When I explain what kind of library I work at, I usually say: It’s a private library, but it’s a lot like a public library. What I mean by “like a public library” is we are a general collection, comprised largely of leisure reading materials. Although we do have some special collections, notably our extensive collection of Yale Class Books, they are not specifically part of our primary mission, which is “to provide a quiet refuge for those seeking the intellectual stimulation and spirit that books and the written word can provide.”
Because we are a small collection, with limited funds, we look to develop a collection that is “timely and timeless,” and so avoid purchasing materials that may get limited use, but which require regular updates and which are frequently vandalized or stolen at public libraries: materials like restaurant guides, test preparation guides, and travel books.
We receive a certain number of requests for all of these materials, and I regret not being able to serve the patrons. For test prep books, there is little I can do but offer a support, but for travel, I try to be more active, directing the member at least to the history and geography section for the country or state that is the destination. Many of these sections, however, are still old and outdated – there are not areas in which I have yet done much active buying.
But I think that might be about to change, and I’m asking my members to help. I still do not plan to collect travel books and to replace them every couple of years. For us, that approach is just prohibitively expensive.
What I do hope to do is enlist members who are experts in, natives of, or just plain lovers of different cities, towns, and countries to develop an “Essentials” guide to a place of choice.
What are the “Travel Essentials”? In some ways, that would depend on the place – but I would guess that for many places it would include three key recommended books:
A general history
A cultural history
A representative piece of literature
Where do we go from here?
This idea developed out of a conversation I had with one of our members, Josebe Bilbao-Henry (@mjbilbao). We only met recently, but in our conversations it became clear that both strongly believe that what makes the Yale Club Library special is its ability to be a real community library – something that Club Members enjoy together, even though they are silent in the space.
This is something that already happens, to some degree, in the purchasing that I do for the Library each week. As Librarian, I make the final decision on all purchases, but many of my purchases are suggested by members. Those purchases, however, are anonymous, as far as other members are concerned. The fun of these “Travel Essentials” lists is that members can claim them for their own and share them with their fellow members openly.
And the planning can start today. Are you a YC member with a burning “Travel Essentials” list ready to go? Would you like to discuss an idea with me? Contact me: email@example.com.
What’s your destination?