The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Q & A: Melanie Dyer, Research and Outreach Librarian

2013-08-05 13.37.16If you’ve been to our Reading Rooms this summer, you might have already had a chance to meet Melanie Dyer, our new Research and Outreach Librarian. But even if you don’t regularly make it in to the Library, you’ll soon have a chance to avail yourself of her handiwork as she starts developing guides to our resources, including our online materials. Melanie comes to the Folger with a wide range of experiences in the library, rare books, and online learning worlds. She’s worked in the Harvard University Archives, at Christie’s and at Gray’s Auctioneers, and at Strayer University and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. We’re excited about having her join our staff and bringing her wealth of knowledge to helping us help you! 

Welcome to the Folger! First, what exactly does a Research and Outreach Librarian do?

Thanks. I’m happy to be here. The role of the Research and Outreach Librarian is to provide research services support to researchers who are onsite and who are working remotely. That involves developing online instructional tools to introduce some of the great resources we have here at the Folger, aiding researchers in the navigation and use of these resources, and instructing new readers in Reading Room policies and procedures. You’ll also see me at the Reading Room desk and assisting with group tours and demonstrations.

Are there any new resources you’re hoping to create here?

I am working now on a booklet for new readers highlighting all the important elements of conducting research at the Folger. It will hopefully serve as sort of a one-stop shop to provide information about our collections, how to retrieve materials, handling policies, and so on. For new readers, entering a place like the Folger can perhaps be a bit overwhelming, so having a go-to guide will be very helpful, I think.

Eventually, I’d love to create some easy-to-use tools for some of our online resources. Many of the databases that the Folger subscribes to are full of great information, but they’re not always very user-friendly. Some simple instructions and tips can go a long way in increasing usage of these databases, as well as providing a richer research experience for our readers.

Let’s not forget the print resources, too. Highlighting some of the reference collection, bibliographies, etc. can also be quite useful. It’s all about guiding readers to where they need to be, and if necessary, introducing them to new resources in the most straightforward manner possible.

Have you come across any helpful resources our readers should know about that seem particularly underused?

I’m still getting a feel for what readers are using and what’s confusing to them, but State Papers Online: The Government of Britain, 1509-1714 is a great online resource that the Folger makes available to readers. Not only does it include the over 3 million documents relating to the Tudor and Stuart governments, it also provides users with numerous research tools like glossaries, genealogies, and links to related resources. The database  provides useful materials that complement the Folger’s collections.

Do you have any favorite discoveries you’ve made at the Folger?

That’s such a tough question. It’s amazing to walk into this building every day and spend it in the Reading Room and stacks. For someone in my profession, there is no better place to be. Being in the Reading Room, it’s fun for me to see what readers are looking at. A beautiful binding or a unique title will never fail to catch my eye.

I have always been interested in provenance—it’s a fascinating aspect of an object’s history. One of the things that has fascinated me in the short time I have been here are the meticulous records Mr. and Mrs. Folger kept. There’s a level of detail there that I didn’t expect, and it provides a window into how they put together such a remarkable collection.

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