Meet the Staff – Michael Brown

Meet the Staff is a Q&A series on Out of the Stacks that highlights the Archives and Information Services (ARIS) staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Photo of ARIS staffer Michael Brown.

In 50 words or less, describe what you do.

I catalog books, maps, videos, CDs, serials, and electronic publications for various collections within TSLAC. Most of what I catalog, however, are Texas Documents, which is anything published by a State agency, such as (but not limited to) the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Historical Commission.

Why did you choose your profession?

I’ve always loved books, and in fact I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to read. I have written several novels, but I’ve never managed to conjure up the discipline to shop them around for publication. I hope that will change someday.

One of my first jobs out of high school was at Waldenbooks, where I sold books for 5 years. After that, I helped open and operate a science fiction and fantasy bookstore in Albuquerque called The Word Farm. After that, I got my first library job at the University of New Mexico opening mail for the Director of Acquisitions and Serials, Fran Wilkinson. It was Fran who eventually convinced me to go to library school, which is how I ended up in Austin.

Of all the different library divisions I could have chosen, cataloging is my favorite, not only for the deeply technical aspects of metadata and the decisions that go into making our material “discoverable” by the world, but also because of the proximity to the material itself. I touch and examine every single item that comes across my desk. It is that connection to the material that satisfies my love of the printed word.

What is your favorite document, photo, or artifact in TSLAC’s collection?

I think perhaps my favorite document that I’ve cataloged is from my early days here, and it is an archaeological excavation report called Relocation of the Craddock Cemetery, 41BP581, Three Oaks Mine, Bastrop County, Texas by Solveig A. Turpin and Leland C. Bement. (Call # H2000.8 B297CR 2002) The reason I find this report so interesting is because the man whose grave they relocated (William Craddock) was murdered in 1875 by cattle rustlers who were angry at him for identifying them to the local authorities. They ambushed him on his way home and shot him. When the grave was unearthed in 2002, the buckshot that killed him was still there in the grave with his bones. The archaeologists moved the buckshot along with Craddock’s remains to the new grave site.

My favorite non-book item in our collection, however, is probably the Journeay violin. I am a fan of violin in general, and I do love the story behind this one, which you can read on the TSLAC website: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lobbyexhibits/mier

When you are not busy what do you like to do for fun?

I’m usually busy at home either writing, reading, undertaking household repairs, building things out of wood, playing guitar/piano, jogging, or trying to remember what I was taught in Tai Chi.

If I’m not trying to create something, then I am spending time with my amazing wife, Melissa and my incredible sons, Julien and Gabriel. I spend the rest of my time spoiling our 11-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Emma, or being mildly perturbed by the stray cat who has been hanging out on our porch for four years now. I don’t know why he’s still around, although perhaps it’s because I keep feeding him.

 

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