Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Make Your Point with a Visual: Problems in the Library / Archives

Most "outsiders" do not have a strong understanding of the work that librarians and archivists do. And because most people do not have an understanding of my occupation, I am often confronted with "why?" Why can't I eat in the library? Why do you need a consistent temperature in your storage area? Why should we spend money on climate control? Why shouldn't I keep my grandmother's original wedding picture in the sunniest spot of my house so that I can see it and enjoy it every day?

In anticipation of this "why?" question in my new library, I am digging up photos. I feel that nothing makes a statement better than a visual.

"Why can't we eat in the library Mrs. Mannon?"
"We will not eat in the library because it stains our brand new carpeting and attracts mice." This statement does not have as much impact as this...
The old carpeting in my current workspace
had stains like this all over the carpeting.
Stains are easy. People understand
stains, but a visual still makes an impact -
Especially if you can get a before and after
as I will do.

This is not as obvious, but the scene is all too common in the
institutions where I've consulted.
Mice come for the warmth of your building and will stay for the food.
Books and papers can become their tasty treats.

I keep a folder of "extreme examples" that I find in institutions so that I can use these visuals to make my point when it is necessary to do so. Here are some more examples:

Mold due to improper environmental controls.
Folded papers and mold.

Lack of a proper records management system from the get-go.

Improper storage for photos.

Water damage due to basement storage.
Want to make your point? Say it with a picture. I have found that keeping a folder of "extremes" has come in handy many times.


  1. I can see (and smell) that I have a lot to learn about how to properly store old documents and photos.

  2. You are so right. Pictures have much more impact than words.