Final week of my rare book cataloging internship

~April 27-May 1~

Upon reflection, my semester long internship has drawn to a close. I have read about and practiced rare book cataloging, which has just made me eager to learn more. I look forward to bringing my knowledge to whatever position I work in. Cataloging is a profession that is thought of as uninteresting, menial, and difficult, but in fact it is fascinating because you get to be an explorer of all subject areas. One of my favorite parts of my internship was handling the material since the physical nature conveys so much about the item and its history and the culture it was created in. I would be very happy if I was able to work as a cataloger. I think it is very important and essential role in the library, especially the special collection library.

Cataloging unites many different fields of study. In order to become a ‘good’ cataloger, you have to have passion and curiosity.  Even after months of cataloging, I know that I need to catalog consistently for a couple years to gain a comprehensive understanding of cataloging: how to do it properly and its affects. It is complex work that will be clarified and expanded with each book you catalog. In addition, the process of cataloging rare materials affords the cataloger an opportunity to see connections that might be missed or not as obvious in other positions.

At long last, I am faced with the momentous event of my graduation which I am concurrently excited and terrified about. I will miss interning with the helpful, engaging, and congenial staff and working with captivating materials at the Lilly Library. It has made aware of the importance of rare book and manuscript libraries. I hope to work with them again someday.


Science Fiction and Pulp paper backs

~April 20-24~

This week I was purely cataloging the paper backs. Many of the did not present any substantial problems. The most common issue I encountered was finding authored name forms and subject headings. Over the course of this week, I enjoyed handling this material. All of the books were unique and interesting characteristics.

Here is a sampling the books I cataloged and their records:

The Maltese Falcon

Heat Lightning

Heat Lightning book cover

Image of cover of Heat Lightning from

The Deadly Climate

The many tasks of the cataloger

~April 13-17~

This week I did a bunch a different tasks. I pulled the tracing for the retrospective cataloged books. I had some trouble finding some of the tracings such as the ones for chronology dates assigned to the books and subject headings, but they might have been taken out prior to my search. After my searches I began to catalog more multi-volume works. First I addressed the Bewick Chapbooks which were tricky to catalog but satisfying to complete a full and very descriptive record. When I was cataloging this card, I researched the name Nurse Lovechild which was one of the authors of the chapbooks. I selected a record that has all the chapbooks, but they were in different order. In this record there were three possible titles because it was a compilation of twelve different chapbooks. I used the title supplied by the cataloger on our catalog card.

The next set of materials I cataloged were science fiction, pulp, and popular literature. I asked about what needed to added to these copy records. I also gathered different ways to list information in note fields. I continued to catalog these books. An example of the books I cataloged is Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Before I switched to the paper backs, I was becoming overwhelmed and frustrated with how complicated the multi-volumes are. I still have some more retrospective cataloging items to process. I will use the knowledge and techniques I learned from the manual and from my supervisors.

“Hidden Collections, Scholarly Barriers: Creating Access to Unprocessed Special Collections Materials in America’s Research Libraries” by Barbara M. Jones

Hidden collections are common to all libraries, especially special collections libraries since adding to existing collections. This white paper discusses the finding of the ARL Special Collections Task Force’s survey and questions posed to special collections libraries. The paper beginnings with a list of concerns and problems faced when dealing with hidden collections. It presents issues that have a timely presence in discussion of library professionals.

The paper addresses access from different perspectives in order to determine some possible solutions to hidden collections such as backlogs. Various types of user services that promote a more diverse and wider user group are discussed and have examples. In addition, the paper presents ways of measuring the success of the services. One topic that permeates throughout the paper is collaboration.

Overall, this paper provides recommendations from the task force and the author. The last sections of the paper suggest the steps the task force to lessen the effects of hidden collections and to implement plans of processing and cataloging backlogs. The paper provides examples of handling hidden collections in different manner along with their effects. I think it is a useful source for understanding and working with hidden collections.

*Jones, Barbara M. “Hidden Collections, Scholarly Barriers: Creating Access to Unprocessed Special Collections Materials in America’s Research Libraries.” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage (2002): 88-105.

“Some Comments on the Bibliographical Concept of ‘Issue'” by Joel Myerson

This essay tackles a very baffling subject of ‘issue’ which does not have a fixed definition. Joel Myerson invokes scholars and experts in bibliography like Fredson Bowers and G. Thomas Tanselle, to name a couple. As I read this essay, I took many marginal notes in order to make sense of this deceivingly simple concept that takes time to wrap one’s head around. I think this is one article that must be read over the course of one’s career in order to fully understand it. I also think having physical examples along with illustrative analogies.

