Five Weeks of Science Librarianship
My name is Renee Salters, and I first developed a love for the natural science and history field in my childhood. It was the habit of my old elementary alma mater to take inquisitive young minds on field trips to the Denver Museum of Natural History (now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science), in an attempt to show us that science was not only educational, but fun. From the moment our classes waltzed, screaming as children do, into the main doors of the Museum and came face to face with the towering skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I believe we were all in awe. Some of us remained in awe, returning to the museum whenever possible, despite entering and surviving the troubled years that generally begin at the end of elementary school and do not end until the day one graduates high school and is a fish entering yet another pond in the world, albeit a somewhat larger and more intimidating pond.
Mendocino National Forest (California) from the Manzanita Image Project Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences
So imagine my glee when, as part of a course on Issues in Special Libraries for my Masters in Library and Information Science Program, I was asked to conduct fieldwork in a special library and was able to complete this work at the California Academy of Sciences Library. The assignment called for only thirty hours of fieldwork, leaving me precious little time to learn everything I could about the workings, procedures, and daily life of the institution. I found cataloging records, assisted in ongoing projects, and helped in the tail-end processing of some new acquisitions. I both shelved and retrieved books, all the while encountering the familiar and pleasant smell of volumes of old tomes gathered stoically together in scientific solidarity. I went through boxes of not inconsiderable and exceedingly interesting book donations and then made my allergies crazy with a few fantastically dusty and overflowing boxes of donated scientific papers. As part of the Manzanita project, I helped upload photographs to an online database, and was able to view some interesting and curious slides of the deserts, mountains, valleys, and snow-covered trees in various parts of California. I saw more antiquated, colorful, and international scientific journals and books in my thirty hours of field work than I had in the rest of my life combined. And perhaps most importantly, I met the people who do this every day and saw the continued enthusiasm with which they carried out their work, meeting each morning with a happy sigh of “let’s get this day started!” rather than the doleful sigh of “why?” I have encountered in other settings. They find all the excitement they need helping researchers and being active participants in an institution that focuses on the exploration of and education about the world around us. As I write this, I am looking out of the window at the trees of Golden Gate Park; as they sway in the wind I feel as though the research being conducted here is just an extension of the nature outside.
Sonoma (California) from the Manzanita Image Project Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences