Ten months ago, after the final class on the eve of spring break, as the world and our College hurtled rapidly towards the unknown, the Meem Library closed its doors to all visitors.
In the days that followed our campus emptied and our community scattered. Students hunkered down at home or off-campus here in northern New Mexico. College staff moved their offices to their own homes, from which most of them still work. And faculty prepared for a strange new world, a world in which, for the first time in the history of this College, our conversations about books would not be taking place in the physical company of others around a single wooden table.
In the ten months since we moved our conversations online, as we have all continued to weather this storm in our respective corners and in our own particular ways, our campus has been quiet, quieter even than (this being a College made up of readers) it ordinarily is. Quiet, but not desolate. A small group of international students have remained here throughout. The buildings and grounds crews have been steadily active, tending our landscaping and upgrading our campus facilities. The Mailroom has been open, keeping books flowing steadily in and out of campus. The IT crew has been working marathon hours, looking after our now full-throttle network systems.
Still, in comparison to ordinary times, it has been quiet. With the campus closed to the public since March, and with so few people physically present on the grounds, the animals and birds that inhabit Monte Sol and Arroyo Chamisa have been more frequent guests. Deer drink from the Fish Pond and browse the shrubbery. Rabbits nibble the grass. Flickers come to roost each evening beneath the Library eaves. While the world of people has been in steady crisis, our wild neighbors here continue to go about their ordinary lives.
We know all this because during these ten months, even as the Library’s doors have remained closed to public entry, the Library staff have been here nearly throughout. The work of our College rests upon a foundation made of books, and the work of maintaining that foundation has continued here unabated. And so, as we enter this fresh new year, a year we all hope moves us closer to what we now fondly remember as simple normality, we thought we would share some of the projects in which we have been engaged these last ten months behind those closed doors.
A Deluge of Returned Books
Our first order of business after the campus closure in March was the check-in and re-shelving of the more than two thousand books returned to the library in the frenzied days of packing before the campus emptied. Ordinarily, this mass call-in occurs at the end of each semester, and ordinarily we have the benefit of our stalwart student assistants to help. This time, with only a skeleton crew left, and with the interruption of a statewide stay-at-home order to boot, processing and re-shelving this sudden and unexpected deluge took nearly a month.
Our Move to Online Book Fulfillment and Expanded Digital Resources
With our community suddenly scattered and our College rapidly pivoting to online classes came the immediate and pressing need to devise online book ordering and fulfillment protocols, which we instituted immediately and continue to this day. This new system entailed the conversion of one of our two 24-hour study rooms (Room 101, which has both an indoor and an outdoor entrance) to a contactless book pickup point for Tutors and for our remaining campus residents, and the conversion of library office space into a packaging room for order fulfillment and shipping. In addition, we reconfigured and augmented our online Digital Resources (Digital Loeb Library, JSTOR, Mango Languages, Naxos Spoken Word Library, Oxford English Dictionary, etc.) to ensure they would remain accessible for all students and faculty wherever their current location in the world.
Replacing and Increasing Class Copies of Seminar Texts
One of the primary missions of our collection is to maintain a wide variety of quality translations and editions of Program texts. Over the last ten months we have inventoried this core collection, replaced hundreds of damaged and worn volumes, and increased the number of class copies to a baseline of twenty-five for all undergraduate seminar readings.
Weeding the Collection
Every few years it is our practice to go subject-by-subject, shelf-by-shelf, and book-by-book through our circulating collection (some 65,000 volumes) replacing damaged copies, withdrawing obsolete editions, moving rarer and more fragile books into our special collections to protect them from further damage, and so on. This slow process has been underway for several months, and is now near completion.
Processing Large Book Donations
Over the last several years, the Library has been the beneficiary of a record number of high-quality book donations from alumni, tutors, and friends and neighbors of the College. A number of these individual donations have numbered in the thousands of volumes, and together they have totaled more than 15,000 volumes. Each donation is methodically unpacked, counted, sorted, and checked against our collection development goals and our catalog, upon which a determination is made for each individual book whether to catalog it or re-box it for the next Library Book Sale. Of these more than 15,000 donated volumes, approximately one third have either been added to the collection in the last eighteen months, or are now somewhere in the cataloging process. These include substantial additions to the collection in the areas of philosophy, religion, 20th century literature, French literature, women authors, art and architecture, film history, music history, African American literature and history, history of science, natural history, and the literature and history of New Mexico and the Southwest, among others.
Additional Shelving in the Math and Science Stacks and in Room 202-203
In order to accommodate increased class copies of Program texts, new acquisitions, and two significant science book donations from the personal collections of Tutors Howard Fisher and Linda Wiener, as well as two significant outside donations of titles related to the work of James Joyce, the Library has added fifty-seven feet of additional second floor shelving.
To facilitate a greater awareness of the uniquely tricultural history and legacy of the Southwest region within which our Santa Fe campus is located, we have configured a designated Southwest collection, which gathers in one location within the library all works in our collection falling under the headings of Southwestern literature, history, art, and natural history. For new students looking to orient themselves to the rich history and diverse cultural and outdoor opportunities our singular Southwest region offers, and for any campus community member moved to delve more deeply into this Southwestern place we all for a time can call “home,” the consolidation of these regionally focused works into one shelving area now makes browsing and discovery much easier.
Work in the Archives includes the ongoing digitization of hundreds of hours of reel-to-reel and cassette recordings of Friday night lectures and the continuing digitization of archival photographs from the first five decades of the Santa Fe campus, all of which will be made available for public access through the Library’s online Digital Archives once these projects have been completed.
The circumstances of these last ten months have sadly prevented us from holding our traditional campus Library Book Sale for the College community. This sale will assuredly still happen at such time as the campus community can assemble in full once again. In the meantime, sale books continue to accrue from the many generous donations we have mentioned above. When our community can finally reconvene and our Book Sale finally go forward, know that the quantity and quality of these sale titles (now filling two library storerooms and numbering in the thousands) will have made it well worth the wait.
Renovations and Upgrades
Finally, in preparation for the time (whenever that time finally comes) when we can all safely reconvene and reopen, we have been engaged in ongoing Library HVAC and facility modifications. While the indoor areas of the library continue to remain closed pending staff vaccinations and changes in the State of New Mexico and campus Covid dashboard statuses (both still at the highest level of Red), we are currently in the process of reconfiguring the library’s south and west porch spaces as WiFi-accessible and roofed outdoor study spaces, in anticipation of the warmer spring days soon to come. We expect to add additional seating and table space to these outdoor porch areas and to open them for those students currently here on campus sometime in the weeks ahead.