He sets up his discussion of issue through an analysis and comparison of different definitions of this term. He does not explicitly state that one is the correction definition, but gives his options about which ones fit the contemporary usage. Additionally, he discusses the effects of publishers and printers on this topic. The notes and bibliography of this essay would be a great place to start if one is interested in learning more about issue and descriptive terminology related to rare books.

I think this article is useful for anyone in rare books because it introduces historically important works in the field and presents a mulch-perspective view of a definition. It demonstrates that even with a field like rare books, and many others, there are sometimes disagreements about common definitions for terms in the discipline.

*Myerson, Joel. “Some Comments on the Bibliographical Concept of ‘Issue’.” South Central Review 5.1 (1988): 8-16.

“Books will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Binding” By Julie Miller

Books will speak plain in this novel because of the historical and descriptive analysis of bindings. I read through the introduction of the book which offers the purpose for its creation. The extensive knowledge contained within these pages is only the beginning of the prodigious amount of information about books and their bindings.

The purpose of this book is to to be an instructional guide to “identifying and preserving the vast cultural heritage represented by two thousand years of booking binding history” (page 1). She contextualizes the discussion of the book in the trends of today. In this way, she establishes the importance of studying these books as physical objects containing invaluable knowledge about human creation and connections. The lasting history of books proves that it is an endurable form, but it might be usurped in some fields such as education and science. Even though it may be thought of inefficient means of acquiring and searching for knowledge, it will still be important to understanding humans, our culture and history.

Julia Miller recalls the issue of  keeping books in libraries or institutions because it destroys or hinders the awareness of the  historical significance of a book or/and collection. Books loose part of their multiplicity when they are only cataloged in one way. The relationship with other books of the collection in which they came is also severed in many cases because they are house in different parts of the library. It is important to understand the reasons behind collecting certain books over others. In addition, one should understand all types and subjects prominent in historical book bindings. She exhorts libraries and other cultural institutions with books to call upon former librarians, conservators, and experts in historical bindings to become volunteers and take on training other volunteers in order to help disseminate knowledge of describing and preserving these objects. Some ways they can do this is by adding to the original records, holding public lectures, and bench workshops.

An example of this was done at the Special Collections Library at the University of Michigan in 2004 by Eileen Heeron, a rare book cataloger, Julia Miller,  and two other people with backgrounds in special collections. They captured decorative and structural information for selected bindings for the library’s online catalog and for a subsequent exhibit: Suave Mechanicals. They wanted to utilize the extensive research on bindings and capture all the description in the online catalog.

She showcases other tools to help book historians describe bindings which validates her book in bibliographic scholarship. It is a tool for instruction and an aid for caretakers at all levels of their career. The aim of this handbook is to help custodians notice interesting elements of historical bindings. Damaged bindings can reveal more information than intact bindings–structural, compositional, and decorative technique information.

Throughout this book she has described many different types of bindings, structures, and decoration. Binding scholars have been forestalled by the lack of even cursory descriptive binding information in collection catalogs and their ability to physical see and touch the books. Each one of the chapters builds off of the other before it. She provides useful reference  tools for beginners to experts. Their are color plate illustrations as well as black and white reproductions. There are three appendices with different guides along with a glossary and a bibliography.

After reading just a minute portion of this book, I would want to own a copy in my library for referencing and pondering over. I think it is a great handbook to begin or continue your exploration of book bindings with. Not only is it full of information but it also contains inspiration for projects and engagement with your own historical bindings.

*Miller, Julia. Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Legacy Press, 2010.

Addressing cataloging characteristics of multi-volumes and multiple copies

~April 6-10~

This week I have been cataloging multiple copies and multi-volumes. Many of the books I cataloged were chapbooks or serially published volumes that have been bound together. The authors showcased in these books ranged from famous to lesser known authors. I practiced capturing details that are important in representing these types of materials. I learned how to phrase the wording in the physical descriptions, notes, citations and signature statements.

One of the books I cataloged was The Foundling Hospital for Wit, it was a very detailed record. I asked my supervisor to look over the record to proof read my cataloging format and to ensure that I didn’t miss anything that was essential for describing this book in the rare book cataloging standard. I had several complex records to create this week, so I tried to be as methodical as possible when documenting and checking the details of these books.

This week was really fun, but challenging. I look forward to cataloging more materials similar to these.

Two articles from Education for Cataloging and the Organization of Information

After a meeting with my supervisor, she suggested I read some articles discussing educational and hiring trends in technical services. As someone who is just entering into the profession, I would like to learn what is happening in technical services and cataloging. Cataloging will be increasingly important as we will encounter representing born digital materials as well creating developing more accessible bibliographic records for print materials.

