Page 16…and a poem

January 29th, 2013 by Ashley Sklar

Last Thursday, during my processing of the Maine Women in the Fine and Performing Arts (MAWFPA) collection, I had a lovely thing happen.  I am getting towards the end of re-housing all the materials in acid free folders and boxes, working my way through the remaining couple boxes of loose and disorganized papers.  I had been putting off looking through this one overly full folder of items that had a title that I knew had nothing to do with anything else in the collection.  When I opened it, I found it full of papers that made no sense together at all, as if some one swiped this pile off a desk corner (or two) and shoved it in a randomly titled folder.  I checked in with Cathleen and together we decided it should be taken apart and sorted according to the series structure I had carried over from the organization’s filing system.  So I pulled it all out and put financial things with other financial things and the couple artists’ bios and resumes in the right folder.

Also in there was this one piece of paper filled half way with someone’s story.  It was a printed font, but not the typewriter font of many other documents in this collection, as it dates from about 1977 through 1983.  The page was numbered 16 in the top right corner.  For some reason I recognized the font and even a bit of the story or the rhythm of how it was typed out, as I still had not actually read the writing through.  I hung on to it and pulled out the Membership & Submissions series that I knew contained the artists’ submissions to Spectra 2, the organization’s multidisciplinary month-long art exhibition and showcase that took place around the state of Maine in October of 1982.  I located the folder with the poetry and prose submissions (a rather stuffed one) and started to go through page by page.  Each submission is numbered though some are only one sheet with a poem and others are short stories or essays that are any where from a few to twenty pages.

So I kept going page by page and I found this lovely poem entitled Leaving by Rosa Lane.  I had not paused to read anything yet, but I felt compelled to read this poem (see it below) and I quickly fell for it, so much so that I had to write it down for myself.

Turning back, I then kept going through the folder.  I got to submission number 28, a short story called Smoke by Lucy Honig, the last one in the folder amazingly.  I immediately recognized the distinct font and started flipping through the multi-page submission…page 5… page 9… page 15… I added page number 16, the last page of her short story.  Last week, this was my small and pleasing moment in the archive.  I am happy knowing that I put her story back together and will leave it in one whole piece.

Below is the poem I found along the way…

On making mistakes

January 25th, 2013 by Cathleen Miller

Over the past few weeks, I have been taking the opportunity of a quiet campus to clean up a little bit, follow up on things left hanging and things put off.  It has been productive and a good opportunity for self-reflection on just how I’m doing here after over two years on the job.

I noticed that I have started to settle in, to find my own rhythm and path here, and rather than simply trying to figure things out each day, I finally have what feels like a grasp on the scope of the collection and what needs to be done.  So we have begun to implement systems and workflows, and even started to have staff meetings!  And in this process, I am finding ways that I have failed to see what needed to be done, and so now have to backpedal.  Or, I saw what needed to be done and half-heartedly tried to make it happen but didn’t follow through with enough perseverance.  All of this is fine–it’s learning.  No one has died from my mistakes, nor has anyone suffered really, but it’s certainly time to go forward with more of a plan.

So now, with a workflow in place, there is less guess work about what needs to be done with a particular collection.  No more saving up the photocopying until there is nothing better to do because there will always be something better to do.  Now, when we process a collection, it will also get a catalog record because everyone knows what is being funneled through the processing pipeline.  Part of the trepidation that accompanied putting processes in place was, perhaps, a bit of uncertainty about my own expertise and knowledge.  What if I created a plan that didn’t make sense and then we’d have to do it all over again?  As I’ve grown into this role a bit, I see that what is key is making definitive decisions even if they are wrong, and building professional networks so that when I have questions about the best way to do something, I have people to ask out in the broader field.  Each place works differently, of course, and our little collection has plenty of quirks, but the more examples you have to compare, the better.  In this third year of my work here, my plan is to move outward, to build more networks and alliances.

Along with networking, another part of my plan this year is to gain more leadership skills.  I have always bristled at these two words–maybe because of my working-class background and the corporate ring that “leadership skills” holds for me–but, after two+ years of managing this collection, I’ve got to acknowledge that leadership skills are something I actually need to have.  I never set out to be anyone’s boss but my own, but here I am, and while I do the best I can, I know there are places (perhaps many!) that I have made mistakes.   So, when the Maine State Library District Consultants sent out an email about a webinar on how to “Be a Great Boss,” I signed up.  It starts next week, and I have started reading the first chapter on Attitude.  This one (so far) feels pretty easy to me, but I know that there are going to be places where this course pushes my comfort zone.  Luckily, according to the author of the book we’re reading,* “…no mistake is final.”

Hakala-Ausperk, Catherine.  Be a Great Boss: One Year to Success.  Chicago: American Library Association, 2011.