Interview with Valerie Feinman


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Interviewed by Sara Albert; transcribed by Arro Smith.

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This is Sarah Albert. I am here with Valerie Feinman at the Hilton--oh, Valerie Feinman: Marriott. Sarah Albert: At the Marriott--should I start over? Valerie Feinman: Nah, its fine, just leave it. Sarah Albert: --In Anaheim, California. She has agreed to be interviewed. This interview is part of the Capturing Our Stories Oral History Program of Retired/Retiring Librarians. It is one of Loriene Roy's American Library Association Presidential Initiatives. This recording will be the property ALA and may be published and used for scholarly research. Today is June thirty Valerie Feinman: Twenty-ninth Sarah Albert: Twenty-ninth, 2008.
So, Valerie, why don't we start with your most recent job and then a little about that and then we can talk about your history in the library profession. Valerie Feinman: Okay. My most recent formal job was that of instruction librarian at Adelphi University in Garden City, Long Island. I began that about 1983. When the incumbent left, we could not find anyone else and my dean decided I was a big ham and, therefore, could be an instruction librarian. I had a lot of fun during those years. A lot of fun.
The students didn't have their own computers, we had to teach them how to use the university computers. We didnt have that many databases, and no one was familiar with doing anything, so that if one of the instructions was to press F9, to transfer to a different database, the students had to have it explained that this meant not to touch F and then 9. Instruction was a lot of fun. I got involved in ALA, ACRL instruction section, and LIRT, the Library Instruction Round Table section. I wrote articles for them, I attended LOEX [the Library Orientation Exchange , founded 1971, at Eastern Michigan University]. I got involved in committees, and know a lot of people because my dean introduced me to a lot of people. By the way, my dean was  Rochelle Sager, and one of her best friends was Mary Reichel, so right from the beginning I had a mentor in Mary Reichel. So, instruction was fun.
Sarah Albert: Okay, what were some other committees you served on in ALA? Valerie Feinman: Oh, well Sarah Albert: Or Valerie Feinman: How about Emerging Technologies committee of LITA in the 70s? Okay? Again, Emerging Technologies in IS; but it wasnt called that it was called something else--whatever. But mostly, I have been on LIRT. In several different positions. Most recently, as Elder Statesman to say "been there, done that, choose something different" every time the planning committee gets off track. And I am on the planning committee for the next retreat or pre-conference of LIRT which will be held in Boston-- that's fun. Sarah Albert: Thanks.
Valerie Feinman: Before that, I was at Adelphi; but in a rather different position. I came to Adelphi on May Day, in 1970, which I remember well because one of the faculty members planted a tree; and the librarians all went out because we were faculty to watch the tree being planted. I was brought in as a serials librarian, which they had never had before, because I supposedly had a good serials background. And the serials department was partly in reference, and then it was in technical processes, and then it was a separate department called academic technologies--which I became the head of--and that included non-print serials and microfilms and microforms. So, I did that for several years: from 1970 to 1982-1983, when they wanted me to move into the instruction section.
Before 1970, I had applied for that job at Adelphi; but the person that they had hired was a male. This would have been the second male librarian in the library or maybe the third--and, unfortunately, no one had told him that he shouldn't leave his bottles in the reference desk. So, he was fired after a couple of months when they realized that he was very drunk in the evenings--and giving very bad advice to the students. And they phoned me up and offered me the job.
Before that, I was at Columbia. Columbia is a very interesting library. They hired me to work on a project called "PIC:" Parkinson's Information Center. Back in those days, the MEDLINE database--which was called MEDLARS--had "Parkinson's" as a word; but it did not have "dopamine" as a search concept. And I was part of a research group that was desperately looking through medical articles that might mention the word Parkinsons to find any kind of reference to the drug which then became dopamine. And this was, of course, going to go online with the National Library of Medicine. It was a fun and scary kind of job to have.
