In our final farewell post to our graduating student assistants, view the previous post by Mary Kate here, Blaise Denton and Shelby Yant reflect on their experience in Special Collections. Both work exclusively in Special Collections with our rare books, manuscripts, historical artifacts, Napoleon, Shaw and various other collections. I should also add that both have found time, between graduate school, to stay with us for part of the summer. And we are happy to have them for a bit longer.
“My name is Blaise Denton and I have been working here for a little under two years. I had walked into Special Collections before, but been scared off by an unfriendly and perhaps confused receptionist. When I came back for my interview, Lisa Girard was so friendly and painted such a glowing picture of Special Collections, I was excited to work here. My first week I went through the Special Collections Vault, pulling out and examining the rarest and most valuable books in the collection. It was incredible. There were ancient pirate biographies, 4,500 year old stone sale receipts and [Salvador] Dali paintings. It was like being in a museum, except you can touch the art and you’re getting paid. The artists’ books are definitely my favorite collections. All the books that fit under N7433 are designed less to be read but more as pieces of art. They’re beautifully made and bizarrely interesting.
After graduation I am hoping to go to graduate school here at FSU, for Urban Planning and Public Administration. I am going to be very sad to leave Special Collections. This is by far the best job I’ve ever had. If there were one thing I wish more people knew about Special Collections it would be that we want you to come in and we are happy when you get to look at something unique.”
“Prior to working at FSU’s Archives and Special Collections, I was a little apprehensive about applying for the job. While I loved all literature, I knew very little about what occurred “behind the scenes” of a library and did not feel completely qualified to fill the position. As I began my work, throughout the following months, I immediately felt at ease. Although I did not know the ins and outs of Library Science my supervisor Lisa Girard, as well as other staff, showed me all that I needed to know. I felt welcomed, supported and appreciated and to this day I feel that is what facilitated my growth of knowledge and passion in this field.
I generally love the items that are located in the vault. My favorite book however is volume one of A General History of the Pyrates from 1724. On my mother’s side of the family, one of our ancestors is Bartholomew Roberts- a notorious pirate. It was incredible getting to read all of the family stories about him in this book! I would say that my favorite project is any sort of reshelving or pulling a work for a patron. It is like a scavenger hunt replacing an item or looking for the call number! I tend to make a game out of anything.
Working in Special Collections helped me to develop a deeper appreciation for the text I read as an English Literature major. The ability to know firsthand about how books were created during the Renaissance, for example, is simply priceless. After graduation, I plan on staying in Tallahassee and continuing to work in Special Collections until the end of July. Then, I intend on moving to Jacksonville to attend the University of North Florida for my MA in English. Eventually I hope to teach high school English, Theatre, and German.
I think that the most important thing that I would want people unfamiliar with Archives and Special Collections to know is simply all that we have to offer and how easily accessible everything is. I tell people all the time about the amazing glimpses into history that I get to hold (with utmost caution, of course!) in my hands, and that the same materials are available to them as well! People think that we only have very old and specific books, but our variety spans centuries and it is always growing!”