By Paul Vinelli
Most people walk into the Giamatti Research Center after spending hours absorbing the Hall of Fame’s exhibits. The Museum covers an immense spectrum of baseball and its relationship with society and culture; thus, the questions we handle range from broad to incredibly specific. For example, I’ve been asked whether Eddie Collins hit left-handed (easy) and who invented baseball (a debate that’s raged for quite awhile). We also prepare materials for historians, sociologists, stats devotees, and families seeking information on a relative who played in the minors in the early 20th century. Given the colossal amount of baseball history, we often have no idea what’s coming next – but we do know that our patrons will be very passionate about the information they are seeking.
This is my first time working as a librarian, so when I began the internship, every question induced personal panic. I felt like I had to know the answers immediately, or to at least deliver them within two to three minutes. I’m now learning the fundamentals of the reference interview, and how to use techniques to induce informal conversations – if a patron walks in wearing a Yankees jersey, I can gush about how Mariano Rivera dominates using his cut fastball. This repartee helps prepare the fan to ask questions, but also establishes a valuable customer service relationship.
Our library director has a motto that I’ve taken to heart (and occasionally said aloud): “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I can look it up.” I’ve spent years working as an academic and professional researcher, so I’m learning to trust my instinct to dig. Nevertheless, the hardest thing to accept is if I don’t have an answer to a patron’s question, that’s perfectly fine – I can at minimum direct folks to additional institutions and resources.
If you work as an intern at the Hall of Fame, you get to see some really cool stuff. The Hall only has about 10 percent of its collection on display at any given time, so there are priceless behind-the-scenes artifacts that have blown my mind. I personally like the storytelling of baseball, which has made my job in the library especially rewarding.
Paul Vinelli is a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information and a Member of the Class of 2013 with the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the Hall of Fame