What do we do all day?

An enduring cultural myth about librarians is that they spend a lot of time reading. While we pretty much all love reading, and books, and research both wide-ranging and obscure, there’s a major reason many of us don’t read as much as we would like: no time. This blog is a blessing because it provides an opportunity to really interact with the collections at NSLM, and we get a chance to read a bit before diving back into our many projects.

What keeps us so busy in the Library? I’m glad you asked! I like to tell people that life in the Library is a lot like a duck: above the water, everything looks placid but under the surface, the feet are kicking fuiously.

“Mallards,” from Thirteen Drawings by Robert Ball, c. 1950. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection. Note: actual Librarians may not fly.

As we head into the holidays, I figured it would be a great time to explain what has filled up our daily work in the Library in 2016.

Collections Projects

In 2016, we welcomed Erica Libhart, the Mars Librarian. Erica is a skilled technical services librarian and has used her background in cataloging and classification to push forward our Main Reading Room reprocessing project.

The Library’s old filing system made inefficient use of space and posed difficulties in locating materials.

Under Erica’s energetic care, the Main Reading Room is more than 75% reprocessed. This means that all materials are being cataloged, labeled, and made findable on the NSLM online catalog. Findability is a huge deal for us, because if a book doesn’t show up correctly in the catalog, a researcher might miss out on a valuable resource.

A unique classification system was created for NSLM’s sporting topics, and labels applied to make finding books easy. The Main Reading Room project has required reprocessing of over 6,000 volumes in 2016 and will be complete by Spring of 2017.

Also during this year, we have focused on our Archive Collections. As part of a larger shift to expand shelving and alleviate our shortage of space, we re-structured our archives and moved them to another part of the Library.

Documents, letters, photographs, and ephemera were re-boxed and updated finding aids generated.
Custom cabinets were built for the new Archive Room, which will become a silent study room upon completion.
Over 2,750 containers across 165 boxes were inventoried, re-housed, and moved by hand to the new Archive Room on the Lower Level. 30 backlogged archive collections were processed and added, almost doubling the number of collections accessible at NSLM.

We’re indebted to part-time staff members Emily Perdue, Laura Shearer, and Jessica Festa and to NSLM’s archival interns for their help on the Archives in 2016. All of the new finding aids can be found on the NSLM archives website.

Maintenance Projects

It’s no mean feat to swap out a Library’s roof! As of this writing, our Library is closed for construction.

We worked very hard to take our beloved Main Reading Room…
…and completely wrap it up to protect collections from dust and debris generated by the project.
Artwork, furniture, and trophies from the Main Reading Room take up more than half of the Founders’ Room.

Helping Researchers

People are usually surprised how much our collections are used by researchers. Here are a few of our vital stats from 2016 (as of this writing).

So far in 2016, the Library has received 2,300 visits from guests and researchers. This figure only counts Library users, not program attendees or Museum visits. The number would be higher if NSLM were not obliged to close for our re-roofing project or due to a blizzard in January.

Although NSLM does not lend materials to take home, we do lend through the interlibrary loan system. We’ve lent 107 times through this system in 2016, which is more impressive when laid out on the map:

We also help with research requests every day. Requests come from e-mail, telephone, and in person.Over 430 research requests have been handled by two librarians this year, in addition to other projects.

Building for the Future

We’re running out of space in the Library. Our rate of donation has increased rapidly in the past few years. This winter we plan to install additional shelving to increase storage capacity by about 12,000 volumes. It’s a temporary measure, but coupled with a new Collection Management Policy, we hope these efforts will keep the collection safely housed for at least another five years before further expansion is required.

Space on our shelves has slowly dwindled in the past few years. Our newest projects will expand storage capacity significantly.

Our Book Adoption Program has been a tremendous success, and only two books remain to be adopted. We’re also trying to build a prototype repository for our digital collections, and at the same time we’re upgrading our online catalog software.

Most importantly, much of what we do is focused on expanding access to our collections beyond the walls of the Library building. This blog is a large part of that, and it also affords us a rare chance to open the books and explore the collection. Now that winter is upon us, we’ll definitely be spending more time with some great books, magazines, and archival materials to share with you.

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail


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