However, after I had been there six weeks, the grant gave out. I was furious: they had known that when they hired me. So, I walked into the Columbia offices and said, "You can't fire me just because the grant" you know--blah-blah-blah-blah. And they gave me a position as cataloger of business periodicals--which was terrible. I didn't know a thing about business. And I'd only been there a few months when Adelphi called and asked me to come work for them. I was very happy to be rid of the long commute into Columbia. So, that's my business life in New York. Before that, I was in Syracuse.
Sarah Albert: Okay. Do you want to talk about how you got started in libraries
Valerie Feinman: Oh, sure
Sarah Albert: As a teenager--or
Valerie Feinman: Yes. Absolutely. That's really the best place.
Sarah Albert: Okay.
Valerie Feinman: Okay, when I was eleven or twelve and doing debates in junior high, my godmother and my father got together. She was the reference head in the Hamilton Public Library--head of the reference department at the public library in Hamilton--decreed that I should think about a career as a librarian. This was 1950, approximately, and the day I turned fourteen, which was in 1951, I began working in the Hamilton Public Library. My godmother, Isabelle Skelly, said, "If you want to have a career in Hamilton, in Canada--anywhere--you might as well become a librarian."
Something that most of you watching this don't understand---or won't--is that women in Canada had very few options open to them in the '50s. If they became a teacher, they had to retire when they were pregnant. They could become a nurse, if they didn't get married. They could try to go on to graduate school; but they were not allowed into architecture schools, medical schools, law schools, etc. I had a good friend who wanted to become a lawyer. Her father was a chief justice and he got her into law school. No one would hire her and she worked in her father's office. And that was the truth of life in 1950, '55, '59--when I graduated from college.
So, I started at the public library. What does a page do? Well, I started in the summertime, so they gave me all the dirty work: unloading boxes of gift books that came in from all sorts of funny places, and arranging them alphabetically by author--when possible; however, many, many books were in sets of 20, 30, 40 volumes on flimsy paper that were meant to grace the shelves of someones library but they were not meant for a public library. And one of the things I was allowed to do, besides arranging books, was to look at these sets of books, and if there was anything I like there where there were two or more copies, I could have it. I have a big collection of flimsy-paper classic books dating back from that. I still have them.
Okay, during the winters of the year, I would work in one of the departments--always the Fine Arts Department, or Arts and Sciences. This had the 500s, 600s, 700s of Library of Congress [DDC]. I would shelve books, and I would sit at the information desk when the librarian was off-duty or on a break or that sort of thing. After I was 15 or 16 they just left me at that desk all the time--and went off and did their work, because I was just used to doing it, and people were used to me. I worked three nights a week when I was in high school. I worked one or two nights a week and all day Saturday when I was in college. So, I was there a lot. I worked in every department except the children's department.
And one of the things I remember best, was copying the citations that the reference librarians would make for local content. There was no Canadian Index in the '50s, and the kinds of indexes they were getting in the States were very poor for Canadian content. So we would keep files on people that were important in Canada, people that were important in Hamilton, the government in Ontario and in Toronto, and the local celebrities, and what was going on. So we had all sorts of card files telling which folder to go to get this information. There was like a biography section, and there was a current events section, the Hamilton history section.
And I used "library hand" and wrote all these cards--hundreds of them--over the years. And when I went back to the new library 30 years later, the history section still had all those cards. Why would they replace them? Because the Canadian Index did not go that far back. Even when they made an index, it wasn't retroactive to the '40s and '50s--which was sort of fun.
Okay, after I left college I went to Toronto, and worked in North York which is the northern half of the city of Toronto. Now-- And I worked in the library system there, which was a very interesting system: It was about six miles from north to south, and about 25 miles from east to west. The population had grown from 80,000 to 800,000 in less than ten years. So the library had built a main library, three branches, and had four bookmobiles as they tried to figure out where the population was moving next. And to service the new schools that were just mushrooming at that time.
