Our Preservation Lab has, for many years had the help of some unsung heroes in the form of our student assistants and volunteers. Although we appreciate them very much, they rarely get the attention that they deserve. As the student supervisor for Preservation Services it has been my job to interview, hire, and train our student assistants. When I interview prospective candidates, I usually look for two basic things, one being on time, and the other being appropriately dressed. The rest is just instinct and gut feeling. Our department has been extremely fortunate in the high caliber of student assistants who have worked for us but sometimes it’s obvious that the applicant would not be a good fit. A few years ago we had a candidate who arrived wearing a barbed wire belt and who asked if it was okay if he sometimes came to work bruised and bleeding, since his hobby was ultimate fighting. Even though the applicant seemed like a nice guy, it was not okay.
For the most part our students work on repairing the general collections of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and the collections of the University of Cincinnati Libraries. Each student begins by receiving a form with a list of our repair techniques, from the easiest to the most complicated and demanding [check out the list of repairs]. We will then begin training them on how to perform the repairs, starting with the simplest and working down the list to repairs that take more skill and concentration. As they become proficient at one type of repair, we’ll check that off their list and go on to the next. In the long time that I have been hiring students I’ve seen many, many hard working student assistants come and go and almost all of them have been talented, skilled and very nice people to get to know. A lot of our students stay with us throughout their college careers. We encourage this because it gives us a chance to help them develop their repair skills and it means that we are not constantly training new students. Often our students will come back several years after they have graduated to visit with us and see how the department has changed. It’s always nice to see them and their husbands, wives and kids, and find out what they’ve been doing, and it gives us a chance to thank them again for all of their wonderful help.
In addition to the student assistants who work for our department, we have been very lucky to have volunteers who come in and donate their time helping us keep our collections in shape and available to our patrons. Langsam Library’s volunteer program was set up in November of 1992 by our then Conservator, Virginia Wisniewski. The first volunteer group started with five volunteers from the Library Guild and each volunteer was assigned to work three hour shifts approximately twice a week. One of those original volunteers was a retired UC English professor, Dr. Keith Stewart. Keith was originally committed to volunteering for ten weeks but that commitment blossomed into a span of almost twenty years. During that time Keith came in every week like clockwork and worked on mending our damaged books. Sadly, Dr. Stewart passed away early in the spring of this year. He is greatly missed by all those who knew and worked with him.
Here now is a brief glimpse at our current group of wonderful student assistants and volunteers.
Alex Campbell (with Hyacinth Tucker)
Alex is a freshman who has just started working for us in the binding section of our Preservation Lab under the supervision of Hyacinth Tucker. He is majoring in Sports Administration and his interests include playing hockey and lacrosse, hanging out with friends, and occasionally studying. Alex’s favorite book is, And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie.
Courtney is a sophomore majoring in Urban Planning. Her interests are reading, traveling, creating art, learning new things and hanging out with friends. Courtney’s favorite books are, Looking for Alaska, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Scarlet Letter. Courtney says, “I love working here. Books and reading are a couple of my favorite things so this job is perfect for me. I am learning a lot here and I can’t wait to learn more.”
Laura Beth Carpenter
Laura Beth is a junior and a third year transfer from Johnson University. She is majoring in International Affairs and her interests include blogging, caffeine addiction, spending time with friends and family, knitting and reading. Laura Beth’s favorite book is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Alex is a senior majoring in History. Alex not only works for our University Libraries but also the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. His hobbies are bicycles and homework and his favorite book is The Grapes of Wrath. Alex says “Books are a very important part of our culture. I’m very excited to be part of a project that keeps them alive.”
Dennis is a sophomore majoring in Finance. Dennis is also our senior student assistant and has become a great role model for the other students in our department. Dennis’ interests are running, kayaking, music, movies, Ultimate Frisbee, tennis and almost anything relating to sports. His favorite book is, Once a Runner. Dennis says, “I love working in the preservation lab. Good people, good atmosphere, and an overall good place to work.”
Molly has been with us for about four and a half years and after graduating with a degree in History, she has been nice enough to come in as a volunteer to finish working on some projects that had not been completed when her student assistant position ended. In this sense, Molly spans the gap between students and volunteers. In Molly’s time here she has mastered all of our many repairs and always does an excellent job on whatever project she is assigned to. Molly’s hobbies and interests include, “Bookbinding!” Also antiques, history, travel, hiking, cooking and poetry. As for a favorite book, Molly says, “This is hard to answer because it constantly changes but one book that has stuck with me for a while is called, The Physics of Imaginary Objects, by Tina May Hall. It is a collection of short stories that read somewhat like poetry, ghost stories and modern fairy tales combined so I’ll go with that.” Thank you Molly!
Lucy began volunteering in our department four years ago and has become a valued member of our conservation team. Lucy’s hobbies and interests include, cooking and eating, playing with her dog, Charlie and learning to make paper and books. Speaking of books, Lucy’s favorites are; “Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, James’ Portrait of a Lady, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. These are books I know well, and go back to every so often. I also read a lot of potboilers, especially whodunits! Right now it’s a string of Agatha Christie’s.”
As for working in our Preservation Lab, Lucy says; “From superb technicians and colleagues, and now friends, I’m learning so much from volunteering in the Preservation Lab; it’s now four years and counting. I can, for example, determine if a piece of paper is short or long grain and know why it matters; repair a tear in a book (in several different ways); put on a new spine; cut paper “square”, and, if need be, to 1/16th of an inch; prepare signatures for a book I’m making and sew signatures with one of several different stitches. And I’ve learned a new lexicon: its “adhesive”, not “glue”; a board shear is a huge paper cutter (watch your fingers); and a guillotine, well, it does aperfect job of trimming the edges of a book-in-process to the desired measurement with one very sharp “swoosh.” Learning all of this, and more is a pure gift, a way of experiencing “the pleasures of the text” very different from the ways I knew so well in my decades-long career as an English professor. An even greater joy, and this one is harder to write about, is the gift of “connecting” to the texts I work with. Someone planted the tree; chopped it down; made the paper; wrote the book (or music); printed the text; designed the art; bound the book; sold the book; read the book; played the music; listened to the music. Every text is the result of many actions, many contributions, so to speak, and hundreds more than I’ve named here. Compared to the work that my professional colleagues do (mending rare books, making complex boxes, working with leather bindings, and the like) the work I do is very modest. Yet I experience a great pleasure in contributing, in often very small ways, to the ongoing life of each text that I handle: repairing the broken, strengthening the fragile, making it new. And so this is a life-giving volunteer job, first to the texts I work with, but also, and happily, to me. It’s especially good when I cut the paper to the right measurement the first time!”
L. Ronald Frommeyer
Ron has been volunteering in our preservation department for the last six years, beginning in January of 2007. He does a wonderful job of sewing our music scores together before we send them out to our commercial binder. Ron says that he appreciates being able to work with the music scores because that ties in with his interest in singing. Before coming to us, Ron worked for many years in the library administration at U.C. Ron’s interests include reading novels, model railroading and singing in a choir. His favorite book is From Here to Eternity. When Ron shows up to volunteer, everyone’s day gets a bit brighter because he is so much fun to talk to and interact with.
by Patrick Schmude (UCL) — Conservation Technician