By: Katharina Deiter
You can’t judge a book by its cover– particularly the 195,000 books, more or less, at the IAIA library. Though small, the library boasts an extensive collection that ranges from Native American art and culture to graphic design, the classics, and a sizable DVD section.
“I think one of the things that happens with our library, and I do this too, is thinking that it’s so small that it doesn’t have what I’m looking for,” said Library Director Valerie Nye.
The library buys books with the IAIA students in mind, Nye said. More often than not, they do have what people are looking for. If it turns out they don’t, they will almost always order it for the student.
The library has 150,000 electronic books that are downloadable from the Internet,. Just to get the scale of things, they have about 45,000 books on the shelf.
“We have a password-protected library on Blackboard where students can access it,” said Nye. “There’s a three or four month checkout period so they don’t expire off your device during the semester.”
Something for Everybody
Many teachers at IAIA take advantage of the library’s abundant resources. From providing a quiet, in-class workspace to hunting for the material that students need to succeed in class, the library works to provide whatever is necessary to meet students’ and teachers’ needs.
“I use the library for personal research for both art and academics,” said Indigenous liberal studies professor, Stephen Wall. He also uses the library for keeping up with the latest journals and articles as well as identifying class materials, looking for resources, and making material available to students through “on reserve” check-out status.
Outside of class time, students come for a quiet space to study, according to Nye. The peaceful atmosphere and interesting books in the library are an additional selling point for others.
“I go to the library for the quietness and the ambience in there,” said IAIA student, Terrance Clifford, “The atmosphere is stimulating to the mind. I also go there to read.”
Not Scared of Questions
The librarians are open to specific questions””in fact, that’s exactly what they’re looking for.
Interested in horror? The librarians will help you find what you’re looking for. Although the material might not be all in one place, the library is there to help you find it all.
“The way our library is organized sometimes you’ll find a section and you’ll think ”˜Oh I found the section that is me and everything I’m interested in,'” said Nye. “But it’s also possible just the way things get organized that there could be two or three sections that are really relevant to what you’re looking for.”
She added, “We don’t always know the answer, but we know where to find it.”
More Than Books
But books aren’t the only assets the library has.
Music is one section of the library that may not come to mind when perusing books. The library has a record room complete with a record player in the study section.
Nye encourages people to bring their own records to listen to as well as explore the selection of donated LPs available, which range from jazz to traditional powwow music.
She added that IAIA students should also check out the library’s large CD collection next to the DVDs, which are an oft-overlooked section of the library, themselves.
As far as Native American and independent films go, the librarians try to order the most current films on contemporary topics and issues related to Native American communities.
“I think that’s definitely a hidden gem,” said Nye.
And There’s More…
The library also has a large collection of late 19th and early 20th century photographs of Native peoples and their communities, according to Librarian Jenni James. The photographs come from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives.
About a third of the collection is shelved in the NC (non-circulating) area and available for use in the library. A fun fact, she adds, is that students often find photos of family members and are able to provide additional information for the images.
In addition to the physical resources, the library also holds programs that students can attend.
The library has hosted the MFA creative writing student readings for the past year and a half. The readings are usually once a month on Tuesdays at 4 p.m. They also have special programs.
“Last year for Valentine’s Day we had an origami class, which was fun, said Nye, “One of the ways we encourage conversation and people to come in is our sign out in front of the library with different questions on it every week so people can come in and answer the question and see how other people have responded to it.”
About the Librarians
Nye and James are among the six librarians that work at the library. They exude passion about helping students find the material that they need as well as appreciating the library’s resources themselves.
“I’ve been working here for three and a half years and I have to say my favorite section is the art books,” said Nye. “I love walking up and down the aisles and being able to see the spines of the books and pulling books off the shelf that look interesting. I love to walk down that aisle and just feel inspired by that.”
Librarian Jennifer James, who has worked in the library for almost 20 years, said that her favorite part of the library is the arts section””specifically the books on textiles and beads.
“We really want to help students succeed in their studies here at IAIA,” said James. “We encourage everyone to ask us for help at any time.”
(Featured Image: The IAIA Library. Photo by Katharina Deiter)