Okay, the first thing I did was work for the cataloging department. They knew that I was experienced enough to spend all day Monday filing all the new cards or to check filing done by others. Mostly I was the checker. I also looked up subject headings--looked up using Library of Congress or whatever--and did a whole lot of alias files for people with pseudonyms, which was an awful lot of fun. We had a whole printing department in the library that printed the cards for the branches on different colored cards, so that was taken care of. I didn't have to type anything--I was just doing all kinds of good things. Except it became very boring; so, I decided that I'd like to work with the bookmobiles.
Bookmobiles was fun. You usually worked four days a week, from 9 to 6 on one day--two days--and 9 to 9 or 10 on the other days, because you had to go out on the buses. We had two buses, and two cabs, plus a trailer. I was mostly on that one. We were paid $3 extra every month so that we could have pants and be decorous climbing into the cab--and to pay for the dry-cleaning of said pants. [Laughing] Strange.
So that was a lot of fun, although you had to do a lot of juggling in your head to make sure you got the right books for this school, and for that community, and you always carried books by the box-load in and out of the bookmobiles. The most exciting thing, was the night we were coming back across this long, 8-lane highway in a snow-storm. And the trailer decided that it wanted to go down in the ditch. And it did. And it disconnected. And the cab only went partway down. And we got out of the cab and called the police and the tow-trucks, etc., and they came and pulled the cab back onto the highway so that we were able to go back to the library; but the van took two or three days to dig out because it was covered with snow and deeply down. So that was sort of a different kind of thing to happen to a very young person.
After that I also worked in a branch library for--I guess--seven or eight months, replacing someone who had the degree--as I did--but was going to attend library school. I was the children's librarian in the branch for that. And this was the year Kennedy died and I remember what was going on in Canada at that time.
Okay, at the end of the year, the children's librarian came back--what was Valerie going to do? Well, it seems that even though there were more than a thousand people applying for every library student position at the University of Toronto, where they had only 100 openings--they would--see the New York Public Library couldn't wait for that--so it would send people down to Syracuse, to the summer school, and after three summers you would have your library degree. So, I went down to Syracuse. They facilitated the whole thing. [I] started taking a reference course and a cataloging course at Syracuse.
Well, the reference librarian called me in about three weeks into the six-week program, and said, "What are you doing in this course? You know all of this, except for the difference between Canadian and American sources." And when she found out a bit about my background, she said, "Great. We will give you free tuition, and make you the Physics librarian, as a para-professional"
Sarah Albert: And that was related to what you had studied--?
Valerie Feinman: Oh, yes. As an undergraduate, I had studied chemistry, geology, physics, mathematics, etc. I was majoring in general sciences--this is a side story--because, again, there were no jobs for Canadian women in sciences. Once, while I was at college, my Dean called me in and said, "You are not doing very well in your chemistry courses. I think that you should not want to be a chemist." And I looked him up and down, and said, "Have you been in the science library lately?" He said, "No." He was a geologist--he didn't need the library very much. I said, "Well, the books are all out of order. There's nothing published in the last three years that is a book. The journals are impossible to find. You don't have the latest journals. And there is not a science librarian. I want to become that science librarian." He said, "My blessings--continue in your courses. We'd love to have you as a science librarian."
So, when I got to Syracuse, I actually became a Physics librarian. And that library had something like 22 faculty members, 125 graduate students, and a lot of undergraduate students. It was a huge department. There was one lady, in the Dean's office, and there was me. No student females, no faculty females. So, all 125 students trouped into the library the first week of school to see what was there [laughs] and it was a very strange kind of life. On the other hand, I'd always been in honors classes where mostly the people were male. In college most of the people were male. There were very few science females. So I was used to being out-numbered by a lot of men. Eventually, one of those physics students and I were married.
At the end of my first year, as physics librarian, I was suckered in by the head of the Upstate Medical Library, also in Syracuse, to do some extra work for him. He wanted some quasi-medical books looked up in the catalogs. He said, eventually, "Why don't you come and work for me. Ill give you lots of money--three times what Syracuse was giving me--and that way you could afford to pay your tuition, and you'll do a project that I want you to do." So, come September, one year after Physics, I went to work as a faculty member--because I was a paraprofessional--in the medical library. Well, that was fun. The project was to produce the first New York State Union List of Serials. These were big things in the '60s. I think we were the sixth in the country to do a state union list. And I went to visit all the state universities--to state president librarians conferences to be introduced. I did the first index. Got my name in the Library of Congress while I was still in library school. That doesn't very often happen.
