"A Self-Witnessing Report On Book Conservation"

By Sulema Shelton
June 20, 1983


Social Psychology is interesting in that it makes you stop to think about why you behave the way you do. Dr. James was lecturing about how the automatic self is governed 98% of our time by our environment and society. When I first thought about it I realized hew true this is. In my scheduled daily rounds I am simply exhausted by the time I hit the bed. But I now know that part of that exhaustion. is caused by my internal dialogue who wants to do something else (i.e. thinking of things that need to be done for myself but that I postpone in order to accomodate my family. For example, studying rather than grocery shopping or being a taxi driver) and that my automatic self was doing things that I had no interest in. My external dialogue was very pleasant. When I go to bed at night I simply stay awake for a couple of hours just thinking of what I should have done for myself, whether it be writing this report or just reading. I realized how much energy and satisfaction that will eventually end up in my happiness, or simply saying, "I am doing this because.... and it makes me very happy." At this point I don't know if I am being selfish or altruistic. If I think about it I come up with a logical answer. If I am happier then my whole family will be happy because my behavior affects their behavior. This is definitely a positive bias. In the spiritual self root of self-witnessing: 1. first you assume your hypothesis to be true and 2. utilize your internal observation.


The topic of this paper is "Internalizing a Librarian's Altruistic Value: A Self-witnessing Report on Book Conservation." Diane Nahl showed the class a film about the library and how to take better care in the handling of library books. After the show was over Dr. James asked the class to write down our most immediate response on the film, facts that one would not think about when going into the library and handling books. The film strip was shown two days ago and now I am looking at my number one "facts I would not think of"-- 1. "Pages breaking when opening a book." Others included moisture and water, sunlight and fading.

I simply thought of books as indestructable. After all they are so expensive. They should be made to take harsh punishment. I mean I don't deliberately go out and try to hurt a book--Rational drives (conscious). The book can be replaced. Then the spiritual self will reexamine our way of thinking and will ask: "Where would we be without the conservation of books?" We must care and preserve these books for future generations. Anthropologists, when discovering new sites, look for clues to tell them about the civilization they have just discovered. One way of communicating with the present day is through books.

What if all records and books were destroyed instead of conserving them? It might take years before any one person can break the code of the special language, laws, mores that the past civilization used. Or it would be like they never existed. The spiritual shows concern for the future generation and how it will affect their knowledge and behavior(assumptions that were made about this pleasurable experience). Ask yourself what assumptions did I make about this reaction that caused it to be pleasurable for me.


The film did teach me several things one is to be more careful with in using books and how to really appreciate them. They not only hold our past, but will indeed brighten our future.

As I watched the film I made a list of facts that I would not think of when visiting the library.

1. Pages breaking when you open a book. I simply thought that when a book became this brittle, it should be replaced. I also wondered how many people actually need this book or how many people check it out. It never entered my mind that maybe that book was out of print, or that it may be the original author.

2. Putting food on books. Let's face it, when I study I find it more convenient to eat and drink right where I am studying.

I justified this by telling myself I bought the hook, it's mine to do what I want to with it. It does not belong to the library, it belongs to me. I could have shifted around and said, okay the book is yours, you may damage it if you want, but what about if someone needs to borrow the book? Or maybe my daughters would want to use it for reference later on.

3. Pulling a book out of the shelves. As of Wednesday I realized that I have been pulling books off the shelves the wrong way. I never realized I ~ hurting the book. I just simply thought this was the way it was done. Today thinking of how many other people pull the book out the way I used to, I realize that after a couple of years the book would need binding. Think of all the work the people at the library would have to do just because I, and other people, were not very careful with the book.


The process of self-witnessing is done as an individual self. With this process we will use the Ennead matrix of the threefold self to describe the mid b which is the reflective self up to mid a which is our spiritual self.

In Mid B level you try to justify the reasoning that you have just made. You evaluate these reasoning in terms of whether they are correct or implausible. For example, as my number one fact I would not think of--Pages breaking when you open a book. I always justified this by reasoning that it was the library's duty to see that all books were in tip top condition. If they were not, then all they had to do was replace them. Then you move up to Mid level C. This is the part of your mind where you try to find what motivations, biases and preference you have that caused you to justify these reasoning in the way you did. You ask yourself, what goals am I trying to achieve through reasoning in this manner? For example, it's their job to find out books need replacing. Another jump is made to the third and final part of the threefold self called the spiritual self. This is the part that examines the assumptions that were made about this pleasurable experience. You enter through the High C level. It is the state of mind in which you identify these assumptions. For example, was it pleasurable for me to assume that it was not my responsibility to worry about library books? After you identify these assumptions, you enter High B where you determine what principles of truth or falsehood exist behind these assumptions. For example, it is also my responsibility to care about library books. Finally, you reach the High A level where you start to examine how you feel about these assumptions. In doing so you search deep into yourself for loves, affections, and resistance that either support or condemn these assumptions. Example: I love books so I will take better care of them.

After Thought

Now that I have done this exercise I feel a deep respect not only for books in the library but also for the people who work there. A library must be one of the most misunderstood place in the whole campus. Often I feel intimadated when I walk in. It gives me a feeling of being dumb. I think one of the reasons is because there are so many book, records, magazines, that supply so much information. It's hard for me as a person to understand there is so much knowledge in this world. Instead of looking at the library as a place of confusion (they are not confused, but I am) I should take one step at a time, and think of it as a place for my personal enrichment, and of how it could benefit me as a person. Then I could share my knowledge with others.

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