SSTN Interviews Cassidy Lent, Manager of Reference Services at the Baseball Hall of Fame
SSTN: Today we have a most special guest, Ms. Cassidy Lent, the Manager of Reference Services at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
I have had the privilege of working with Cassidy on numerous occasions as I have conducted research at the Hall of Fame. I can say, from these experiences, that she is one of the kindest and most helpful people I have ever encountered. Research isn’t easy, but Cassidy works to make it as easy as possible for those working within the archives in Cooperstown.
Cassidy, it is a pleasure to have this chance to talk with you again.
Thanks, Paul! It’s a pleasure to talk with you again, as well. Thank you for this opportunity!
Please begin by telling us a little about your job. What does the Manager of References Services at the Hall of Fame do?
There are many facets to my job. The majority of my job is about helping visitors and patrons with their research and reference questions. We get emails and phone calls, as well as the occasional letter. Typically, we would also get walk-in visitors from the Museum, but as part of our re-opening, the Giamatti Research Center is closed to walk-in visitors at this time, sadly.
We provide scans or copies of our files, as well as some of our manuscript collections, and answer questions using our vast collection of books, files, and other materials. We allow access to our collections in person with advanced notice, like you have done Paul. We work with everyone from students to professors to authors to fans.
We also provide fact-checking and editing to staff for trivia, publications, and other materials we may produce. There’s also writing requests that come every now and again from our communications department. We also help with the digitization effort that was started back in 2016 and continues today.
I think that’s most everything. 😊
It must be overwhelming and amazing to have direct access to the plethora of reference materials housed at the Hall of Fame. Do you ever get the opportunity to just browse the materials or collection on your own?
It is both overwhelming and amazing, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s an incredible opportunity. Unfortunately, I am normally just getting into the collection for researchers, but even then, I am able to look through them real quick as I’m pulling or scanning the material, so sometimes I stumble onto some really interesting and fun items.
For example, I was once going through a manuscript collection and scanning some of the materials for a researcher. For the life of me, I can’t remember what collection it was, but, whoever it was, once received some chain letters based on the Twelve Days of Christmas poem. It was hysterical, but the fact that he had decided to keep them with the rest of his baseball materials is priceless to me.
What item in the collection, not on display for all to see, is your favorite?
This is one of my favorite things about our collections. We have some of the best things that have almost nothing to do with baseball. My favorite item in the Museum collection is the upright piano, player model that was made for Christy Mathewson while he was rehabilitating from TB in Saranac Lake, NY. As for the Library collection, I’d have to say my favorite collection is our sheet music. It’s incredible the sheet music we have and how old some of it is! Oh! And then there are our oral histories! A few have been digitized and are available at collection.baseballhall.org, so please, check them out!
How are the Hall of Fame archives arranged? Is the library with its books, players’ files, and etc. different from the collection of important baseball items, memorabilia, and photos or are all of these considered under the auspices of your office?
The Library and Archives holds roughly 3 million documents, 250,000 original photographic materials, and over 14,000 hours of recorded media. Those areas are split up into various climate-controlled, secured rooms to help protect and preserve them for years to come.
The Library consists of the books, serial publications, biographical/subject/geographical files, and microfilm. Then there is the Archives, which includes our photographic collection, manuscript collections, and audio/video materials. Finally, there is the Museum collection, which is mostly three-dimensional items, like gloves, balls, bats, etc., in which there are roughly 40,000 items included.
I am sure you realize that many, if not all, of our readers, are envious of your position and wish they could have your job for a day. You work in what many consider an almost sacred building. What is the best part of your job?
I have to say…I absolutely love my job. It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to do what I do. There are so many aspects of my job that I find fulfilling, but the best part might be making people happy. I have never been one to want to make people cry, but I have had people cry happy tears in the Giamatti Research Center because we were able to find something on a relative that just completely catches them off guard. If I can make someone smile with what we are able to find within our collection, I consider that a good day.
Selfishly though, there is nothing like walking through the Plaque Gallery first thing when it’s quiet and just a touch dark.
I am sure many readers also want to know how you attained this position. What did you study? How did your career path lead you to the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Ah, my origin story. Figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up wasn’t easy. It took some time and soul-searching to decide on the right path for me. I had worked mostly with children growing up and past high school, but didn’t think that was what I was most suited to do.
I finally decided on becoming a librarian, but there were times while I was in school that I questioned whether librarianship was the right choice. I completed my undergrad with a degree in Information Sciences and then went on the complete my Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences.
In the summer of 2012, I had the privilege of being a Steele intern. This is a unique opportunity offered by the Hall of Fame for ten weeks in the summer, created by the amazing Peggy Steele in memory of her husband, Frank. I was first turned on to the internship by my dad, who has helped foster my love of baseball. The internship allows students to get some real hands-on experience in their field while getting the awesome chance to work at the Hall of Fame.
After the internship ended, I stayed in touch and would come volunteer when I had some time. Then, in January 2014, the two gentlemen who trained me while I was an intern had decided to take jobs elsewhere. I applied, interviewed, and became the reference librarian in March 2014. I was promoted to my current position last spring when my manager left for another job.
I am certain that you have worked with and assisted many authors who utilize the research center. Do you have any plans for writing a book?
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. I don’t know that I ever will though. I look at authors, such as yourself, and am just awed by what you are able to do. I do a little writing for the Hall, but cannot imagine writing a book! It’s so incredibly intimidating. As a writer in school, I always did best with a directive, so I don’t know that writing a book is in my future.
In the vast history of the Yankees, there has been much written… a lot, but not everything. What topic would you like to see a Yankees book focus on?
Hmmm…that’s a good one. I don’t know. There’s obviously the ones on the famous Yankees, like Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, etc. There are the ones about famous (and infamous) teams and moments. There are the ones on the stadiums. There are always more players, teams, and moments to be written about though. I think I’d like something quirkier, but it’s the Yankees, so I don’t know that there can be a quirky book.
In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Who was the best player you ever saw?
Oh gosh. There are so many good players today. You have Mike Trout, who is just phenomenal. There’s Shohei Ohtani, who is trying to do something that hasn’t been done since Ruth. There are the amazing amount of rookies who are trying (and succeeding) at making names for themselves. And this doesn’t even include the players I had the opportunity to watch growing up, like Griffey Jr. and Mariano Rivera.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers:
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
The Yankees – then, now, always
Who was your favorite player?
Growing up – Tino Martinez
Today – Brett Gardner
Hall of Fame – Lou Gehrig
What is your most prized collectible?
I don’t really have collectibles. I have been honored to receive books from various authors, which I have kept and cherished, so those are probably my most prized collectibles. (I know, such a librarian!)
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
Geez, leaving the tough ones until last. I love country music, both old and new, thanks to my mom. But I also grew up on classic rock, thanks to my dad. I’m also enjoy musicals and can’t wait for those to open back up.
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
Chocolate. It, along with books and music, feeds my soul.
Please share anything else you’d like with our audience:
First, thank you again! This was great! I love to talk about our collection and the Hall of Fame and can always talk baseball. I hope everyone who wants to is able to visit and, those who can’t, reach out if they ever have any questions or if there is anything we can do to help. And, in case there is a non-baseball person in the audience, the Museum is so much more than just baseball! Baseball and American history and culture go hand-in-hand, so if you enjoy history or museums or just a good time, please come by! I’m sure we’ll have something that’ll interest you.