Alisun DeKock stands beside the species identification iPad in the Shedd Aquarium’s Amazon Rising habitat, as two South American tambaqui fish swim by.

Bookend: A Friend to the Fishes

March 1, 2018

The Shedd’s library of some 7,000 books is primarily for aquarium staff, interns, and volunteers and is not open to the public. The most popular materials in the collection are the field guides to various fish, plants, insects, aquatic invertebrates, and marine mammals. DeKock says that “staff members take them out on field trips because … Continue reading Bookend: A Friend to the Fishes


The Library of Things pull-out poster, illustrated by Brian Mead.

The Library of Things

June 1, 2017

As the sharing economy continues to swell, nontraditional collections become more pervasive, community-specific, and imaginative. Here are some of our favorite unusual items circulating at libraries in North America (click to expand).


Librarian Tara Murray (right) with Victorian-era stamp cases, stamps of the Duchy of Oldenburg from an 1863 album, and books from the American Philatelic Research Library collection. (Photos: Abby Drey)

Bookend: Philatelic Relics

June 1, 2017

For the most part, APRL does not include stamps in its collection, “but they are occasionally included as collateral material. For example, the library owns two examples of the famous 1918 ‘Inverted Jenny’ error stamp, one of which was just recovered in June 2016 after being stolen from a stamp show in 1955. The first … Continue reading Bookend: Philatelic Relics


Maureen Brunsdale (Photo: Lyndsie Schlink)

Bookend: Not Clowning Around

May 1, 2017

Don’t ask Brunsdale to name a favorite item; instead, “it’s the stories that draw me in,” she says, such as the contents of a 1907 letter from circus magnate Otto Ringling to his brothers, suggesting that they purchase the rival outfit of Barnum & Bailey. Among other highlights of the collection: an elephant harness and … Continue reading Bookend: Not Clowning Around



These wine labels are part of the Shields Library's special collection at University of California, Davis. Some labels list the names of people who shared bottles with viticulture and enology professor Maynard Amerine. Photos: © UC Davis Library/Special Collections

Preserving the Vintage

March 1, 2017

One could expect that wine libraries are concentrated in California, the top-producing state, but wine collections and digital archives are also popping up in places like Indiana, New York, and Oregon. Institutions are providing for the information needs of wine enthusiasts of all stripes, and in doing so are reinventing and reinvigorating the meaning of … Continue reading Preserving the Vintage


Librarian's Library: Karen Muller

Developing New Skills

January 3, 2017

Let’s start with raising money. The first set of chapters in 40+ New Revenue Sources for Libraries and Nonprofits, by Edmund A. Rossman III, lays the foundation for specific discussions about sources. Rossman covers why libraries might need more than what their traditional funding bases offer, which for public libraries is 85%–90% local, and how … Continue reading Developing New Skills


Kislak Center for Special Collection, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, designed by Gensler architects.

Bringing Special Collections into Today

June 26, 2016

Representatives from three university libraries gathered June 25 for the Library Leadership and Management Association–sponsored panel discussion “Front and Center: Designing for Special Collections and Archives in the Library” at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida, to showcase new special collections libraries that buck the outdated model and look to the … Continue reading Bringing Special Collections into Today



Frank Bridges, media studies doctoral student, and Christie Lutz, New Jersey regional studies librarian and head of public services in Special Collections and University Archives, with items in the New Brunswick Music Scene Archive at Rutgers University.

Rock in the Vault

May 2, 2016

The do-it-yourself ethos of the local music scene tells a story of dissent from mainstream culture, says Rutgers University media studies doctoral student Frank Bridges, who played in bands and ran his own record label in the 1980s and 1990s near the New Brunswick, New Jersey, campus. He thinks it’s a story worth preserving. Bridges’s … Continue reading Rock in the Vault


Tiah Edmunson-Morton, archivist of the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives at Oregon State University Photo: Krista Joy Johnson

Hoppy Days

May 1, 2016

Edmunson-Morton had been at OSU Libraries for seven years and had the itch to do something different. So in 2013, she pitched the idea of collecting and telling the intertwined story of hops and beer—the first such archive in the US—and within a couple of months it became reality. The first hops were planted on … Continue reading Hoppy Days


A music therapy student (a violinist) demonstrates how she experimented playing the Turkish spike fiddle before finding more official instructions.

Music without Borders

January 27, 2016

The answer, to be more precise than that 1st-grader, is “termites,” and the question was, “What hollows out the branch of the eucalyptus tree used to make the didgeridoo?” It’s one of the most organic world-music instruments around and easily one of the best known. The 1st-graders had just finished a unit on Australia, and … Continue reading Music without Borders