It’s Primary

There are many reasons why I chose to be a librarian. Very few days go by when I am not reminded of some small thing that makes me love my job and enjoy the people I encounter, but this is not a post about being a librarian.

A couple of days ago, that reminder came in the form of a class I taught in conjunction with one of the Special Collection librarians. We taught upper level English students about the importance and difference between primary and secondary literature sources.

The smell of old paper and bindings filled my senses. There is a special thrill to holding a first edition copy of your favorite author. For me, it is embodied by feeling a tingle up my arm when I hold the first edition copy of Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott that I bought from an unsuspecting ebay seller for a paltry sum or my early edition of A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter.

There are many things to be learned from looking at original printings of a novel, not the least is a fine schooling in early printing. Reading Shakespeare is one thing, but seeing an early folio is quite another. Exposing students to the history of the written word and allowing them to touch and smell history makes it real. As librarians and educators, we should not forget to tell students about the “old stuff” as we walk them through the latest EBSCO database. I believe that teaching students about special collections can instill an awe that will follow them long after they have collected their things from the lockers along the back wall.

–Jane, likes old things

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