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Max Yela Brings Experience, Vision to Special Collections

The following article appeared in The Golda Meir Library Newsletter in the Spring 1995 issue.

Special Collections Librarian Max Yela joined the Golda Meir Library staff in September 1994. Before coming to UWM, Max spent nine years as coordinator of public services and exhibition programs in Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library, and he brings broad special collections experience to his new position.

Max became interested in library science and the uses of primary research materials as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he received his degree in history, with minors in art history and classical civilizations. He earned his Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Simmons College, Boston, where he focused his course work on archives and special collections, and worked as a graduate assistant in the Simmons College Archives.

Following graduate school, Max accepted a year-long minority internship at the University of Delaware Library, during which time he worked on the inaugural exhibition for the library's new Special Collection Exhibition Gallery. He then accepted a permanent position in the Special Collections Department.

During his time at Delaware, Max built expertise in exhibition production, security and preservation, outreach for special collections, and public service for rare books and manuscripts, In seeking the position at the Golda Meir Library, he was especially attracted to the prospects of collection building and providing leadership for a special collections program (not to mention the prospect of returning to a cooler, snowier climate). Max was particularly pleased that Special Collections at UWM forms part of the larger Archives and Special Collections Department, ensuring that he would retain a connection to archival and manuscript collections.

One of Max's first efforts was articulating his philosophy of developing collections to support research and teaching at the university. As a special collections librarian, he understands the need to provide a secure, preservable environment for special research materials. As a public services librarian. he is also keenly aware that research collections exist to be used, and that the ultimate goal in a public institution is striking the appropriate balance between access to materials and their preservation and security.

The very idea of a Special Collections can be somewhat intimidating to a new user, and rigidly designed regulations can make even the seasoned researcher uncomfortable. While emphasizing the security and preservation aspects of Special Collections, Max believes that these measures can be made somewhat "transparent" and "user friendly" through quality reference and public services, bibliographic instruction sessions, constituency outreach, and public relations. Since September, Max has expended much effort in these directions. In March he initiated an informal speaker series, "The Scholar and the Library," to bring UWM humanities and social science scholars into the library to discuss their recent research activities and how library resources and services were utilized to help facilitate that research. The series is primarily for library staff, but members of the University community are welcome to attend.

Max's immediate priorities for Special Collections were to strengthen security and preservation practices, and establish consistency in the processing and handling of special collections materials, both internally and throughout the library. His longer-term goals for the department include improving storage conditions for materials, developing a comprehensive collection development policy, and analyzing the collections for scope and depth, strengths and weaknesses.

Max views Special Collections as a repository for primary materials that have long-term, historical research potential. Over the years UWM's collections have developed emphases in a number of areas, including early printed works, fine press publications, Civil War regimental histories, art and architecture, local publishing, women's studies. ethnic and racial studies, and Irish literature. Attention to the development of some collecting areas has waxed and waned over time. dependent on shirting interests and fiscal priorities. Over the next year, Max will be reviewing the collections with a critical eye, in order to strengthen collecting areas by identifying significant gaps and by establishing reasonable parameters for what enters and remains in the collection.

Special Collections will continue to build on traditional strengths, and identify new areas of concentration. With budgetary prospects being uncertain. and inflation impinging on the buying power of what remains, Special Collections must rely increasingly on the generosity of scholars, collectors, and the many other friends of the library who have traditionally supported the growth of the collections. In the past, UWM has benefitted enormously from individual gifts of books and funds - from small, single-item contributions to donations of sizable collections, such as the J. Max Patrick Collection of sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century literature, the Philip J. Hohlweck and Allen M. Slichter collections documenting various aspects of the American Civil War, the George Hardie Aviation and Aerospace History Collection, art and architecture books from the Layton School of Art Library, and donations of American Indian periodicals from Sharon Murphy and John Boatman. The staff of Special Collections and of the library recognize with gratitude the significant contributions made by the library's many friends to its mission of supporting research activities at UWM.

Max Yela invites anyone with questions, comments, or an interest in Special Collections to visit the department on the fourth floor of the Golda Meir Library, or to contact him by telephone at (414) 229-4345, or by e-mail at maxyela@uwm.edu.