Welcome to the Philatelic Literature Review for the third quarter! If you are a long-time subscriber, I thank you. If this is your first issue, I hope you will stay with us.
I was confirmed president of the board of trustees for the American Philatelic Research Library at the end of August at the Great American Stamp Show in Sacramento, California. I would like to take part of this column to give you an introduction.
In 2019, when I ran to become a trustee, many people asked me if I had a library background. I said no, I just have an interest in libraries and in this one because it is connected to our marvelous hobby. The APRL is a wonderful resource for exhibitors and those who simply want to research a favorite stamp or learn more about an aspect of the hobby. The range of digital and print materials go into great detail on a broad range of topics, many of which could not be found in a non-specialty library. I still believe the APRL is a hidden gem. Not nearly enough members and non-members use its services. A great opportunity exists to become the top philatelic library in the world.
My background is in journalism. I have a bachelor’s degree in communication arts and French from Hood College and a master’s degree in business journalism from Northwestern University. I studied abroad in Strasbourg, France, for a full year. During graduate school, I interned for Bloomberg News in Hong Kong.
Professionally, I have had a varied career with jobs in journalism, marketing, public relations and pharmaceuticals, which is where I work today. I am currently a senior manager at the Japan-based company Astellas in Illinois. Astellas makes medications for leukemia, prostate cancer and urinary incontinence among others. I am the system lead for a global document management system. We store documents for quality assurance, information systems, supply chain and chemistry, manufacturing and controls. On a daily basis, I interact with colleagues in multiple countries. No two days are the same.
For almost 10 years now, I have been active in organized philately and have collected stamps on and off since I was 10 years old. I have served the Chicago Philatelic Society, Germany Philatelic Society Chapter No. 5 and the Collectors Club of Chicago as secretary. Prior to my current role on the APRL board, I contributed as secretary there, too. I continue to serve as publicity chair for the Chicagopex stamp show, one of the top World Series of Philately events annually. I appreciate the variety of people I have met in the hobby and feel a strong sense of community the longer I am in the hobby.
Now that you know more about me, I would like to describe some goals I have for the APRL. These are goals I hope to partner with the other trustees on as well as those with a strong affinity for the library.
The APRL is in a great position in terms of the building mortgage after it was paid off in 2020. For a long time, this was a key goal for the board of trustees and those with a strong interest in the library’s well-being. Now that that obligation is complete, we can look forward to further strengthening the library.
In conjunction with the other trustees and Administrator Scott English, I am looking to advance the library in a number of ways. Even if you are not on the board of trustees, there are ways you can help.
- Visibility – As a PLR reader, you are likely strongly vested in the library and want it to succeed. But the PLR has a relatively small audience compared with the size of the APS membership. I would like to see awareness of the library grow in terms of increasing the number of members and non-members who use the library’s range of services, including borrowing books, searching in the digital collection and contacting the staff to conduct research on one’s behalf, which may result in scanned images or paper copies. The more people who are aware of the library and its services, the more beneficial the library will be to the APS membership as a whole.
How do we increase visibility? One way is to strengthen the PLR and increase the range of voices that shine in its pages. If you are a long-time reader and have an idea for an article, you should contact Editor-in-Chief Susanna Mills and discuss it with her. Even if you do not write on a regular basis, we would love to see new writers contribute. And you will not be on your own – the PLR editorial team is glad to work with you.
Another opportunity lies with the APS website and social media. From time to time, the library staff contributes content to the APS website, which is then shared on APS social media. Another source of content comes from promoting PLR stories on social media. The library’s Twitter account has been put on pause with the intent to create a stronger APS presence. While I personally would like to see the library’s social media revived, so long as that is not the case, I encourage those of you who are on social media to share library-related content when you see it posted on the APS Twitter and Facebook accounts and to “like it” on Instagram.
If you visit the library, try to document your visit – take pictures with the staff and of the research you are doing and share it online and with your friends and family. Every bit of communication helps raise awareness that the APRL is available and a treasure to benefit many people, both inside and outside the APS.
2. Sustainability – This goal is two-fold: financial and environmental.
a. Financial: Yes, we paid off the mortgage for the American Philatelic Center, many years early, which is a tremendous accomplishment. But there is more that needs to happen to strengthen the library financially. The library has a number of ongoing funding opportunities, such as the Vooys Fellow program – featured in this edition of the PLR – in which participants contribute $5,000 over five years. Those funds are invested and used to support library operations. We are fortunate to have had a good number of members become Vooys Fellows during the pandemic, and we are always grateful for more.
While many funds have been allocated for initiating a digital collection, additional funding is needed to sustain it; specifically to support licensing for online access and to pay to store the scanned, searchable materials on servers and backups. We need to look at these costs as recurring and ongoing and plan for them. If you donate to the APRL, consider stipulating that your donation go toward maintenance of the digital library. We also encourage you to donate to another area of the library that holds a special place in your heart. There are lots of opportunities.
b. Environmental: Here, I am looking to enhance the environmental footprint of the American Philatelic Center. There are opportunities to make the APC more energy efficient, which will lead to financial savings. I will recommend to the board to explore what is involved in obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. We are in the early stages of this goal, and the board of trustees will learn more before taking action and determining next steps.
3. Digitization – Some of you may be wondering why this one came last in the list of goals. I believe the first two goals feed into this one. Increasing awareness of the library will lead to more people using the digital holdings and contributing via donations. Further, we need to be in a strong financial position in order to support digitizing more content as well as maintaining and enhancing what is already in place.
Previously, the APRL was fortunate to be the beneficiary of the Robert A. Mason Estate, whose sale is expected to generate at least $200,000 for digitization. With gratitude, APRL named the digital library in his honor. Other funding for digitizing the collection has been obtained through Giving Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday as well as the Stamp Soiree at the Great American Stamp Show and its precursor.
But we do not have to wait for a special occasion to support the digitization effort. Folks can donate at any time – financially and by volunteering. Building a robust digital collection involves not only scanning material and making it searchable but also creating entries in the online catalog, which is a great opportunity for volunteerism. You don’t have to be at the APRL in person to do it. You can participate from the comfort of your home, regardless of where you live. If you would like to learn more about being a volunteer to add entries to the online catalog, please email email@example.com, and a library staffer will contact you with details.
Thank you for taking the time to read my first column. I look forward to working with my fellow trustees, the executive director, the APRL team and the many fans of the library to continue the conversation.