The first article I read was “Demographic Trends Affecting Professional Technical Services Staffing in ARL Libraries” which presented an analysis of demographic data from the Association of Research Libraries. This brief article discusses “two separate-but-related phenomena:” the reduction of hiring and high levels of retirements (Wilder 54). The data is from 1985 and 2000, which is used to identify the changes in this field as well as to draw conclusions as to how these factors might affect the future of technical services.

The second article was “Cataloging or Knowledge Management: Perspectives of Library Educators on Cataloging Education for Entry-Level Academic Librarians.” This article is about a subject which affects Library Science students and new librarian who are interested in cataloging. The authors surveyed library educators based on the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services Education Policy Statement. From the survey and previous discussions of this topic the authors explicate a number of competencies.

Both of these articles are important for librarians, especially librarian students. I became more familiar the vocabulary used in the cataloging profession. In addition, I can use these competencies to shape my own education in order to learn more about cataloging. After reading this article, I am interested in the state of current cataloging education. A study exploring whether cataloging course are requirements for the M.L.S. degree and how the course is offered (i.e. in a physical or online environment). It would be helpful for the profession and those studying to be cataloger to see the impact of the changes identified in Turvey and Letarte’s article.

*Wilder, Stanley J. “Demographic Trends Affecting Professional Technical Services Staffing in ARL Libraries.” In Education for Cataloging and the Organization of Information, edited by Janet Swan Hill, 53-57.New York: The Haworth Information Press, 2002.

*Turvey, Michelle R. “Cataloging or Knowledge Management: Perspectives of Library Educators on Cataloging Education for Entry-Level Academic Libraries.” In Education for Cataloging and the Organization of Information, edited by Janet Swan Hill, 165-187.New York: The Haworth Information Press, 2002.

The curious life of paper

In a chapter I read from A Guide to Early Printed Books and Manuscripts, Mark Bland, the author, describes the important advantages of using paper as a medium for printing and use in a codex over other writing formats. Paper has characteristics which yield information for bibliographic description and provenance investigation. With this in mind, the author presents paper through several different lenses. These different perspectives offer various types of information about paper that catalogers can use to identify the maker, the origin of the paper, and the purpose for making it. Paper has intrinsic value for certain fields of study such as book history, descriptive bibliography, and art history, to name a few. The author introduces paper with terms that the field uses, but in a way that is understandable for novices.

A considerable part of the chapter is devoted to evidence found in and on paper as well as methods of analysis and description. These sections are very useful because it describes steps that catalogers can employ to analyze paper. Throughout this chapter, the author presents opportunities to contemplate about what this evidence can mean to the study of paper and related topics. As I was reading this document, I wrote many questions that I was prompted to think about.

As a MLS student who is interested in rare books, I found this article informative and a great bibliographical resource for other materials about paper. I am eager to find out more about paper and all it characteristics. One particular attribute that is most fascinating is the watermark. Watermarks can reference and indicate important information about for whom the paper was made, when and where. Since this chapter was readable and didactic, I would like to read the rest of the book to see what it says on other topics.

*Bland, Mark. “Paper and Related Materials.” In A Guide to Early Printed Books and Manuscripts, 22-48. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

“Description and Access in Rare Books Cataloging: A Historical Survey” by Beth M. Russellals

Beth Russell’s article is a comprehensive survey of rare book cataloging. The historical approach Russell employs to explicate rare book cataloging and its relation to other types of cataloging helps to connect all the different components that compose this type of description. Rare book cataloging practices and codes have been influences by “normal” cataloging and descriptive bibliography. In addition, she discusses the hallmarks of rare book cataloging such as title page transcription, format and collation, notes, and added access points. These are not characteristics that are difficult to include in a bibliographic record, but they just take practice and handling a lot of books.

Russell was thorough in her analysis of what feeds into rare book cataloging. This type of cataloging is a mixture of history, provenance, representation, and access. This is documented in her description of how rare book cataloging developed and transitions between different cataloging rules. She address the subject through different perspectives and attempts to describe the differences between cataloging practices.

Russell’s in depth look at rare book cataloging is important to the field of rare books and manuscripts and to the field of cataloging. The execution and skillful research exhibited in this paper made a so called tedious subject very interesting. Rare book cataloging is engaging and akin to a historical investigation. This article should be read all those MLS students interested in or entering the rare books field, in particular rare book cataloging. It is an excellent source for the history and characteristics of rare book cataloging.

*Russell, Beth M. “Description and Access in Rare Books Cataloging: A Historical Survey.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 35.3-4 (2013): 491-523.