-housed and now require more room on the shelves; taking inventory to account for all items; shelf-reading to make sure all items are in proper call number order; and searching for missing items. I also identify items that have to be sent out for conservation work or repair, a time when I can make small adjustments like putting a photograph in a buffered acid-free envelope or putting a friable pencil drawing between acid-free sheets of paper or tying up a book with loose covers and pages with special cotton tape.

I produce statistical reports on used space and available free space, item retrieval and missing item search success rates. I order shelves and supplies for use in the stacks and make sure that such supplies are kept stocked. I train permanent staff and student workers in our multiple call numbers systems, proper book and manuscript handling techniques, paging, shelving and shifting and use of special library databases. Since teamwork is a significant part of such an enterprise, I also help to staff the Access Services desk where people request the material the library holds.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job are handling such rare, valuable and one-of-a-kind materials and talking to the researchers who are scholars and experts in the fields the material represents. The worst parts are not being able to find missing items and being unable to really sit down and take time to read the interesting books. As a bookworm, I find that tormenting.

Job Tips: With library work it is always useful to have a master's level or Ph.D. subject degree in addition to a master's in Library Science (MLS) or a master's in Library and Information Science (MLIS). For example, a law librarian would have a JD and an MLS or MLIS. A school librarian might have an MLIS and a M.Ed. University librarians can have any degree: an RN or BSN or MD and an MLS for a medical library or a MS in Sociology, Economics or Anthropology and an MLIS for a social science library. If you want to get to the very top of your profession, it is best to go for a Ph.D. in either your library degree or your subject degree.

Additional Thoughts: This field requires attention to detail, an ability to explain and distill concepts for library users, good organizational skills, good writing skills and strong English skills. Knowledge of other languages, with an emphasis on writing and reading, is very useful.

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