“The wise don’t give the right answers, they pose the right questions.” - Claude Levi-Strauss
Back in February, following a similar virtual event by Director of Expertizing Services Ken Martin, I was privileged to take part in an “Ask Me Anything” virtual session in which anyone interested in the APRL could ask questions regarding the library. The event turned out to be a very productive and informative one for both those who attended and myself, personally.
Using the event as a stepping stone, I will here answer some of the questions that came up during the interactive session in February. Hopefully these questions and their answers may be of help for everyone.
I don’t live locally and visiting the library isn’t possible for me. Given that, can I and how do I borrow items from the library? Also, what items can I borrow?
Yes, one of the principal benefits of APS membership is that you can borrow items from the library either in-person or remotely. In either case, however, you must be a member in order to borrow from the library. The simplest way to borrow something remotely is to contact us at lib[email protected] or to go to the homepage of the online catalog (http://1549.sydneyplus.com/final/Portal.aspx) and click on “Submit a Request” link (Figure 1) in the upper left of the page to fill out a request form.
Figure 1. The “Submit a Request” link on the online catalog homepage.
In term of items you can borrow, you can borrow books, journal issues, stamp catalogs, auction catalogs, name sales, government documents, exhibits and more. Items that can’t be borrowed are those in our archival/special collections and rare books room. These and some others must be used in person in the library due to their rarity and in some cases fragile condition.
How do I go about submitting a request to the library? How long does it take for the library to acknowledge a request and then to fulfill a request?
Sending an email to [email protected] is the simplest way and the “Submit a Request” link in the online catalog also works. We acknowledge the receipt of requests received within 24 hours. If you do not receive an acknowledgement within that time, please contact us again, as sometimes emails or phone messages can get misdirected or lost and a lack of acknowledgement usually means the initial request may not have reached us.
In terms of fulfilling a request, if the request is for borrowing an item or items, or for a smaller number of copies (scans or photocopies), those can usually be fulfilled within 24 to 36 hours. Requests involving further research can take longer, three to five days or more, depending on what is being asked.
What are the different types of requests that the library receives?
Requests vary from borrowing items; to identifying a stamp in a stamp catalog and providing values; to the aforementioned copies of articles, book sections, or auction listings; to more complex research requests that involve consulting a wide variety of sources and may include both copies and the borrowing of material from the library.
How does copyright affect how you can answer certain requests?
The library is permitted under the provisions of fair use and as an educational entity to make copies for patrons from books, journals, etc. for educational use only. However, we are limited as to the extent of what we can provide in terms of copied material. In a nutshell, due to copyright we cannot provide copies of a complete work regardless of its length, it can only be a very small percentage of the entire work (for example an article in a journal or a small chapter in a book). Copyright is much more complicated issue than cannot be fully delineated here, but in case of requests for copies from the library that we cannot fulfill due to this provision, we explain why we cannot fulfill the request as submitted and then offer you any alternatives we can make in order to fulfill your request.
Are there fees for library services that I should be aware of?
Yes, we do have minimal charges for our services and a listing of those service fees can be found on the library website here: https://stamps.org/services/library/library-services. The fees (Figure 2) are mainly to cover postage (in the case of borrowing) and some administration costs (in the case of copies and research). It is also important to note that library services fees for members are cheaper than those for non-APS members (in the case of copies and research).
Figure 2. Table of library service fees on the APRL section of the APS website.
I have some materials that I no longer need in my own philatelic library, how do I go about donating material to the library? What items do you accept? What items do you not need? What do you do with items you receive that you don’t need?
As a library in which 90 percent of the collection is made up of donated material, we always welcome people reaching out with offers of donating literature to us. However, in order for us to make the best use of the shelf space we have to ensure that donated items fit within the subject scope of the collection and to identify those items that are truly needed, we always ask that donors contact us first before sending items to us. That way we can ensure that the items are needed and in turn save the donor some postage.
As an addendum to this latter point, we don’t as a matter of course, pay for the postage to send donations to us, nor have the wherewithal in most cases to pick up items for donation. In certain very rare cases we can consider either option if the donation is deemed significant enough, but in most instances, we do not provide compensation or transportation for donations.
In terms of items we don’t need for the collection, in a general sense that would include many of the major stamp journals (The American Philatelist, Linn’s Stamp News, Collectors Club Philatelist, London Philatelist, etc.), general philatelic books (guides to stamp collecting, etc.) and many of the major domestic (i.e. U.S.) auction catalogs. On the other hand, we are always interested in some of the more rare or unique stamp journals, books about more specialized topics in philately, and auction catalogs from non-U.S. auction firms.
In terms of what we do with items that are donated that we don’t need, these are either offered to other philatelic libraries or re-purposed for resale in our used book inventory available to see and purchase by clicking on the “Used Books for Sale” tab in the online catalog.
I want to assist and support the library in some way, how do I go about doing that?
There are a number of ways to support the library either financially or otherwise. Volunteering, either remotely or in person, assists us with tasks that the staff cannot always get to because of other duties. Contact the library at [email protected] for more information.
Financially, donations are always welcome. Either small or large, every dollar helps us with the goals of the library, especially digitization. Other opportunities include subscribing to the Philatelic Literature Review, or becoming a Sustaining, Contributing, Life or Patron member of the library or even a Vooys Fellow (https://classic.stamps.org/Vooys-Fellow). There are also naming opportunities in the library where a shelf, collection or other areas of the library can be memorialized with a contribution (https://classic.stamps.org/Library-Naming). All go a long way in supporting the library and its mission.
In future columns I will answer more of the questions that were received during the Ask Me Anything session as well as questions I receive from patrons in my emails and phone messages. As for future library Ask Me Anything’s, the goal is to have further virtual events like this again later this year. As those are scheduled we will provide details both here and on the APS website.