Okay, after that project was finished, I went on a did a couple of other union lists; and then they decided to send me down to the National Library of Medicine to train on MEDLARS, which is now MEDLINE. After my three-day training, I came back and started teaching the medical faculty how to use MEDLARS to do their searches. This computer use predates all the other periodical indexes you've ever heard of. It was special, it was fun. The medical libraries had lots of money from the State, from the medical societies, from NLM, there were grants all over the place, computers everywhere: Let's get this business going. It was exciting and fun to be doing this in the '60s.
[I] finished my degree in '67. Got married in '69. No--'66 and '67. And we were in Syracuse until '69. So I did a whole lot of different projects at the Medical Center that were absolutely fun and way ahead of anything else. So, I guess one of the funnest things there was after I showed faculty--professor--how to use MEDLARS, and was searching on an operation that we was going to do in a couple of days, we actually found him a brand new article, and the next morning at nine o'clock, I got a phone call. He was in the operating room--would I please bring the article to him because he had forgotten one section of it. And we got it back at the end of the day with a little bit of blood on it. [We] wiped it off and put it back on the shelf. I mean, that--every medical librarian has a story like that--similar to this; but I lived this as a librarian in the '60s, who was very very young and raw, actually. [Laughs] So, it was fun. Do you want to take a break? [Recording restarts]
So, when I was working at the medical library, my husband then finished his PhD and we moved down to New York City. And that's when I began at Columbia at PIC [Parkinson's Information Center], and went on eventually to Adelphi and to a whole different set of career parts.
When I retired from Adelphi, four or five years ago, I was appointed a Nassau scholar, which means you are a retired faculty member that they are going to give another job to. And the job they wanted me to do was to become the volunteer librarian for the Nassau County Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is very important in Long Island where there are 5.5 million people and practically no empty land--and you have to get all kinds of permits to tear something down, or put something up, or play around with it. And the files were dreadful, because the Republican government that had just lost power, had disbanded the library about 15 years earlier. So people had collected what they thought was important in boxes and closets, under the desks, etc., etc. And when I arrived, they had just moved all of this crap down to this bomb shelter in the basement of the planning building. And they bought me shelves, and they bought me tables. We started organizing it. It was awful. First of all, I had to learn something about what the library was going to be, because they couldn't explain it to me very well. Each division--whether it was the railroads, or the money, this--had their own bit; but they didn't talk to each other very much.
So I went around and talked to everybody. I went to a local conference on county planning, and at that conference a couple of people patted me on the head and said, "Well, it's nice that you are here; but we don't expect you to understand much." I looked at the group of five I was standing in and said, "I did my MBA in '88, when did you do yours?" Well, of the five men, only two had an MBA. And from then on, no one ever belittled me. I knew what I had to learn and I learned it.
Why did I do an MBA? Because I was doing reference desk work [and] the students were talking languages I had no idea about. They, of course didn't know physics or calculus, and I didn't know business; so I did an MBA to learn what was going on. And also, it became extremely valuable because I was the only person in the library that ever had a marketing course, or a management course. All of which I think is very important for librarians.
So, the Planning Commission got organized because I was really lucky: I had library school students take an internship with me. There were two library schools nearby: one at Queens College, one at C.W. Post. And students would come over and work for a semester--do an independent project--I would spend a lot of time talking to them about different libraries and where as we do this in this library, you do it that way in the public library, and that way in the university library. I certainly had the experience to teach them a lot. I quizzed them. I made them read things. And they loved it--so I got a new student every semester. That was good.
