Meet Scott Tiffney
Erin: What is your job title and what do you do at APS?
Scott: I am the Director of Information Services and Librarian at the American Philatelic Research Library. I oversee the collection, the staff, budgeting, and our library services and operations, making sure the library is growing and we have the resources and services to serve those who use the library. There are many other minor things that I do as part of my duties and to help out with our mission and a lot of other duties we all share in while working in the library as well.
How long have you worked for APRL?
So I just came up on about 7 1/2 years of actually working in the library. I volunteered for about a year and a half before that, so I've been with the APRL in one form or another for about 9 years.
Oh, I didn't realize it was that long.
I started as a volunteer here. I had worked with the National Park Service before I started here. I did a project for the NPS for about 8 1/2 years. It involved setting up libraries for national parks as well as their digital presence for their libraries online. I started being responsible for 12 national parks and by its end for 31 national parks, mostly in the northeast. In time, funding for that project eventually dried up and after 8 1/2 years I was looking for something different too. I was doing a lot traveling with that job and I didn't want to travel as much anymore. I knew Tara [Murray], the previous library director here at the APRL, and I knew she was always looking for people to come and help so I gave her a call and said I would come down and volunteer, which I ended up doing in the library for about a year and a bit.
What is the best part of your job or a fun part of your job that you can share about?
I never saw myself as an administrator or as a director, but I really do enjoy working with the people I worked with in the library. This includes those who I've worked with previously and those I work with now at the APS and the APRL. They are a really amazing group of people with many talents and different abilities. It's great when you have the opportunity to give somebody a task that they might not like at first but then they start to flourish. It makes me happy to see people find their niche.
The other group of people I really enjoy are those we get to meet in the stamp collecting community - it’s a really fun group of people. I really enjoy going to stamp shows because it’s a great opportunity to talk with people who are in this hobby, who love what they do, love the collecting they do and love to learn more about philately. One of the things I thought I would do before I became a librarian was being a teacher and so it’s great to meet with those who do research and who want to learn. Sometimes I get to teach people and sometimes they teach me as well. So one of the best things is just the people, people that you meet and the people you get to work with.
Scott Tiffney mans the cash register in the Stamp and Cover Shop during Summer Seminar 2019 with Wayne Youngblood, a regular Summer Seminar instructor.
That is a really great sentiment that you are sharing especially since I had a past interview with a YPLF Alumni, Tasos, who said the same thing about appreciating APS and APRL because he had such a meaningful interaction with you that was super impactful.
Tasos and I should make a movie about that trip because I had never met Tasos before, and all he asked me for was a ride back to Bellefonte from Washington, D.C. [where I had been attending the Blount History Symposium at the National Postal Museum that weekend] and I said sure. We talked the whole time during the drive, there wasn't a pause or awkward moment in that whole conversation. I had never met him or knew him before then and it was just a great conversation. We still talk about it, we refer to it as "the conversation" and we have remained good friends since then just because of this one trip back to Bellefonte.
That’s a great memory. It reminds me of that saying... "the proof is in the pudding." Let's see, is there one resource on the website you’d like to highlight for members that is connected to your job?
APRL Digital, which is our digital collection online. Right now it’s in its infancy but it is growing. I'm very proud of it, there are still things we need to tweak and fix, and I would love to hear from members about that. Basically it’s a collection of . . . mostly journals right now, where members can go online and they can view, search, download, and save from the database. One of the things we would like to include going forward are more books in digital form. We have a couple of movies and other items there already, such as maps and exhibits. There is so much room for it to grow but for now, it is a really great resource for philatelic journals. Hopefully, we will have more in the future. Right now we have about 12 journals there and I am working on getting about 14 more this year.
I'm curious about these movies, what kind of movies are in APRL Digital?
There are three movies in there that were donated to the library. The movies are from the 1950s and were produced by the Postal Service. They are sort of period pieces and one of them is about the mail and how little Johnny puts his mail into the mailbox and what happens to it and where it goes from there. There is also a valentine segment in the same movie where the same little boy sends a valentine card to his little sweetheart and the movie traces the path taken by his piece of mail. They are really fun to watch and quite informative for the time period.
It’s so fun to think about all the different mediums there are to learn about stamp collecting and this is a great example of one of the many you have shared. APRL Digital again is a great resource to highlight right now, during this time when many people are at home and could benefit from using it for research or enjoyment.
Are you a stamp collector and if you are what do you collect?
Former APS Chief Financial Officer Rick Banks and Scott Tiffney at the Omaha StampShow in 2019.
I wouldn’t call myself a serious stamp collector; I think when you work where I work, and hear about what others collect, you naturally are curious. I am curious about certain things in philately. I like to collect a little bit of early Canada. I also like the United States special delivery issues, for their artwork especially. When I went to the PIPEX stamp show one year, Cathy Brachbill from our Education Department asked me to film an On-the-Road class there about British Machins. I was fascinated by it, but I quickly realized I was in way over my head trying to understand all the Machin varieties. I’m sure many stamp collectors out there know this, but British Machins are basically the same stamp image but with an infinite number of color varieties. There are subtle color varieties and subtle image changes and to see them and have them explained in such detail was fascinating. While I was filming this class for Cathy, I realized there is a whole level of philately I don’t yet know about but that interests me. We have a series of catalogs in the library, all of which are quite thick, about all the British Machin varieties. It is really an interesting collecting area.
