Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, revisited

It feels as though it has been ages since I wrote about how things are going with the reorganization of the local Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center library. Life got a little hectic toward the end of the fall semester, so Courtney and I hadn’t gotten to the TMBCC as often as we’d hoped to. I was delighted to reconnect with her on Tuesday: we met up, inputted more book titles, and re-evaluated our goals for the library in the expectant light of a new year.

First things first, before even touching a book, Courtney and I discussed our goals for the library. We wanted to to cut our list down to the basics, salvaging only the fundamental changes we wanted to make in the library. If we don’t keep our ambitions in check I’m afraid we will stall our own progress. 

Here’s what we came up with:

  1. Finish inputting all English language books into our Excel spreadsheets. (After the large tapestry was removed from the shelves late this fall, we discovered that a majority of the books in the collection are written in Tibetan and Chinese, so this may be a shorter task than we originally thought.) After this is accomplished, we can combine our spreadsheets, smooth over any inconsistencies, and manipulate the data by creating an alphabetical shelf list as well as sorting books into subject areas.
  2. Next, we’ll rearrange the English language books into subject areas on the shelves… e.g. Buddhist philosophy (probably the biggest category that will exist), women and Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Tibetan/Chinese conflict, memoirs, non-Buddhist religions, and so forth. 
  3. Determine what will come of the free books.  Hundreds upon hundreds of books in the TMBCC library’s collection are spiritual texts that are meant to be given out for free in the community. However, at the present time they are simply sitting on the shelves in stacks or lined up prettily, each a mirror image of the last. These free texts are interspersed throughout the rest of the books, and it certainly isn’t advertised that patrons can remove them for their own library or to pass along to a friend. C and I want to get a clear understanding of what the TMBCC would like to do with these texts, and only then can we move along in our organization. 
  4. Creation of library procedures. That sounds so serious, does it not? “Library procedures,” like I’m some expert. All I mean by library procedures is some signage, a pamphlet explaining the library’s purpose and layout, and a shelf and subject list of materials. Welcoming documents that will help the library’s users really claim the space as their own and utilize it to its fullest. 

Those are the basics. We are going to be reaching out to other SLIS students and to the Tibetan Studies program at IU for assistance in grouping non-English titles into their respective areas. As far as I am concerned, having the non-English sections of books grouped according to language makes the most sense right now. Future volunteers can take it upon themselves to create a shelf list, but that’s not a capability C or I have right now. 

There are also the crazy amount of pamphlets that fall out of books, lie pinned behind books, nest threefold in the space between the dusty spines. Those have to be dealt with; they just keep turning up. I love them more than the books, I’ll admit it. They are special bits of miscellany, and my archivist’s heart bleeds for them. I’ll write more about my ideas for their storage later because something must be done! (Sidenote: when you’re getting all aflutter alone in your living room at the thought that another day, week, year, might go by without pamphlets–fragile, unprotected bits of culture and history–being preserved… well, you know you’re an archivist. Just sayin’.)

one of the neverending stacks of books to be inputted
my lovely accomplice Courtney, hard at work
free Buddhist texts
workspace. sunlight. excel. 
pamphlets, pamphlets, and more pamphlets.

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