And then, after I got it all organized, and everything was in place--sort of--and people could find what they wanted, I was there one day a week, they came down five days a week, open the door, signed in, and found what they wanted. The County decided to move the building. So they played dominoes around five or six different buildings. And this year--for the past year--three-quarters of the library has been in a trailer, and the rest of it has been in a big trailer where there is a meeting room for the Commission to meet--and the most important volumes are sitting here. What a mess. So, I don't spend much time over there right now. Were moving into a new building this fall. But that's that kind of story--and that's kind of fun. And what's fun about that is that everything is on the computer. They have the GPS, they have the GPO files, they have this--and they have their own documents on file. I'm busy entering all the books in the library in the same file--or my students are.
But that takes me way, way back. What did we do in the '70s and the '60s and the '50s when we didn't have computers to the work for us? Interesting. When I was working in the public library and working at the public service desk at night, I did something that was called "library hand:" a very round, cursive, readable script. We couldn't use typewriters out in the public areas, because they were damn noisy in the '50s. So we wrote all those cards in library hand. So, that was fun.
In the '70s--'60s--in the medical school? We had MEDLARS. And we also were developing, for medical libraries, including National Library of Medicine, UCLA, Syracuse, and Washington at St. Louis--the four libraries were working together, cataloging medical books. We phoned each other every day. We used a thing like DARPA, and parceled out the new books we received, and we did the original cataloging for them. And it all went into NLM. So, that was sort of fun. I was only peripheral to that; but that is what we were doing.
In the '70s, I was working with the PIC database, which was an online database, again, from the National Library of Medicine. But when I came to work at Syracuse--excuse me, at Adelphi in Long Island--there was nothing on computers. We used Ulrich's for our serials, not a computer thing like MEDLINE. Okay. It was a struggle sometimes to do all kinds of paperwork we need to do for serials. The books were a little better off, because the books had the Library of Congress publications coming out every year or so. What serials had was Uhlrich's, which came out once a year, I think? It's now available online; but we had Uhlrich's and we had some prints, and the serials librarian had to keep track of a lot of journals, in terms of what the department needed, what was new in their field, and what was no longer being used but they wanted to keep it and what was available on microfilm and microfiche. And we did a major glutting of the collection at one point, and turned between 15 and 30 years of backfiles into microfiche. Now, for the New York Times that's just fine, because that's a very good copy and there is lots of them around; for Godey's Lady's Book, it wasn't available--although I noticed at this conference [ALA Annual 2008] that someone now has Godey's Lady's Book with all the illustrations online. I managed to eventually dump a whole lot of copies of the Century and some other journals, that had been popular in the 1880s and 1890s, because they were in pretty bad condition, and--theoretically--there was microfilm available--theoretically. When I saw the microfilm I cried because it didn't have all the ads and all the pictures. And the ads are what students loved, because in a marketing and business course, they wanted to look at an ad from the 1880s and compare it to one from the 1930s compared to one from the 1980s--so that was an interesting kind of thing. And all the business being done right now, in terms of bringing these sources back in digital form, is just fantastic--except you wonder, since the microfilm sort of all fell apart, is: Will that happened to the digital form? Again, those papers were filmed, discarded, and what's going to happen? I don't know.
So, there have been a lot of changes. By 1982 or 83, I dont remember, I was in ALA in Philadelphia, and saw the young man from Innovative Systems--the triple I--and they had a serials system, which I knew was fantastic because I had had quite a few years of serial experience by now. And I questioned him, and they had done this, they had done that, they had just taken care of--every kind of extra issues. [I] went back to my Dean, and said we have to have this system. It is--it is--you know the pearl, the platinum, it's whatever you want--[and] we got it. We were one of the ten beta testers, or something. It was just--in a crazy way, we got it. And from then on, we just went forward, because we had the best serials system in the world, and they did a circulation system to go with it, of course, immediately. So, we transferred from the clunky system we had been using for circ, to this one; and had some fun with it. So, again, by '85 or so, we were up and running with the systems.
