There is nothing quite like seeing the eyes of a researcher light up at their first sight of a crucial source for their work.
Bringing special collections items to the reading room was a common task for library assistants where I worked and it was easy to forget just how special some of the materials are.
One day, though, a request with a difference came through. I knew something was up as soon as a colleague on the retrieval rota asked for the help of not one but two willing assistants to bring something up from the rare books room. Once I got down there, I could see why. The requested ‘large folio’ was indeed very large, and would only just fit on the trolley and through the doors.
This weighty 19th-century tome documented archaeological finds from an ancient site. The researcher had sought it out because it contained a possibly unique reference to a complete set of inscriptions from this particular site. Where previous scholars had interpreted an incomplete set, this researcher would be able to study all of them. You could see from his happy face just how much it meant to him to be able to see such a vital source at first hand.
Academic/research sector, Oxford