There is no sound sweeter after all-nighters and term papers than stapling the final draft together. The library’s ever-present sounds — students shuffling, pages turning, keyboards clicking — dim as you reach for the shiny black beast.While you may not take notice of this beautiful moment, instead scurrying away to beat the clock to class, someone does. His name is Jason Vance.
Vance, an assistant professor, is the creator of the “Dead Staplers” Tumblr, documenting the birthdates and death dates of every stapler that comes across the James E. Walker Library’s first floor reference desk.
“Just for my own curiosity, I decided to start keeping track of how many [staplers] we threw away,” Vance said, gingerly turning a stapler in his hands to show the neatly written “14” in Sharpie.
This stapler, along with the other 13 lining the windowsill in his office on the library’s second floor, is “dead.” Cause of deaths: repeatedly jammed or simply broken in two.
Soon, his curiosity bloomed into a quirky phenomenon. He began snapping photos of the staplers and posting them on Tumblr with such humorous captions as, “STAPLER 11 IS MISSING. It has gone missing two previous times (on April 1 and June 28, 2013). I am not worried. It will come back when it’s ready.”
Without any advertising since the blog’s creation in January 2013, people began to take notice of the quirky site.
“It just kind of took a life of its own … it’s really bizarre,” Vance said, laughing at the notion he may be a library celebrity.
Working in bookstores and libraries during and after college, Vance has found a home in our university’s four-floored beauty.
“Libraries are no longer just about books — or staplers,” he quipped before describing his love of libraries. “There is so much technology …. It’s much more than just books. We still love books, but it’s just become so much more.”
He not only works at the reference desk, but also spends a majority of his time teaching research classes for a span of majors in the library.
“There is a lot of learning, a lot of research. You get people from all different disciplines — the math people coming in and working out big complex formulas on the white boards, and the literature people coming in and reading books and typing papers, and you have the people coming in and taking naps,” he said.
It’s hard to imagine this academic taking a nap in the place he knows so well. Vance has worked at the library for five and a half years, but it’s clear he enjoys libraries from all decades. He pulls a book written in the 60s from his desk. As he flips through “What Does a Librarian Do?,” dust flutters from the pages to show pictures of card catalogs and librarians stamping cards.
Hanging on his office wall is a poster dedicated to the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, who delivered bags of books on horseback in the 1930s. These librarians were a topic of one of his many published research papers.
He has even turned his dead stapler project into a satirical article for “College and Research Library’s News” magazine, which will be published this fall or winter.
When he started the stapler project, the desk had three. After 19 deaths and two missing, the desk is left with seven. The three original staplers did not make it.
The graduate of library sciences from Simmons College described scenes of people placing papers in the stapler and then stomping on them to get the papers to join in metal-enforced matrimony. Other times, he’s witnessed students using the staplers as actual hammers.
This epidemic is felt around the nation. Vance unintentionally touched a sensitive spot for librarians with his blog and has even received emails from Canadian librarians who support his efforts in bringing awareness to dead staplers.