I recently had a conversation with our new Rare Books & Manuscripts Librarian Brittany Kropf. Brittany recently started working at the Indiana State Library full-time and was an intern here while she studied at IUPUI in the Master of Library Science program. The following is an excerpt from our interview.
RB: Please give a brief description of what your job is at the library…
BK: I work a lot with the Rare Books and Manuscripts collection, processing and getting them ready for patrons to access. Eventually we will be getting more collections, so I will be working with donors and any events that we need to do. Also, I’ll be helping digitize a lot of our collections. Part of my job is going to be working with the state-wide services side – Indiana Memory – and be the liaison between them and the public services. We will put together work flows and standardized procedures so that we can get materials digitized for the future.
RB: Why become a librarian? What attracted you to the profession?
BK: [Chuckling] If I told you that Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my hero and he was a librarian? Uh, no…although I do…really enjoy that. Yeah, that’s the coolest job ever. No, I really love reading. I have from a young age and history became one of my loves. I love stories…especially true stories about the odd-balls and the underdogs and fringe groups. So those are the kind of things I’m interested in, and I get to be a part of documenting and preserving history, making materials of enduring value available for current and future generations.
RB: Do you read a lot of vampire novels?
RB: How many vampires did you slay in the past year?
BK: Two point five.
RB: Two point five? [Laughing] Is that a half vampire?
BK: [Laughing] A demi-vampire.
RB: Where did you work before ISL? Take me through the process of becoming a librarian and coming to the state library.
BK: I actually just graduated from IUPUI back in August. I got my master’s in public history and library science. Up to that point, I was working on a grant-funded digitization project at the Indiana Historical Society. That ended back in January, so I was looking for something else. I had worked as an intern here. I worked under Bethany Fiechter and I ended up doing the Civil War exhibit last May . I curated that and it was kind of a surprise project that I got to work on. It was a really great learning opportunity, so I stayed on as a volunteer. I really liked it here. I liked everything everyone was doing. I like the changes that are happening. So, when this job came open, I applied and here I am.
RB: For people that don’t know…help explain what the difference is between the collections at the Indiana State Library and the collections at the Indiana Historical Society.
BK: If we are talking manuscripts…they are, in a lot of ways very similar. We are both documenting Indiana history. We have personal papers from individuals, notable Hoosiers, different organizations, different collections on various topics that have to do with Indiana history. Honestly, I think the main difference is that we are a public organization. We are part of the state of Indiana and they are a private institution. They are very closely related, you know they used to share this building at one point. The collections are pretty close when you talk about manuscripts, it’s just different ones. We can’t all collect everything. There is no way. We just don’t have the resources or space. So, we are all just working together to preserve Indiana history.
RB: So, would you say that it is a symbiotic relationship?
BK: I hope so. I would say that we strive for that.
RB: What do you like doing outside of working at the library?
BK: I love to read. I like to hang out with my friends. I like to go to movies. If I have the time and money, I love to travel. A year ago I was in France and Amsterdam over Christmas with my cousin. I have been several places in Europe. I spent a semester in Greece. I would like to go to Asia. That is kinda my next goal. I would like to go to Thailand and Japan. But, we will see when that happens.
RB: Is there a genre or specific author that you enjoy most?
BK: I am definitely a fantasy person. The classic authors too…J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchet – Terry Pratchett died recently, it is very sad – Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling. I like stories. I like things that stir the imagination.
RB: Does that transfer over to your taste in film as well?
BK: Somewhat…I think that is almost broader sometimes. With films, I like everything from the classics to action, comedies, rom-coms, you know…pretty much anything except for horror. I don’t like horror.
RB: Oh really? How come?
BK: Too much of an imagination. I scare myself.
RB: Oh…I had a friend of mine in college…I was going to Ball State at the time and working at Greek’s Pizza so sometimes I would get off work at two or three in the morning. I would bring over a pizza and we would rent bad horror movies from Family Video. You could get two videos for a dollar at the time – on VHS of course. We would try to find the worst horror movies we could find, just terrible productions. We were both T-COM majors studying audio and video production, so we would watch these bad horror films and get a laugh out of the production quality. My favorite…the worst of the worst…is a film called “Blood Shack” that contains a 30 minute inner-monologue that takes place at a rodeo that has nothing to do with the rest of the film. It was really bizarre. So, if you ever have a couple of hours to waste, “Blood Shack” is the film to waste it on.
BK: Got it. Sounds like Bollywood. They’re singing, they’re dancing…it’s all in Hindi and then suddenly they cut to something completely unrelated and you’re like, “what just happened.”
RB: Is there anything you would like to close with to encourage people to visit the state library?
BK: I would like to say that we have really great unknown…I would almost call them treasures here. I want people to come and explore. It can be kind of hard to do because we have closed stacks, you can’t just go up to a shelf and say, “that looks amazing.” But, hopefully we will be able to help encourage that in the future with all of the changes we are making, making collections available online, and trying to raise more public awareness of all amazing things we have here. Things that a lot people don’t know we have – probably even people in the building don’t know we have.
RB: Is there any item that you have seen so far that caught your attention.
BK: I just browsed through the rare books recently and I found this tiny pocket-sized copy of La Constitution Française from 1791. It would have been two years into the French Revolution and I bet they were just publishing these tiny little pocket versions for the regular citizen and I think that is just a great little historical artifact we have here.
This blog post was written by Ryan Brown, Director of Communications, Indiana State Library.