And we got EBSCO Host, which had--whatever it was--23 journals in those days. [Laughs] I went to an EBSCO Host lunch yesterday, and they have thousands I think now. And they have interfaces now that are unbelievable. And if you compare a Google search and an EBSCO search, it's like night and day. So the instruction librarians have to spend an awful lot of time persuading students not to use Google; but to use those very expensive databases that the libraries are now buying.
Ah, well--let's see how it changes in the next few years. Google is now coming to conferences--I don't know what they [laughs] they think they are offering something. They are not yet. They may get there; but they are not there yet.
Sarah Albert: Speaking of Instruction Librarians, what other advice would you offer instruction librarians? Like you said they need to be sure to really teach the EBSCO databases--what other kinds of--.
Valerie Feinman: Okay, the first thing the Instruction Librarian should do is find out what the ACRL IS section is doing. They've got online materials that you can use for free. ALA has lots of online materials that you could use. And the IS section also has a daily citation database thing, where people ask questions. Now, when it was the BI list, back in the '80s, it was run out of Binghamton University, it was just instruction people asking each other "How do you do this?," or "Do you have a roommate for ALA?," or "Are you going to be in town so you can show me how to do this thing?" Now, it is very sophisticated, and there's 15 to 20 questions every day, with lots of answers, lots of bibliographies, lots of articles. Whatever you want to know about, the ILI list is just terrific--so you've got to get into that information literacy list. Again, you do not have to pay for it. You just get into it.
Then, try to attend conferences, when they are near by. Try to attend ACRL chapter meetings, if they are near by--they do have them in many major cities, not every city; but--we have one in New York City that meets every November. I have been a member of it since '78, when it was created. I was a charter member. And I go to those meetings, and we get people from Connecticut, New Jersey, upstate New York, and Pennsylvania, all coming in for those meetings. And so, get to those things.
Then, the other thing you need to do as an Instruction person, is learn about LIRT--the Library Instruction Round Table. This is a thing you pay $5 or $10 extra for as part of your ALA membership--and if you ask about it, sometimes you get to pay the $5 or $10 and not your ALA membership (you can't go to conferences on that; but they will let you in for the discussions). What's good about LIRT is that it covers public libraries, Indian libraries, jail libraries--every kind of library that does any sort of library instruction. Yes, most of the people are university librarians because they are the ones who can afford to go to conferences; but there are a nice number of others. And we are making more and more virtual members because we know it is difficult to get money for conferences. And a virtual member has to go to one out of four years--or something like that, it's not too bad.
The other thing is, you can get a committee posting almost right away. We are not as hard-and-fast as the IS is, or the ACRL. Another other thing is, they have a newsletter. And they make bibliographies of articles, and you can write an article for them and get it published in the newsletter--long, long before you can do a research article for the ACRL journal. So if you want to get your feet wet with a little bit of publishing, again, LIRT is a place to be.
So, and then, talk to other Instruction Librarians. On Long Island, we have many colleges, and I've tried to get us all together to talk to one another and the methods are so different at the different colleges, because the deans are different and the provosts are different--and therefore, the libraries are different. So, you should at least talk to your neighbors, they might be doing something you wish you could do; they might be so far behind you that they want to talk to you; and at least you should talk to other people. In the '70s there was usually one instruction person at every university library. Now, almost all the reference librarians call themselves instruction people. So the numbers have grown; but there is usually one who is the boss, is the leader, is the one who has to keep the others informed. So find out who that person is. If you are in a very large library, it shouldn't be difficult. If you are in a small library, it should be easy as pie. And if you are an out-going and extroverted person, you can always put yourself right at the front. Be a ham like me and get yourself involved.
Sarah Albert: It sounds like a lot of that advice could applied to library school students also.
Valerie Feinman: Everywhere.
Sarah Albert: Do you have additional advice for students?
