Librarian Lynn Prime, an underestimated resource

Those who walk the paths of Sonoma State University may not realize exactly how many people are involved behind the scenes. From facilities workers to those in the Health Center, many fall below student radars. The STAR had the opportunity to talk with Head Librarian Lynn Prime, an instrumental part of the success of many students.

Sonoma State STAR: Can you start by telling me a little bit about yourself?

Lynn Prime: “I’ve been a librarian for many years; I have worked in public and school libraries, and came to academic libraries kind of by the back door. I grew up with parents who were both teachers. My father taught choral music at a community college and my mother taught English as a Second Language to adults. I couldn’t decide what to do with my life after college, so I applied to UC Berkeley’s Library School because I knew I loved libraries and most librarians.

I’ve been a librarian at the Sonoma State Library for about thirteen years now, most of that time in Special Collections and University Archives, first as a digital projects manager, and then since 2015 as the head of the department.

I love what I do, and believe very strongly in providing access for students to our many unique collections.”

 

STAR: What brought you to Sonoma State? What are your favorite parts?

Prime: “I think initially what brought me to Sonoma State was the excitement of working with Special Collections materials. And then it became, and still is the pleasure of getting students connected with our materials.

Working with classes and with individual students as they discover the variety of collections we have is special for me. Just to see students’ eyes open wide, literally and figuratively, as they discover what it is to read an original love letter Jack London wrote to his wife Charmian, or to experience first-hand through letters, photos, scrapbooks, and the like the years of work activists have put into developing and sustaining open space areas in Sonoma County.

I also think the work Julie Dinkins, my coworker, and our student employees, are doing to digitize these important collections is such a significant development. She and her team have recently spearheaded the digitization of Sonoma State’s student newspapers, from 1961 into the early 1970s at this point. So you can research campus issues – and world issues as reflected on our campus – from a student perspective.

We’re also part of a CSU-wide project to develop digital collections about the Japanese American experience in the 20th century, including the incarceration of Japanese American citizens through most of World War II. That’s been an amazing experience, involving the Sonoma County Japanese American community, which has helped us to collect important letters, photos, and other items on this often troubling history.”

The North Bay Digital Collections is home to the collection of both campus newspapers and documents on the Japanese American experience. More information can be found at http://northbaydigital.sonoma.edu/cdm/. And the library’s other Special Collections pages can be found at http://library.sonoma.edu/specialcollections.

 

STAR: How have you seen Sonoma State change over the years, in terms of the library and the population and the campus in general?

Prime: “When I first started, the library had been in the Schulz Information Center for almost four years. Students loved their new library, especially the space.

But as you know, library collections have changed. The library used to be much more print-based, and more and more resources are available online, which is almost universally a good thing.

What’s most interesting to me about the library in the last number of years is that as print has become less of the dominant resource for some things, it’s also become a focus for the unique kinds of primary source material that academic libraries have – letters, posters, photos, the student newspaper – that show students the history of our campus, for instance, and collections of documents on environmental activism in our own county over the last 50 years. There’s our premiere Jack London Collection, with its signed first editions of London’s novels in book form, as well as serialized in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and the Saturday Evening Post. Jack London was a true renaissance man and studying his life and works is really a treat, for getting a sense of the very large issues of his time as well as for the chance to read his works in their original format.”

 

STAR: How does the library atmosphere change during finals week?

Prime: “Oh, you can imagine. There’s both a growing tension in the air and a growing focus by students. Many more students than usual gravitate to the third floor for its quiet study spaces as we head towards finals week.

In the last few years, one of the pleasures for our staff and faculty has been to surprise students by offering treats in daily walk-arounds during the week before and the week of finals. Students greet us with such pleasure and gratitude – all for a granola bar or a tangerine. We’re all so grateful that we’re not the ones having to hunker down, it’s a real pleasure to support students in such a simple way.”

 

STAR: What are your favorite parts of the library? Are there any hidden gems?

Prime: “I love the hustle and bustle of the second floor. The energy and collaborative studying that happens there is amazing. And I love the quiet and focus in the third floor Quiet Study Room. Partly because it’s ‘my’ area, but also because I think having that quiet relationship to Special Collections is a great introduction to these resources.

I think Special Collections itself is a huge hidden gem. I’d love to see more individual students and classes make use of our materials.”

 

STAR: What is your favorite book and why?

Prime: “Zadie Smith’s books are great reads – White Teeth and On Beauty come to mind. They remind me what a complicated world we live in, and how race, culture and history all have such an influence on people’s lives. Sounds lofty, but her books are also just superb stories.

I love all of Richard Russo’s novels, as well. He’s the author of Nobody’s Fool, which was made into a movie starring Paul Newman years ago. Russo is a master of character creation, which makes for a good read.

Truth be told, because of my long commute, I actually listen more to podcasts about books, than I actually read – or even listen to – books. I love Teri Gross’ Fresh Air interviews on National Public Radio, many of them with authors.”

 

STAR: Is there anything else you want me to know about or cover?

Prime: “I want everyone who reads this to know how important I think libraries and information centers, spaces as well as resources and especially the wonderful librarians in them, are for students. Maybe I’m biased, but I don’t think so…..The world is full of stories about how much people’s lives are influenced by story and by information. And in such a complicated and sometimes polarized world, information is extremely important.”