Henry Felix Raine is Director of Digital Projects and Library Technical Services at the New-York Historical Society in New York, NY. Henry has been an ACRL member since 1992 and is your ACRL member of the week for October 31, 2016.
1. Describe yourself in three words: Conscientious, focused, affable.
2. What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device)? I’m currently re-reading The Raj Quartet, by Paul Scott, a beautifully written account of British life in India in the final years of the Raj. I’m also reading The Married Man, by Edmund White, about an American expat who meets his French lover in Paris in the late 1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Although my work and interests are all about the book as physical object, I love my e-reader, which is much easier and lighter to carry on my daily commute on the New York City subway.
3. Describe ACRL in three words: Collegial, supportive, engaging.
4. What do you value about ACRL? ACRL has allowed me to be a better professional and to make many friends over the years. As a special collections librarian who has spent his whole career working with rare books, manuscripts, and archives, I’ve been involved in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of ACRL for nearly 25 years. RBMS offers great professional development and networking opportunities during the major conference it holds every year prior to ALA. It also helps new librarians through its scholarship and mentoring programs, and it allows them to gain leadership experience thanks to its extensive committee structure and its conference planning work. I’m very grateful for the logistical support that ACRL and its wonderful staff provide for all of these activities. ACRL offers a home where RBMS can prosper as a venue for rare books and manuscripts librarians. It is a place where we can discuss how we work and teach with the unique collections that allow scholarship and learning to thrive and how we can adapt to the ways in which librarianship and our users’ expectations change. It is particularly exciting and inspiring to see the creativity and energy of people now entering the profession when I go to conferences. As someone who works in a smaller institution without the larger context of a university campus, RBMS and ACRL are my campus, my community, and the place where I can learn new things and meet a variety of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and responsibilities.
5. What do you, as an academic librarian, contribute to your campus? I work for an independent research library, so I’m not an academic librarian strictly speaking and I’m not located on a university campus, but everything my colleagues and I do relates to making our extraordinary collections of primary sources available to students and scholars, and interpreting them to a wide audience.
6. In your own words: Working with great collections of unique materials is one of the things that gets me out of bed every morning, but I also love working with fantastic colleagues at my institution and in the library profession as a whole. I don’t think most people outside of our profession realize all that we do, and how well we do our jobs given our very limited resources. Life as a rare books and manuscripts librarian is rewarding because of the people and the collections I work with, but also because overcoming the challenges of low staffing and limited funding through hard work, flexibility, and ingenuity is a reward in itself. In the 30 years I’ve been a librarian, the work has become increasingly technical and diversified, and forces us all to become lifelong learners. I look at what we accomplish, and I’m constantly amazed that we’re asked to do so much, and that we consistently deliver even more than what is expected of us. It can be disappointing if our work and what we give to the academic community is undervalued, but I see part of the job as making sure people know what we do, and when we do get positive feedback and genuine appreciation, as often happens, it is immensely gratifying.
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