I feel the same way, every day I learn something new and realize the levels of detail that go into each collection. You kind of touched on this before, but can you tell me a little bit more about your interactions with members or a memory with a member that you’d like to share.
I’m fascinated by the different walks of life that people come from to this hobby. The interactions that I really enjoy are those in which I walk away having learned something. Sometimes it’s about stamp collecting or something about the stamps themselves, or even still, about a particular country or person. This learning process for me is fundamental. In this position, I never want to spend a day without learning something or meeting people who are passionate about what they collect, who know some unbelievable detail about what they collect that they want to share. I don’t go a day at the APRL without having an interaction with a collector where I learn something about the hobby. Probably one of the reasons I wound up working in libraries is because you’re around people that want to learn. I’ve always wanted to be around people that share this passion for learning and who I can also learn from, which makes the APRL a great environment to be in.
Thank you for sharing. We have talked a lot about your position at APRL and I would love to hear a fun fact about you that you can share with our members that they might not know about you.
There are a couple of different things I think. Musically I love jazz. Also, in part because I’m Canadian, (maybe not everyone knows that), I love to listen to The Tragically Hip, a band from Kingston, Ontario. Unfortunately, their lead singer Gord Downey just passed away a little while ago - they were and are a fabulous band. I also love hockey, I played it when I was younger and just love the game still and love watching it.
Another thing that members may not know - other than those that saw the APRL Ask-Me-Anything session I did a while back - is that I’m a silent movie buff. I love silent movies: Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, among many others. I enjoy and have had the opportunity to see silent movies with live music performed as well as attending silent movie festivals which I enjoy a lot.
I think it’s really important for our members to get to know staff more and learn some exciting fun facts about us as well.
My love of jazz, it partly came from my father. He loved the song ‘Sweet Georgia Brown.’ For those of you who don’t know the song, the Harlem Globetrotters used it as their theme song for many years. He loved a version that Miles Davis did and I think unknowingly passed that love of the music unto me.
My last question: is there anything else you’d like to share about your job/APS to members?
Just to keep in mind that APRL Digital continues to grow and be sure to send along any questions or comments you may have about it to me. Also, as I always tell members who visit or contact the library, remember that this is your library. We turn the lights on and I’m there in my office but the library is really there for you, for the members. If there are things that you would like to see us doing or items that you’d like for us to have in the library, please give me a call, contact me, drop me an email, whatever works for you. We are there for you and we're not just doing things in the library for our benefit, we are doing them for you. It’s your member benefit, so if there are any ideas or thoughts that you have for the library or the library services that we provide, please let us know. I always try to keep aware of what other philatelic libraries are doing and we try to provide those services and those benefits to our members as well.
I really like that saying, that “It’s your library,” and how you want to make members and visitors feel at home.
This is your library. It's there for you, our members.
How have you transitioned to working from home? What have you been doing since you’ve been working from home?
APRL 2017 staff, from left: Krystal Harter, Tara Murray, J. Baca, Betsy Gamble, and Scott.
Working from home has been great. I have a nice desk and work area in the basement from which to work with my laptop, printer and a scanner. It’s actually a really serviceable area for getting work done other than an occasional cat who decides to walk across my keyboard.
From home I’ve been able to respond to all of the library requests that we’ve received in the library via email or phone since we’ve been closed. Most of them I’ve just been documenting so that we can fully answer them once we’re back, but I have been able to actually answer a few remotely as well. I’ve also been working on my usual writing assignments for the library blog, twitter, the AP and the PLR and some Stamp Chat and Summer Seminar presentations. With Susanna (Mills) and Doris (Wilson) we just finished the first quarter issue of the PLR the other day and it’s now off to the printer and then will be mailed out to subscribers.
Along with that, I’ve been working on the back-end of our digital collections database, APRL Digital, to improve its functionality as well as beginning to prepare our online catalog for its transition to a new platform as well. Finally, I’ve been working with members of the U.S. Classics Society on the upcoming Postal History Symposium here at the APC at the end of October and also making sure each of the members of the library staff have work to do from home as well. The library staff are a great group of people and I’m really lucky to have them and to work with them. They’re very eager to work on just about anything they’re asked to do right now and so have been keeping really busy during this time as well.
When we announced the closure of the American Philatelic Center, members reached out with words of encouragement for the staff in appreciation for all they do. One member wrote, “Please tell them the APS Cares!” APS Cares is something that was born out of one member sharing their hope that staff is supported during this time. We thank them along with many others who have reached out and contributed with their kindness.
What is APS Cares? With our closure, certain services have been suspended, and with that, revenue for the Society. We cannot fully operate programs, like Expertizing, Circuit Sales, StampStore, or the library, but we are doing all we can until the doors open again. When the time comes, we want to be fully prepared to get you back to enjoying every service the APS has to offer as quickly as possible. APS Cares is a fund to allow us to keep our staff working and serving you, from the safety of their homes. APS Cares will go directly to support APS staff salaries or, if we’re able, to reward them at the end of the year for their hard work.
With this hope and support from APS Cares, our staff will be able to continue to bring joy and a place to unwind within in the world of philately. From your extended family at the American Philatelic Society, we offer our appreciation to you for staying connected with us.
If you would like to support APS Cares, you can send a check to:
American Philatelic Society
100 Match Factory Place
Bellefonte, PA 16823
c/o APS Cares
Or Support the APS Staff Online:
Please select APS Cares in the Gift Designation.