By Marada Cook
Tina Mann has never been to the Common Ground Country Fair, and although she gardens, can and freezes extensively, she doesn’t pretend to love all vegetables equally. “I’ve learned only to grow the things I like to eat,” Mann says. Most of the time, Mann cultivates a parallel field of the good life: love of good books.
“When my kids grew up and left home, my youngest daughter looked at me and said, ‘Mom, you should be a librarian, you’d be a great librarian.” Mann pursued her Masters degree in Library and Information Sciences at the University of Maine in Augusta and now works as director of the Cumston Public Library in Monmouth.
“Part of my course of study was to complete an internship with a local library, or nonprofit,” Mann says. “My advisor told me MOFGA was looking for a volunteer to catalog their library.”
Mann had heard about MOFGA “only peripherally,” but when she opened the first boxes of books in the collection last spring, she was surprised to see many familiar bindings. She describes most of what she catalogued as “homeowner and gardening books” but noted some very old materials as well. “A lot of what MOFGA has is irreplaceable, or out of print.”
“It’s actually a pretty special collection,” says Melissa White, MOFGA’s volunteer coordinator. “Essentially everything that has been written about sustainable agriculture in Maine, and some material from beyond, is in there.”
Between taking classes, working full-time and living in Winthrop, Mann found herself in a bind: Where would she find the time to volunteer for MOFGA? Luckily for patrons and administrators, library work has moved beyond 3″x5″ typewritten cards in wooden catalogs, so Mann was able to do the work at home. She set up an Excel file that was uploaded to Panorama. “I entered the books using the Library of Congress System,” Mann says, an experience that was new to her, since she had mostly worked with Dewey Decimal.
Every other week Mann would drive her red GMC Jimmy 10 miles down to the Manchester Irving and meet MOFGA director Russell Libby. They’d swap about 100 books in sort of a super-sized book club, then both would head for home: Libby to nearby Mount Vernon, Mann to Winthrop. During her three-month internship, Mann was able to catalog about half of the 1200 volumes.
Although Mann started the job, work remains to be done, including cataloguing the periodicals. “We have just about every back issue of the Small Farmer’s Journal that’s ever been published,” notes White. “Once we’ve got our collection catalogued, there’s been talk of creating a Special Collection of MOFGA books at Unity College.” As part of a regular lending library, the collection would become more accessible than its present “on-site use only” status.
Anyone who is interested in becoming intimately familiar with this fine collection of farm and garden literature should contact the MOFGA office at 568-4142.