One of my favorite questions for job applicants (and for museum studies students on their oral exams) used to be, “what are the three most important books that you keep within reach of your desk?” (If I asked that question today I would also include web sites). The answer can reveal a lot about a person’s approach to their work.
On the bookshelf nearest my desk are several museum-related books I refer to often and appreciate having at my fingertips. These include MRM5: Museum Registration Methods (2010) by Rebecca Buck and Jean Gilmore; A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections (2012) by Marie Malaro and Ildiko DeAngelis; A Legal Dictionary for Museum Professionals (2016) by Heather Hope Kuruvilla; and Sally Yerkovich’s A Practical Guide to Museum Ethics (2016).
In my consulting work I make regular use of Health and Safety for Museum Professionals (2011), edited by Catharine Hawks (and several other experts), and because I work with a lot of collections in Spanish-speaking countries, I also keep handy Curso de Museología by Francisco Zubiaur Carreño. From the computer on my desk I regularly access the Conserve O Gram series and the NPS Museum Handbook from the National Park Service, as well as the Canadian Conservation Institute’s CCI Notes series.
John Simmons with his copy of the American Heritage College Dictionary in his office.
The two books I use the most often in daily work are probably The American Heritage College Dictionary (because nothing can replace a good, comprehensive dictionary) and the astoundingly helpful Chicago Manual of Style, the Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (16th edition, 2010) which has a clear and unambiguous answer for just about any writing question one might have.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that I also keep four of my own books within reach—Fluid Preservation: A Comprehensive Reference (2014); Herpetological Collecting and Collections Management (3rd edition, 2015); Museums: A History (2016); and Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies (2nd edition, 2018). The reason for this is that all four required extensive research and I don’t always remember exactly what I have wrote, proving once again that there is no substitute for the reliability of the written word.