Clarkie of the Week: 01/22


Dana Aronowitz | Nainika Grover

Dana Aronowitz | Nainika Grover
Dana Aronowitz | Nainika Grover

Dana Aronowitz is the Night and Weekend Circulation Supervisor in the Goddard Library. She reads a lot, likes to bake, and is “terrible at knitting.” She is a runner but also a smoker, “which is confusing.”

Scarlet: How long have you been working at Clark?

Dana: Almost four years now. I started in March of 2011 in a temporary position and they offered it to me full time in May of 2011.

Scarlet: You graduated from Clark, correct?

Dana: I did, in 2010.

Scarlet: What made you decide to stay at Clark? Was it the job?

Dana: No. I worked in the library in my undergrad and then I moved home for like 6 months, and I didn’t really know what to do. I was making smoothies for rich Long Island people, which is where I’m from. I came up to visit a bunch of my friends at Clark and I went to say hi to my old boss who is now retired and she offered me a job. It was a real full time [job] and I didn’t really know what to do. I love libraries. I’ve always worked in them and so I just took it.

Scarlet: What does a typical workday in the library look like?

Dana: It’s a lot of supervising the students. I’m also responsible for the fines and fees notices that you guys all hate so much. A lot of stack maintenance; making sure all the sections upstairs are useable, clean, and tidy, which doesn’t always work out. It’s sort of a Sisyphean task at a university of this size. Mostly I’m there to make sure that there’s someone who knows everything about the library in the instance something goes wrong. I’m there for student questions and supervising purposes. I answer the phone [Laughs]. Actually, lately I’ve been doing more reference, which is fun. I’m not actually a reference librarian, but I’ve gotten to help with it and it’s really wonderful to get to really sit down with someone and talk about their research. That’s one of my favorite parts of it. But usually it’s sitting at my desk and typing, looking for books, and you know, making sure if anything bad happens there’s an adult there.

Scarlet: Makes sense. So you know everything about the library…

Dana: You know I heard that come out of my mouth and I was like, “Maybe that’s not the best way to put it.” I’ve been here for a long time, I worked in the Goddard all four years of my undergrad, and I worked in the archives.… I do, I know the building really well, I know the people in it really well and I think I could pretty much find any book. I feel pretty confident in that. So yeah I stand by that.

Scarlet: So are there any secrets that we don’t know about the library?

Dana: Huh. It’s tricky ’cause this is going to go in a newspaper. Anything that you guys don’t know? Well its not supposed to look like a book from the aerial view. Everybody knows that now?

Scarlet: A lot of people do.

Dana: Okay. That makes me happy, because the designers had an idea with the building and it was not that. Actually, I guess one of them heard that was the rumor, and they were like we would never be that obvious. They were legitimately offended. It’s a really interesting building, but all the things I know about it are things that I probably shouldn’t put out there, you know. Like where doors lead to and can you get on the roof or not. Things like that. Anything that you would want to do in the library that you’re not supposed to do would take a key.

Scarlet: So you’re the key master?

Dana: Yeah, there are a couple of us. We defend the key. We hold the key. Yeah, well one thing, it’s not a secret, but a thing about the library is that with retirements this year, we lost a collective, I think it’s 170 years of knowledge about the Goddard library in 5 retirements. We’re working with a whole new crew now. Which is cool to get life injected into it but we’ve lost a lot of institutional knowledge which we’re trying to get back.

Scarlet: Is it written down anywhere?

Dana: I hope so. [Laughs] We’re kind of screwed if it’s not.

Scarlet: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Dana: When someone is really panicking about not being able to find something. You know, their paper’s due tomorrow and they don’t have enough sources, or they can’t find a book up there because it’s been misplaced. When you can get them the sources, when you can go up there and come down 10 minutes later with the book. It’s such a nice feeling that you’ve really helped someone, and you’ve really let them see that the library has a lot more things than they thought it [did]. So my favorite part is showing the students at this university how much the library can really do for them.

