Library Staff Profile: Archivist Philip Papas

Where were you born? Queens, New York

Where else have you lived? My family moved to Long Island when I was about 10, and I came back to Queens about 14 years ago.

What languages do you speak? English and some Greek, which I hope to improve at some point.

What fields of study and degrees have you had? Fine arts and literature in high school and college, and I have a BS in Speech Pathology; I worked in Special Education for ten years before moving into archives.

How did you become interested in Library and Information Science? I’ve always had a fair amount of OCD; ask my poor wife, who knows I organize everything in our closets, on our bookshelves, even in the refrigerator. I’ve yet to use the Dewey decimal system at home; I employ a sort of relaxed LC approach for books and other media. The fridge contents get sorted by expiration dates, and special consideration is given for placement of oversized items. Yes, I have issues…

What was your first job in the library field? I got a night job archiving videotaped television commercials while still working as a speech therapist, to make sure I really wanted to make the career switch.  I instantly loved it and gave my notice at the school where I worked and signed up for the Master of Library Sciences program at CUNY Queens College.

How long have you been at Touro College? I began here in March 2007, with the inception of the Archives.

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What is the part of your job that you enjoy the most? I spent many years working in fast-paced news agency archives, so I love the excitement of getting requests for information needed yesterday, and finding just the right items quickly. It makes me happy knowing the archives are providing an important historic record of Touro’s amazing and ongoing story.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Space is a biggie. Unlike library circulation shelves, archives are not weeded. So I am always in need of more space.  And archival materials require safe preservation practices, so it’s not simply a matter of stuffing and cramming boxes wherever. But you never say ‘no’ to more materials – that was something one of my best mentors, Michael Cogswell, the Executive Director at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, taught me.

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If you couldn’t be a librarian, you’d be: an architect.  They pull so many elements, concepts and disciplines together to fulfill a fundamental need for all people.

On the lighter side, what is your favorite food or type of cuisine?  I am not much on meat or fried foods, but other than that I love everything.

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Favorite book or author? When I was young I enjoyed the Beats, especially Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Now that I am older and wiser, I love Dickens, Dostoyevsky and Nabokov.

Favorite film or television show? I’m an old Cinema snob. I spent about 20 years glued to Turner Classic Movies and AMC; now I am streaming the Criterion collection on Hulu.

Favorite sport, team or athlete? I used to love baseball, until I got turned off by all the drugs and the stratospheric salaries.  Similarly, my favorite sport recently has been professional bicycle racing, but after recent events with doping, I may be revising that one as well.

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At left: 1/3 of the way through 100 miles of pedaling, north of NYC. Photo taken immediately after climbing a VERY long and steep hill. At right: Lunch break (finally), with another 40 miles to go… Photos courtesy of New York Cycling Club.

Favorite musician, song or album? Goodness, this would be impossible to answer.  I love all music.  I like the famous saying “there is no good or bad music, only good and bad musicians.”  I also play jazz and folk music on the guitar, for fun with friends.

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Mac or PC? I like things about both platforms, but I guess I lean Mac.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of libraries? I got back into film photography after a 25-year hiatus. I pretty much stink at it, but that’s good, because I have nowhere to go but up! It’s also bad because cameras, film and lenses (especially lenses) cost a lot of money.

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1896946_10202621897362587_1425826874_n…Now

Ideal place or way to spend a vacation? The older I get, the warmer I want my vacations to be.  So if I were going tomorrow, it’d be the Bahamas, Hawaii, Costa Rica, someplace like that.  I like to be active on my trips – hiking, biking, etc. At night I catch up on reading. And relaxing in a swimming pool is wonderful… Wow, now I want to go on a trip!

This staff profile was originally published in the Spring 2013 edition of the TCL Newsletter.

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