There is a hoary business adage that customers are much more likely to complain when they are unhappy than they are to praise when they are happy. Imagine my pleasure, then, in reporting that I have not received a single expression of dissatisfaction from any of our researchers for at least the past five years. During that time our reference archivists have responded to roughly 30,000 research requests. And in each of those years I have received more than one expression of gratitude for the excellent work our reference archivists do day in and day out. (I should clarify that our reference archivists include the four faculty members who are full-time members of the reference department, a faculty member whose position is split half and half between reference and processing, and two other processing archivists who take regular shifts at our main reference desk.)
During the past fiscal/academic year the AHC’s reference staff continued to receive glowing reviews from a variety of researchers. For example, from an experienced scholar: “On a side note, I just wanted to thank you and the entire Library for being so helpful. William B[.] also donated a ton of…stuff to [major coastal university], but the staff there is pretty much not helpful at all…. I didn’t know what to expect when I contacted your Library last month, but I have to say it’s a totally different experience dealing with you. I’m glad to see not all libraries operate like [major coastal university] does!” Or consider this equally positive comment from this amateur researcher who had travelled from Iowa: “The young man at the desk was extremely helpful and knowledgeable and I wish I had gotten his name! I wanted to express my thanks to him for assisting me and making my visit there so successful…. And thank you for making the first day of my research quest so pleasant!”
At the AHC we try to live up to the adage coined by America’s most famous archivist, Theodore Schellenberg, in the 1950s, that use is “the end of all archival effort.” Everything we do at the Center is in some manner, way, shape or form directed at making our holdings of primary sources and rare books accessible to a wide variety of researchers and audiences. This certainly includes striving to make something as basic as a research visit as pleasant and productive an experience as possible. If you have kudos for our reference archivists, or if you have a problem to report, certainly, I would like to hear from you. Indeed, feedback on all aspects of the AHC and its services is always welcome. You can reach me directly at 307/766-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to take advantage of the AHC’s reference services, you may contact the department here.
–Mark Greene, Director
*From the Director is an occasional column highlighting aspects of the American Heritage Center and its services.