Scarlet: What’s your least favorite part [of the job]?

Dana: [Laughs] This is actually a question I get a lot. Sometimes I think students forget that I was very recently a student and I know that you didn’t really return the book on time. You know? I don’t want to say [I’m] being treated like I’m out of touch, that’s not really what I mean but sometimes its difficult to convey that I’m here to help you and we’re bros but there’s also rules and you need to follow them. You know we have policies in place because we have a lot of students and a limited number of resources. I think my least favorite part is having to be an enforcer of policies. I’m still learning how to do that. [Laughs] I’m not super great at it…I make more exceptions than I should.

Scarlet: So this question might be hard, what is your favorite book? And why?

Dana: It’s actually not that hard. It’s Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I don’t think there has ever been another book written that more accurately captured so many different types of the human condition in one book. He was a man that really understood people. Now I don’t necessarily agree with what he says about people, which is that everyone is inherently bad if you get to the core of everyone. I don’t agree with it, but I think his writing style, his ability to sort of track like 25 different narratives through different walks of life and make you keep reading a book that 1000 pages long and never get tired of it, that’s a genius right there.

Scarlet: How many times have you read it?

Dana: 4. I just finished it again. Which is why when you [asked] I was like, “I know his one!” That’s my favorite big academic book. My favorite book that I’ve been reading over and over again is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, but that one’s just so much fun. Its about secrets and lies and print culture and technology and like how are they gonna work together in the world that we live in and so that one’s fun, but it’s for sure Infinite Jest.

Scarlet: How many books do you read on average in a year?

Dana: That’s a great question. I’ve never tallied them up, but I average about 3 a week. On a good week. Like during finals I read none cause I’m here till 2 a.m. with all you. But over the 2 weeks of winter break I must have read like 15. I don’t have homework, remember that. There’s no homework in my life. So I work and then I go home and I read.

Scarlet: So what do you do in your free time besides reading?

Dana: I hang out with my fiancé a lot. I live with him so we spend a lot of our time together. We’re watching The Wire right now, which is incredible. It’s intense. So we’re on Season 4 so that’s all we’re doing right now. You know when you just get like possessed? So I finished a book last week and I haven’t picked up another one since, cause he comes home from work and we just watch The Wire. We try to watch television that both of us want to watch. He plays guitar, so I listen to him do that while I read. I’ve been trying to learn the ukulele but it’s harder than I thought. I’m not good at it. I have 2 projects, which are knitting and playing the ukulele and I’m terrible at both of them, and so I give like an hour every couple of days and then I get frustrated. So maybe my hobby is giving up on hobbies [Laughs]

Scarlet: What’s the strangest thing that’s happened in the library?

Dana: I have a lot of them…[and] there are some really funny ones. We find a lot of beer bottles shoved behind books in the art book section… specifically art, and in the stairwells, the little tiny stairwells. We find beer bottles a lot. But of the strangest things that happen, there was a guy who was an older man, he was just confused and he was apprehended with minimal issue, but he was checking people’s pulses. They didn’t know that was happening and then he would come up and either do the neck or the wrist. People who were studying quietly up on the 5th floor and he scared the crap out of a bunch of people. That was about 2 years ago. So the strangest thing was having somebody come down and say to me “a man just took my pulse” [Laughs] and 3 people said it to me in about a week before we got together with public services and with the AC manager at the time and we, I’m not gonna say we staked out the guy because we didn’t really, we just had someone tell us when he was there. He was just an old confused man. He was actually very nice. He was like an army doctor or something so he thought he was checking people’s pulses, being helpful

Scarlet: Are you studying or dead?

Dana: Exactly! Are you studying or are you dead? It’s a game we play. No its not, its not. Strange things like we find students who have fallen asleep in places and you have to wake them. Which is always really weird. I found syringes once. We think they were for diabetes maybe, for insulin. Well I found those so I really hope so. I was reaching for a book that was too tall for me to see over and I felt something at the top and I though “that’s weird” so I dragged over a step stool and there they were.

