Cassie Brand, ‘09
Patricelli Summer Internship Report
10 October 2008
My main goal in working with Special Collections is to make them accessible and available to others. People often don’t know what they can find in Special Collections or how they can use what they find. I want to create new ways for them to get involved and use the Collections. Over the summer, the Patricelli Grant allowed me to begin some projects that will greatly aid in achieving my goal.
Many of the books in Special Collections are uncataloged. Library catalogs are often referred to as “the eye of the library.” If a book is not in the online catalog, then patrons will have no way to know of its existence and the book will go unused. I have been working to identify these books and mark them for the cataloging department in order to speed the cataloging process. This process is takes a lot of time, as you have to check each book individually in the online catalog. In order to be more time efficient, Tara Olivero (Special Collections Librarian) and I decided to convert the books from Dewey decimal classification to the Library of Congress system while checking for uncataloged books.
Using the Library of Congress system has many benefits. Currently, the collection is organized in sections: Dewey classified books, Library of Congress classified books, books, books printed before 1825, the Austen collection, and the Passano collection. Having the books separated can make it confusing to find them, shelve them and keep them organized. This will be especially true when the collection is moved to the Athenaeum where there will be compact shelving. The compact shelving will save a great deal of space, but it will make moving through the shelves of books much more difficult.
The way the shelving and collections are laid out in the Julia Rogers library makes it easy to have the collections shelved separately. The shelves are fixed in place, and one can easily walk through the shelves to shelf read, search for something, or simply wander to see what is there. In the Athenaeum, we will have compact shelving. The shelves will be on a moveable track with cranks with which to move them, but only two aisles will be open for access at any time. Ordinarily, the shelves will sit next to each other, without an aisle separating them. When you need to retrieve a book from a certain row of shelving, you must move the shelves with the crank to create the aisle in that row.
Because there will no longer be aisles for every row of shelves, it will be more difficult to shelf read or wander through the stacks. Organization will be the key to making sure that the books can be easily found and one does not have to search through all the rows, moving the shelves each time. Having all of the books in one order and all in the same classification system will make it much easier to find books, shelve them and organize them.
Converting books from Dewey decimal to Library of Congress classification involves pulling up the catalog record and searching for other libraries with identical copies of the book. If another library has the book and uses LC classification, I copy the call number into our catalog record, after checking to make sure that the number is correct using the Library of Congress Classification Web.
During this process, it’s easy to check the catalog records and update them as needed. I first reshelve any uncataloged books in the section marked for cataloging and work on the books with existing catalog records. I make sure that donor information is added if necessary and check other small details to make sure they are correct.
After assigning a new call number, I create a label for the book and reshelve it in its new location. This involves a lot of reorganizing and moving the books. Each time I take a cart of books from the Dewey section, it leaves a large space and I must shift all of the books from the LC section to make space for the books where they will go once assigned their new call number. Though this is a long process and a lot of work, it is well worth the effort. Having all the books in one classification system will make it easier to use the library in the long run.
I decided to start with the oversized books, as they were largely uncataloged and many of them looked interesting to work with. Though they were heavy and unwieldy to work with, the conversion moved quickly. I was able to complete the conversion of the oversize collection and reorganize them. Half of the collection is still uncataloged, but they are now located in one section so that we can easily find the books, whether they are cataloged or not. I was able to begin on the regular-sized books before summer ended and I am continuing to work on them now.
As I went through the books, I began writing down the books that were most interesting or unique. I started three separate lists: Treasures List, Teaching List, and Descriptive Bibliography List. Currently, the lists only contain the call number of the book, but as I continue working on the list, I plan to add the bibliographic information and short descriptions of what makes the book interesting or unique.
The Treasures List will allow the librarian to easily choose books to show visitors, donors, staff and others interested in our collection. The list contains books that are considered interesting to the general public and can intrigue people into working with the collection further. It will also serve as a list of potential projects for student workers and students interested in volunteering with the collection.
I chose to add books to the list based on what I believed would be most interesting and impressive for people to see. Mark Twain’s The Stolen White Elephant is a wonderful exemplar from the Oberdorfer Twain Collection. The collection contains nearly every first edition of Twain’s works, including The Stolen White Elephant, which has been signed “Yours Truly Mark Twain.” I also included Ackerman’s Repository, a 19th century periodical that is part of the Jane Austen Collection. The Repository has many beautiful color illustrations of women’s fashion and sometimes includes fabric samples. De Patientia, by Baptista Mantuanus was added to the List because of its rarity and uniqueness. It contains five works by Mantuanus bound together. It is rare to find books still bound together, as many of them were broken up and sold separately by booksellers. Because the books were originally bound together and there is a copy in the NY Public Library containing the same five texts, we can infer a lot about the printing and book selling industry through comparison of the two books. One of my favorite items on the List is a Dutch Bible from the early 16th century. I worked with it a lot over the summer and I will talk about it more later.
The Teaching List contains books listed by class that would most likely be interested in using the book. This is a more focused list and will be used for visiting classes and faculty. It will provide an easy way to pick books that relate to the classes and hopefully will help students choose topics and books to work with using the collection.
The Descriptive Bibliography List focuses on examples of different aspects of books, such as bindings, paper, and illustration. Specifically focusing on binding, it includes books with Japanese binding, raised bands, a book in which you can see into the gutter and books with clasps. It will allow Arnie Sanders to easily choose books to demonstrate different principles of bookmaking for his Archeology of Text class. The list will have a short description of the reason it was added so that the list will be easy to use.
In addition to making these lists, I worked in conjunction with Cindy Ogden in the cataloging department on an early Dutch bible that I had found. The bible is uncataloged and very difficult to work with because the language is unfamiliar and the text is in a black letter font that makes it hard to read. Despite these difficulties, the book has a beautiful leather binding with heavy wood boards, the remains of clasps, and bosses. It’s a large book and it has always been one of my favorites because of the binding. When looking through this book, Cindy and I found that it is actually two separate books bound together: the old and the new testaments were printed separately. The Old Testament was printed in 1515 and the New Testament in 1530. The text has woodcuts running throughout and many of them have been colored by an unprofessional hand. My favorite is the woodcut in the book of Job. Job has been colored with red spots to show his boils. I look forward to the completion of the cataloging of this book so that I can continue working on the descriptive bibliography.
Throughout the summer I was able to get a lot of work done. It’s much easier to work when there are fewer patrons and when I have longer blocks of time. The Patricelli internship allowed me to spend long days working in the collections, which makes it much easier to get work completed. I was able to make plans for the semester, which included devising a new organizational system for the oversize books and wrapping the dust jackets in plastic to preserve them. I’m very grateful for the opportunity that this internship gave me and I look forward to continuing these projects.