Our intern, John Chagaris, who guest blogged for us in November, finished his semester and his time with us this month (best wishes, John!) and so it seemed time to look back at all his work, and how it has affected the collection. Despite working just a few hours a week, John made quite a dent in our biography section appraisal. Of course, the appraisal is only half the work. Once John spent hours upon hours reviewing the materials, Debbie started to work through his recommendations – recovering, repairing, rebinding, reclassifying, and discarding items as John’s work suggested.
The difference in the atmosphere created by the restoration of the biography section was immediate. The biography section is not the first we’ve worked on, but it’s the section with the most visibility. If you have not been in the Yale Club Library, you might not know that biographies take up much of the long corridor that leads to the Library Office. It was the first hallway I walked down when I visited the Club in 2014 and I remember my interviewer pointing out the tattered spines that lined shelves. Those tattered spines reflected years of love and use by Club members. But, it’s also the first sight that many members and visitors see when they tour the library – the first impression of our collection. At first sight, the space looks homey and inviting. The dim lighting and wood paneling, and the colorful cloth bindings make the idea of curling up with a book in the Club chair at the end of the hall very inviting. But, on closer inspection, the impression has long been a little less welcoming. The dusty, tattered books look neither like part of a collection one could use, nor would necessarily want to.
As John worked through the As and Bs, it quickly became clear why some spine were so tattered. Not only were these books popular with members, they were also in some cases the only available biographies of some of history’s most important personages. How can you discard a biography if it’s the only one available, it is fairly well-regarded, and other copies are hard to come by (If it’s too brittle to circulate, you can. It’s pretty painful.)? John made some of those tough decisions. Debbie and I made a few more. And now, when members walk through the long corridor to our office some of them say: “Have you been working on the collection? It seems fresher.”
We have. And we will continue to do so.