Scarlet: Was it in the art section?

Dana: [Laughs] No. That is apparently the debauchery section though. Every single semester I shelf read it because it gets destroyed. Shelf reading is when you look at every single book and make sure they’re in the right order and then edge them so they’re neat. And every time I go to push a book back and I meet resistance and I pull them out and there’s beer. Every time.

Scarlet: Does anything weird happen during finals week?

Dana: Someone smashed a wine bottle out [front]. I didn’t see him do it, I just saw the aftermath. Weird stuff. People cry. I see weeping. I found a student two years ago who was on her knees in the Jane Austen section just pulling books out and looking at them in terror and desperation and dropping them to the floor. Literally. Just. And I sat down next to her and I said “are you ok?” and she said “There’s no books I need left!” and I said “ok, don’t take this the wrong way but do you see what you’re doing right now? Everybody’s doing that right now. So none of you can find any of the books you need because you’re all just taking them out and leaving them places.” And she was like “ok” and then we found her some books and I helped her out and it was fine. Someone did throw up, missed the toilet entirely. I had a student come down and tell me there was vomit all over the I think third floor bathroom. Mostly what happens is stuff the faculty doesn’t want to know about their students. I heard two students arguing over “how much does it have to be before it’s plagiarism.” I couldn’t help myself, I stuck my head around my desk and I was like “any. Any.” And they were like “oh, really? Ok thanks” and it was like “yes!” You mostly just see a bunch of really smart people who are terrible at time management. But honestly people are very polite, they’re very kind. Nobody’s ever mean to us. People just leave everything to the last minute and then they panic. And that panic does kind of get directed at us but not in a way that is cruel or mean or anything. You just feel bad, you just want to help, but you can’t. If someone’s like “my paper’s due at midnight” and it’s 11:15 p.m. and they need you to help them find six print sources and like five internet sources, I mean what are you gonna [do]. You do your best, you feel like you’re letting them down. But have you been in the AC during finals? The AC is where its really bananas. We keep it ok upstairs cause everybody knows to be respectful and quiet. But in [the AC] it’s a madhouse. We do always have during finals one person who’s trying to hold seven books at once and drops their coffee dramatically everywhere. It’s literally every finals week one person does it right outside the circulation desk, and then stands there like they’ve never spilled anything before and we’re like “it’s fine, it’s a carpet, it’s brown, like you’re fine, did you get the books wet though?” But mostly, mostly it’s just panic. You know it’s nothing bad. And you just feel so grateful when you’re me that you’re not in college anymore. That’s what I feel every finals week, just relief. I mean good for all of you, but it’s over, it’s behind me. Until grad school.

Scarlet: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dana: The Goddard is probably the best library in Massachusetts, potentially the United States, maybe the world. I can’t prove it, but I feel it. It’s got really incredible people working there, the public and technical services staff are some of the best people both in the field and that you could have helping you. They made Rachael Shea the head of public services, which I don’t know if the students know, but a lot of them know her. I think with her and the new head of circulation, we’re looking at really incredible things in the future of the Goddard. We got a lot of tech savvy people on our staff now. We’re working so you can do reference appointments online, you can renew your books online now, we’re working on video tutorials to help students who don’t know how to do research properly, we’re working on tutorials to help people with bibliographies. We’re really trying to get more on the pulse of what the students actually want from us because we have a lot to offer. And I think there has been a lot of miscommunication between the library and the students in the sense that we want to bring to you guys what we have but maybe we’re not doing it in the most student palatable way. So we’re really working to fix that. That’s what I want the students to know, is the library’s here for them. Ending it with a pitch because I really do love my job and the people I work with and the students I get to work with, even the ones that throw up. 

Thanks for the entertaining interview, Dana!