Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Sarah Carrier, North Carolina Subject Librarian at Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
I am the North Carolina subject librarian at Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill, and I have been in this role since 2015. I support research related to the history, people, and culture of the state of North Carolina. I also teach on this subject utilizing our special collections: I and my colleagues in Research and Instructional Services collaborate with faculty and instructors on campus to curate sessions for students in our learning spaces. We are especially invested in engaging our undergraduates, but my work supports anyone interested in the subject of North Carolina, so this work goes well beyond campus. I also do a lot of outreach with K-12 students and teachers as well, working on integrating primary sources into the curriculum of public schools. At Wilson we not only have a fantastic Rare Book Collection, but a collecting focus on the American South, so we therefore have North Carolina material across all of the collecting areas. This means that I get to work with photographs, maps, artifacts, manuscripts, as well as print, and this makes my job really fun and interesting.
How did you get started in rare books?
My first job in an academic library was at UNC-Chapel Hill working in the Serials department preparing materials for binding and working at the current periodicals help desk. This was when I was an undergraduate. So my career in academic libraries has been pretty long, but a very non-linear path brought me to special collections. I had already been working in the UNC-Chapel Hill libraries for some years before I went to library school, and my classes were really diverse, mainly focused on knowledge organization and metadata. Overall I've now had experience in serials, acquisitions, circulation, and even systems. But where my career in special collections began was as the reading room manager at Duke's Rubenstein Library. I had been interested in special collections, but what primarily drove me to that job was experience with and dedication to public services. Through that experience at the Rubenstein, I realized that I was where I wanted to be for the rest of my career: in special collections.
Where did you earn your MLS?
School of Information and Library Science, UNC-Chapel Hill
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?
Difficult to say, but I suppose that one of my most favorite items in the North Carolina Collection are our editions of Mark Catesby's two volume The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, some of the first published depictions of North American flora and fauna. The hand coloring is incredibly vibrant and truly beautiful.
What do you personally collect?
I personally collect many things - probably too many things! I eagerly collect vinyl records, artwork by my friends, mid-century furniture and kitchenware (mostly Danish), vintage clothing. I also collect North Caroliniana of all sorts, if it fits into my budget. So that means printed material, knick knacks, ephemera, and collectibles. One example are kitschy "North Carolina" decorative plates for the walls of my house. I also have a lot of musical instruments of all kinds, but acquiring those was not always intentional.
What do you like to do outside of work?
In my spare time I work in my yard - technically my first career was as a gardener, as my first job as a teenager was at a local nursery. I ride horses (hunter/jumper). I love being outside - here in North Carolina we have a lot of beautiful natural settings not too far away from any one place. I play the records I collect at local clubs sometimes. For most of my adult life, I have also partaken in college and low-power radio communities.
What excites you about rare book librarianship?
I love pondering the life of an individual item, considering who once owned it, held it, and used it before it came to us. I am especially excited whenever I find ownership markings, names scribbled inside front covers, and to then try and find out more about that person. In the North Carolina Collection we have a lot of primers and schoolbooks with young people drawing inside of them, practicing their script and penmanship. I was always told not to write in my books, but in this case, I am always glad that they did! In addition to this, I am especially privileged to be a North Carolina librarian and able to connect people from the state to their history: the connection between people, our history, and the material is especially lively and personal as a result.
Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?
I am very excited by the possibilities of Digital Humanities work. One aspect that really intrigues me is that through the non-linear structure of a website, for example, narratives can be presented in a multiplicity of ways, and viewers can interact with the scholarship in new, even spontaneous or unanticipated ways. I am seeking to learn more about text analysis as a way to further my own scholarship in Southern Studies and learn about tools that can help my researchers as well. If the material is presented online via the right platform that allows user-contributed content, the intriguing opportunity is there for collaboration with a potentially international audience.
Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?
In the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library we hold an astounding variety and array of maps depicting the state, everything from rare maps from the Age of Exploration to 20th century railroad maps, and every genre and subject matter in between. A highlight from our collection is our extensive holdings of Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of North Carolina - these are invaluable for all kinds of research. We have a wide variety of our maps digitized and online as well: http://web.lib.unc.edu/nc-maps/
Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?
The 400th anniversary of Sir Walter Raleigh's death will be marked by an exhibit and symposium in September 2018 and hosted by Wilson Library. Sir Walter Raleigh materials abound in the North Carolina Collection, and a selection will be put on display for the event, which will host historians, cartographers, and literary historians. One item that will surely be on display is our original manuscript of Raleigh's commission for the Guyana voyage issued and signed by by King James I.
[Image provided by Sarah Carrier]