The first month in the Florence Library

I normally live a very plugged in life. Constantly checking texts and tweeting throughout the day, and spent the last year largely in front of a computer either for work or school. Now it isn’t that I’m necessarily living this laid back, Tuscan lifestyle in Florence, but the time difference and work responsibilities has changed my use of technology. I’ve sent less than 10 texts in two weeks and miss out on all the great Twitter chats, since they tend to happen around my 2:00AM. And at the library I tend to bounce around so much that I don’t get much uninterrupted time to work at my computer. (These are some of my excuses for not blogging more in September).

So, I’ve been spending my weekends adventuring around Florence and reading (for fun!), since I no longer have homework. I post often on tumblr and am doing “a picture a day” on Instagram. My work days are usually spent plotting some ideas I’ll be trying out this year, making new library decorations, teaching students how to use the card catalog, and chitchatting with students forging relationships with students through intellectual conversations. Every weekday around 2:45 the Italian classes lets out and a small stampede of students rush into the library to finish assignments and print them. Today as I sat at my desk trying to eat lunch, I felt like a mother when I heard “Chealsye!” being called from multiple rooms because the printer wasn’t working, again. The printer is very temperamental and we are working on a suitable nickname for it.

A former librarian or library assistant drew up some fantastic signs in the library. J
A former librarian or library assistant drew up some fantastic signs for the library.

The semester began on September 2. Since then I have hired five fantastic students as a library assistants. The assistants work 5-10 hours each week and their shifts are half work/half study. Their main role is to buzz students into the library, check out books, and assist on my projects. But they can also work on their own individual library related projects. Two of my assistants that will be running the library on Friday will be working on a map of Florence with their tips and cool locations. This map will added to a wall in the student lounge and other students can contribute to it.

This month also brought along some improvements and the start of small projects. My request for the library’s first scanner was approved, and it is beautiful! It has been a huge help for students beginning their research papers, particularly when they only need a couple of pages of a very large and heavy art history text. In the last week we completed re-organizing the DVDs and adding labels to the Library’s book shelves. I’m very excited about the labels, because it will help students find and browse books a bit more easily—very helpful for the student looking for Italian poetry but staring down the history section instead.

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Additionally, we celebrated Banned Books Week! This was the first time many of the students, freshmen and seniors alike, heard about banned books. I pointed to a pile of banned/challenge books to an assistant, explained they were banned, and before I could finish with the spiel about the week, she responded, “So we’re getting rid of them?” Oh, no!

For this week I took inspiration from what many other libraries have done by wrapping the book and labeling them with why they were banned. Since the library is very small I decided to go with a more guerrilla style form of passive programming. One student assistant and I selected books, they wrapped them in newspaper (free!), I wrote on the wrapping, and then placed them randomly about the Library… on tables, computers, desks, and couches! The students seemed to enjoy it. Many were trying to guess what the books were, but only were successful with identifying Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. Six out of the 18 books were checked out this week, which may not seem like a large number but it is the most check outs we’ve had in a single week excluding textbooks.

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