Valerie Feinman: When I was in library school, our faculty didn't talk to us about conferences. We didn't even know about state conferences. No one came back and reported to us about ALA. It was a desert. And I was actually very shocked by this, because I was still in library school when I was going to the medical library conferences, as a medical librarian because my boss dragged me everywhere for the grants. Okay? So I knew about conferences. I knew about papers. I knew what was going on. And I was appalled that the library school students didn't. Now, in today's age with so many blogs and so many websites--and everyone knowing everything--you just have to get on the we and find out what it is for your kind of library, or anything you are interested in. Use all the databases that you can find that are useful. And collect contact people in the field--whether it is a public library field, whether it is an archives field--groups like ACRL have 25 different committees dealing with women's studies to arts, to archives.
And then there's another group in ALA called RUSA--Reference Users Services--this has BRASS, which is a business reference thing. It has several other sections, and it's very well centered for the reference librarian that has to do certain kinds of work. It has a history and genealogy and archive section, it has BRASS, it has CODES--which is cataloging. Find out, from ALA, what the groups are; pinpoint two or three that you are interested in; and start finding out more about them, because its easy now. The web is there: use it. And talk to other people in the school.
And talk to even faculty--because now that we have something called ALISE--which is the--who knows what its called [Association for Library and Information Science Education]it's the library school group that coordinates a pre-conference at ALA every year. It keeps the library school managements talking to one another. So, the library schools--now--have a better way of keeping in touch; and keeping each other informed. Make sure you know about it. A-L-I-S-E is that group.
What else can I say? Talk to people. Talk to people. Please. Don't be shy. There's--I spent today--this has nothing to do really with what we were talking about. I sat down at a table today for lunch with a cataloger. I had never met her before--there was an empty place at a table--and I sat down. A little while later, another lady came along, and she sat over there, and we said, "Come on, come on, join us!" It turned out that she was a cataloger too--for the Library of Congress--and the two catalogers got into a discussion about personalities. And they decided they were both introverted and--I'm definitely not introverted--we started talking "Librarians: what are they? What aren't they?" We went the gamut from how non-conservative are most librarians--how liberal, how far to the left, how standing by the library rules and rights--all the way back to jokes that catalogers tell on one another. It was just hilarious, it just went on and on. And none of us wanted to stop. And this is typical activity. Never sit in a corner: just join a group and start talking. I think that is the best way to learn about where you want to be? Is that--?
Sarah Albert: Yeah, that was good.
Valerie Feinman: Stop. I want a drink. [Recording restarts]
Sarah Albert: Valerie, what else would you like to share with us?
Valerie Feinman: Okay, at this particular conference--having spent Friday at the seminar with Arro Smith and learning all about Loriene Roy's project--my brain just went into click-click fast mode, and I started thinking. So that as I went around the exhibits, I plucked off certain people to talk to. For example, I ran into the--a person from the Canadian Library Archives, where they are half librarians and half archivists; but it is the Canadian National Library. And we started talking about "library hand" and hand-written cards, and old records and old indexes. And when I left, I got a promise from him to write something up and join the group get everyone else he could think of interested in it; and to get in touch with a man who had been at the Friday seminar, his name is Alvin Thompson, or something, who is the out-going Canadian Library Association president. So I connected those two people, gave the website to the second one, and said, "We want you in on this." I said, "One of the things I think Arro's going to be interested in, would be slightly different handling of documents in Canada and the U.S." Just as there is different handling in the States versus the Federal.
Okay, then this morning I went to ALISE and spoke to them and said, "I want library schools involved in this." Library schools--and I talked to several separate library schools plus the ALISE group--I said, "Library schools have students. Students are up-to-date and know what they want to find out about. They can use camcorders. They need projects. They want to be interns. They want money. We can help them." I said, "Every library school in this country should a focus point for librarians in their area, to do the recordings of the elderly, the retiring, no matter what kind of librarian. They should go after their own graduates, and get comments from them. They should go after their own faculty and get comments from them. They should go after their aunts and uncles and god-mothers and whatever that were librarians, and get comments from them." This is important. And the ALISE people said, "Wow! I agree. That's the way we have to get started." And so I came back to [Arro], and said, "We have to do this." And he said, "Well, I was going to go there next." [Laughs] I said, "Okay, well I started it."
