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Mr. Mustache, another librarian blog

I am a reference librarian with experience in both the public and state government fields. I am doing this on a whim, sort of like the mustache I grew when I was 19 and still have in my 50's.

Location: New Jersey, United States

I am a state worker and a librarian.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Nooks and crannies and special collections

The Nicholas Baker book had a point. In the desire to put a library's entire collection on the OPAC, some libraries resorted to dumping books and manuscripts in the trash. This is because many libraries didn't have the mechanism to do original cataloguing and having materials in a library that are not catalogued is messy and against the current trends in the profession.

In the good old days, a book came in. The Librarian looked at the book and then wrote a catalog record for it, using library script, and the record and it's corresponding added entry cards were interfiled into the card catalog. It didn't matter if the book was Gone with the Wind or Grandma Nettles cake recipes, they were treated the same.

One of the first stage towards standard cataloguing began when libraries started purchasing Library of Congress cards. A box of cards came in once a week and somebody (this was my first job as a CETA employee) weeded through the cards and extrapolated the cards for the books the library was buying or might be likely to purchase. These cards were copied and eventually edited and found their way to the card file. Other standardized services came along, but for books that existed in the Library of Congress, the cataloguing became more or less standard. When a local resident donated her manuscript of cake recipes, the old system was used, this time with a clerk's typewriting replacing the library script on the cards.

As services like OCLC and regional cataloguing services took hold, the Librarian was faced with a dilemma. How do you handle all of the materials that have no standard cataloguing records? The correct answer is that you do original cataloguing. The Librarian said, "But when Jenny retired she wasn't replaced. I don't have a tenth of the time it would take to do original computerized cataloguing."

And it is a dilemma libraries have been facing ever since. How do you handle the materials that are not catalogued? Hence the growth of nooks and crannies and special collections. The high school yearbooks, the locally produced cookbooks, the manuscripts, the postcard collection, the historic house collection. Stored in nooks and crannies and special collections. My advice is to index (I did not say catalog) as best you can. A database program like Microsoft Access will do the trick. Even Microsoft Word has a feature called "table". A list produced with "table" can even be searched by keyword and sorted alphabetically. And don"t throw out the cardexes either.

One library I worked at developed a collection of the paperbacks that are always on the reading lists but were too flimsy to catalog. The paraprofessional who developed the collection was severely reprimanded for keeping this "underground" assortment of books. Truth to be told, during summer reading season, it is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes I"ve resorted to hiding discards in my office, but this practice is not recommended.

The man walks through the library with a carton of momentoes from his attic. They include fishing scores from the 20's of a club that existed at one time. The momentoes are probably one of a kind. They'll never be catalogued but at least you can sort of index them in the special collections area. The old fisherman will probably never know that the scorecards don't have mark records attached to them.

I actually do original cataloguing now. I definitely should have taken that course in Library school.


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