Digging for treasure in the Scholastic archive

Zinia Rahman is a freelancer in the Scholastic Library & Archives this summer and a wanderer in New York. She received her MLS from Pratt Institute and her B.A. in Classical Archaeology from Hunter College. She is also known as Sharpie, lead singer for the newly founded alternative rock band The Diseased Archivists with fellow archivist Hannah Orlove aka Paper Clip. Stay tuned for their debut album “The Grotto” due for release in the fall. 

I’ve spent many summers digging for treasures. For us archaeologists, excavations and field work are a routine part of our summers. As a librarian, this summer was spent digging through the archives of Scholastic, unearthing a different kind of treasure trove.

As librarians and archivists we like to keep things in order, amongst our many other responsibilities. Often times the archives is the one place where collections can go awry, particularly if the collections hold older items, and the archives at Scholastic hold over one hundred years of materials, which my partner in archiving, Hannah, wrote about a few weeks ago. With the renovation project of the Scholastic archives this summer, it gives us a rare opportunity to reevaluate the order and inventory everything in the collection.

So what is going on down in the archives? The first step was assessing the library and corporation needs, room for building future collections, and taking inventory of all the things that we’d like to see get done. Then we took an inventory of materials that need to be rehoused in proper archival containers according to industry standards.

Scholastic keeps two of everything published: one item to archive and one to circulate. One of the many projects for this summer was weeding the shelves for duplicate materials and placing those archival materials in acid-free boxes, interleafing them with acid-free paper, to help preserve the books and printed materials. Right now we are cataloguing and documenting recent acquisitions and still physically pulling those books and materials off the shelves that need to be shipped offsite for preservation. At every step we have kept in mind what is feasible in terms of time and space constraints, and user needs.

Another project was making an inventory of boxes of posters that the archive acquired from the reading clubs when those offices moved within the building earlier this year. The boxes contained myriad of posters from the 1960s to the 1990s, such as kittens and puppies with a variety of holiday messages and posters of ‘90s boy bands, nostalgic for those of us when the Backstreet Boys and 98° Degrees ruled teenage hearts! There were also posters showing the ‘90s pop culture celebrities proclaiming the joys of reading – Hammer Time is Reading Time!

Our days in the archives are measured by cubic linear feet. Time suspends for us as we delve into boxes, move through shelves, and pack up boxes. Often times our days are spent weighing the practical realities with the hypothetical possibilities. Yes, as librarians and archivists we like order, but more than that we also like to preserve things for the future.