I also went to the BCALA, the black caucus of --yes. I said--I explained the whole project. I said, "I want to know who you recommend that I talk to. If I walk in, someones going to think that Im using you or abusing you--or whatever." I said, "This is an ALA project. You are part of ALA, and I'm sorry to say it, but black people can approach black people more easily than I can." And--I want those stories. Well, that got a big welcome, too. And yes, that one is going to go forward.
Sarah Albert: Wonderful. Valerie Feinman: I met a student doing a posterboard session. Posterboard session was on "people's reactions to libraries and librarians just following the flood." I said to her, "I want a copy of paper. I'm going to put [Arro] on to you, because this is a reaction to librarians." I said, "There maybe some library stories we can pick out of it, too." And we need to know that. This is a digital history that you are doing right now. Join the project. And so, everyone I've been bumping into, I've been talking to. And that's because I'm this kind of older person that--yep. And the other thing, and [Arro's] going to do this, I'm sure--we recommend a taping booth at every conference, with lots of publicity, so that people can sign up ahead of time and come in and tell their story. And it should be manned by library school students who get internship, get their way paid, whatever--we pay your way to the conference, you work for us as--. It can be worked out, let's just do it. Your library school may pay for it because its an independent project. I don't know? It can work out. And we can get more library school students to the conferences to do these things--especially someone local.
So, my--I think I said my brain went into high-gear. And it did. So I've just been going around in circles. I also want to do this a state library conferences. One of the ALISE people was from the Buffalo Library School, and she said, "Are you going to go to NYLA?"--the New York Library Association conference which is this fall. I said, "I was thinking about it." She said, "Well, you better. Come and talk about this." Every state has an association that has meetings. They can be satellite stations, too, if they put their minds to it. Again, using library school students as the facilitators. It just really can get going if we work on it.
Last, but not least: I had to talk to John Chrastka about something. You know who he is, I think? [ALA Director of Membership Development] Okay. And I told him about the project, and I said, "You need to do more publicity on this. George Eberhart needs to do more publicity on this in that--ALA whatever it's called--that newsletter that comes out every Wednesday--
Sarah Albert: ALA Direct?
Valerie Feinman: ALA Direct. Ive known George for 20 years. It's good. Okay, there will be more there. And anything Loriene wants to give him, he will publish--anytime. That's a message direct to you. Okay, so I talked to John Chrastka about this, and he said--oh, I told him also, that I had had a retirement"--what are you going to do after you retire?" --roundtable luncheon at a prior ACRL conference, and that I wanted to set one up for Seattle--which he thought was a good idea. But he said, "That's interesting, because I've been trying to get a users group--excuse me, an interest group--in ALA--to keep people about to retire interested in the profession, and able to help however they can help, as mentors or whatever." He said, "You and I need to talk about this." I said, "I just want to run a roundtable." He said, "Well, it takes a lot of work now days, you cant just say you want to run it the way you used to; and you need a hundred petitions." I said, "Echt!" He said, "I can do the petitions!" [Laughs] He said, "You and I, were going to do it." And we are going to do it.
So, if we can get ALA to have this interest group that will interface with Arro Smith's group, which will interface all over ALA, we're--this is going to become a real legacy, as Loriene imagined it. And I think it is just about time. One of the little catalogers at lunch time said today, "Too many of us are retiring, too many of us are getting Alzheimer's. We've got to get those stories now." And I agree. End of story.
Sarah Albert: Well, Valerie, thank you so much for sharing you professional history, and your advice, and your enthusiasm about the Capturing Our Stories project.
Valerie Feinman: It is perfect for someone like me.
Dock windowContents
Limited opportunities for women in the '50s
ALA committee work
LIRT (Library Instruction Round Table)
LIRT (Library Instruction Round Table)
Library Hand
Library Hand
Library Hand
Medical Libraries work
PIC (Parkinsons Information Center
Upstate Medical Library
Business Librarianship