By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Mary Miller wishes more people knew about the Havens Resource Center.
Located in the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion at the University of Findlay, just down the hall from the Mazza Museum, the center contains picture books by Mazza authors and artists, reference materials and story kits. Here and there are plush characters made famous in some of these books like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series.
“It is not as well known as we wish it were,” said Miller. “It’s interesting because even our students don’t always know that we’re here.”
Miller is the librarian for the lending library. A former teacher, she taught in all three Findlay junior high schools before earning her certification for library media and moving full time to Donnell Middle School in 1984. She was still working at Donnell when she started volunteering in the Mazza gift shop which, at the time, wasn’t much more than a small closet in the hallway.
When she retired in 2001, she began working in the library under director Jerry Mallett and deputy director Ben Sapp. The library was located in what is now Sapp’s office, she said, and contained between 2,000 and 3,000 volumes.
“And all they were doing was typing them into a spread sheet and giving them an accession number, which is the old-fashioned librarian’s way of processing books,” she explained.
The purpose of the library is to house the books that contain the art in the collection. Initially, organizers wanted three copies of each book. There were no wholesale book sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble then, and a book would go out of print in nine months’ time unless it was an award winner like a Caldecott Medal book. “So we were always concerned, how are we going to get these books?” she said.
As the collection of art grew, the library did, too. And people started donating other books.
“People would say, ‘Well, I have a Steven Kellogg book that you don’t have art for yet, but maybe you will, so I’ll donate that.’ So we would get a lot of peripheral books,” she said.
Miller told Mallett and Sapp that if they wanted to be an academic library, they were going to have to create an online catalog.
“And I volunteered to do that. I’m a librarian at heart, I guess, because I love to catalog. I love it. Which is good, because it’s a little tedious at times,” she said.
Miller was paid in the beginning, but when the funds ran out, she continued as a volunteer. The cataloging process took several years.
At first the books didn’t circulate, said Miller, “because heaven forbid we’d lose them and then how are we going to replace them, because it was so difficult to find them after they go out of print.”
But as more wholesale book sellers came along, it became easier to obtain out-of-print copies.
“And we felt that, what are we doing here? We need to perform a service. We need to let these go out,” said Miller.
The center became a lending library six or seven years ago. The majority of the 7,000 volumes can now be checked out, with the exception of the pop-up books, reference books and rare books, which may only be borrowed by Mazza docents and staff members.
Books with a special art label identify those that contain art that is in the collection. There are also special sections for Caldecott Medal Award winners and international books.
The museum has created 22 artist kits that include information about individual artists such as Marc Brown, author and illustrator of the “Arthur” series, and Maurice Sendak, a Caldecott winner who wrote and illustrated “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Miller said one of her constant jobs is weeding the collection. She also keeps a list of the books they’re trying to find for the center. The idea is to have two copies of these books so when one gets to a point of disrepair, another is on hand. The library has only one copy of some of these books; a list of those needed can be found on the museum’s website.
Any books that are weeded from the collection are given to teachers and librarians who attend the educational conferences offered by the Mazza Museum twice a year.
The library is available to students on campus, teachers, Mazza docents and community members. Books are loaned for four weeks and can be renewed. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. There is a manual checkout sheet in case there’s no one on duty.
“It’s pretty much an honor system, so we don’t really keep anyone from coming in and looking for resources,” Miller said.
Another feature of the library are 36 themed story kits that enhance science and social studies courses in first and second grades and support the Common Core standards. These kits include 10-12 picture books partnered with a notebook of activities and lesson plans. Other kits include animal habitats, map skills, weather, citizenship and seasons. Worksheets are reproducible, and teachers can recreate their own collections if they want, she said.
“So primarily, we’re servicing new teachers who don’t really have a lot yet in their collection of materials,” said Miller. “We’re just very happy to work with teachers whenever we can. We even deliver, because we know how busy they are and we try to make it as easy as possible for them.”
A $20 refundable deposit is required to borrow the kits.
Miller said those connected to the library would like more people to make use of the resource center.
“We’re so happy to be here. I keep telling Ben (Sapp) we need to build a second story. We need more space. We just keep growing,” she said.