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By Dale E. Schaffer and Public Collectors
Chicago, IL, Public Collectors, 2017
Pages: 40
Dimensions: 5.5 in X 8.5 in
Cover: Paper
Binding: staplebound
Process: Color offset and two-color Risograph
Color: full color offset and two-color Risograph throughout
Edition size: 520
ISBN: none

Library Excavations #5 is a complete reprint of a self-published booklet from 1977 titled A Handbook of Library Ideas by Dale E. Shaffer. After previous issues that were heavy on images, this one is all text with 156 ideas for libraries.

Shaffer writes, “The best ideas are the ideas that help people” and this handbook imagines a society where libraries deeply value and serve everyone in numerous imaginative ways. The desire to empower those who lack skills and resources, and to provide tools and information­—as well as creative opportunities for play—drew me to this wonderful booklet. Each entry begs its own longer publication about the idea’s execution and its results. While some suggestions could now be resolved with the internet or other technologies, many of the ideas feel more compelling than ever because they’d force us to revisit old ways of discovering and learning.  At a time when millions of people are being cut off from many kinds of state support in the U.S., we need guides like this that propose more progressive and generous possibilities for all.   

Dale E. Shaffer died in 2009 at the age of 80. He wrote many booklets consulting for libraries, as well as 28 books specifically on the history of Salem, Ohio. In 2012, a research library at the Salem Historical Society was dedicated in his honor.

Some sample ideas from the booklet:

Libraries now loan small, caged animals free of charge for one or two weeks. Included are hamsters, rodents, pigs, snakes, and sometimes pregnant animals. A taped instruction cassette is loaned with each animal. Because of the borrowers being two and three-year-old toddlers, consent of an adult is required. The program teaches children about kindness and leads them to books about animals.

Teenagers are provided with a specially-decorated young adult room for jam sessions. The teenagers paint it, decorate it, and are responsible for maintaining it. The “jams” are held at scheduled times.

Library cards in the cookbook files are treated with “microfragrance”, a chemical that releases the aroma of the card’s subject when scratched. By scratching the card under he subject “garlic”, for example, the patron receives a strong whiff of the potent herb. Other scents include leather, cheese, carnation, pizza, and strawberry.

Some libraries add a library message to their postage meters. A contest may be held to select the best slogan. The winner receives a free dinner.

A professionally trained African dance troupe, sponsored by a public library, tours the state in a van. Besides providing bookmobile service to migrant labor camps, the library offers Spanish-speaking laborers instruction in “survival English”, including a vocabulary for arranging car repairs.

A unique feature of one public library is its garden for the blind. The garden is specially built so that handicapped people can negotiate on foot or in wheelchairs and easily read the large-print identifications. Included are many flowers, plants, and shrubs for the blind to touch and smell. Talking books, tapes, and large-print materials are available for the person seeking additional information.

Library Excavations is a project and publication series that highlights and activates physical materials found in public libraries. Public Collectors prefers direct experiences of physical media over the digital. Library Excavations encourages intensive browsing of paper and print resources, particularly those that are under-utilized, or at risk of being withdrawn and discarded.

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