Life as a cataloging practicum student – Part 2

Part two of my diary from by 2007 practicum at Silver Buckle Press

Week of October 1st

Thursday I had an early meeting with Jamie since he was going to be gone for the rest of the week. Because of the early meeting I was able to discuss with Jamie the issue of the dates. Jamie agreed that if I could find indicators on the internet about the date of the item, then I could use the date or date range for the MARC record (with brackets). One example of this dating came in with a binder from the Hamilton Manufacturing Company. One could tell right away that the material in the binder came from different catalogs. One obvious marker was the numbering of the pages. One half of the pages were numbered (erratically) while the other half did not have any numbers at all. Another marker was the holes in the pages. Some had only two holes (which match the binder) while other pages had four holes. Unfortunately, the two markers mentioned above did not match up: for example the numbered pages both had two and four holes. The only indicator for a date was one of the pages stating “Bulletin for Catalog No. 15.” Knowing that not all the pages came from the same catalog, I had to find out the dates of the other parts in that particular binder along with when catalog no. 15 was printed.

I’ve come to learn that the phrase “You can find anything on the Internet,” does have a kernel of truth to it. The search for “Catalog No. 15” from the Hamilton Manufacturing Company not only brought up a date (1922), but the search brought me to the website Alembic Press ( This website, run by a small letterpress printer in Oxford, England, has a history of type cases.[1] Searching the site brought me to the specific page on a particular case called the California Job Case. In the narration following the diagram of the case, it lists catalogs 15 and 16 from Hamilton as catalogs where the case was listed. I then went back to the binder and did indeed find the California Job Case. That particular type case in the binder matched with the description of the case found in catalog 16 which was published in 1932. The 1920s-30s date range seems appropriate to the material found in the binder, and the binder was cataloged with [1922-1932?] with the date range in the fixed fields.

The dating issue has come up with other materials; nonetheless it seems that only materials that come from the local area are the only ones without dates. Tracy has offered to help me look for dates for the local catalogs. Some of the businesses from the catalogs have gone out of business but others are still printing so it will depend on if the companies still in business keep track of the publishing dates of old catalogs. Otherwise, the cataloging has been going relatively smoothly.

On Friday I met with Susan from Special Collections to discuss cataloging and material storage issues that I have come across. The supplement storage issue from last week came first in the discussion. Susan suggested that the supplement should be stored in a separate envelope and marked as “Shelve with [Call#].” She also recommended that we create a pullout (consisting of a piece of paper folded in half, longer that the height of the item) so the item is less likely to be damaged if people pulled on the folded piece of paper to get to the item instead on pulling on the item itself.

Another issue that came up was how to treat materials that are located in a book but are not an original part of the book themselves. Many materials that I find in books are things that were probably just stuck in there by a previous owner. Susan agreed on making a local note for the items (which I have been doing). However, she said that the items in the books should be kept in envelopes instead of being left in the books due to increased chance of loss if left loose. Again, the envelope would be shelved next to the item the materials were found in.

The topic of miscellaneous items found in books then turned to the issue of a part of the collection which consists solely of ephemera and advertisements from American Type Foundry. Tracy and I have talked about how to proceed to enter the collection in the system, but we did not come to a conclusion to do one way or another. I felt that that part of the collection may be more in the archival realm than the special collection realm like the rest of the collection. I had contacted Ciaran Trace to schedule a meeting where we could discuss that part of the collection since she is the archives professor on the faculty. But, since I already was meeting with Susan, I asked her opinion on what should be done with the collection. She suggested that the collection should be cataloged on a collection level record with a particular 500 field to list what is in the collection.

At the end of the meeting, I told Susan about the dating issues that I have run across with the local business catalogs. Susan wondered if the business library would have a collection or information that specializes in local businesses. I will have to check this out next week for the businesses that have gone out of business.

Week of October 8th

This week I managed to get a hold of Trace to talk about what to do with the ephemera collection. Unfortunately I did not have the samples I wanted to show her, but I did my best to describe the collection. Ciaran was not very sure if the collection should be treated as an archival collection due to the possibility of growth in the collection. The collection, to my knowledge, is not completed and probably will be growing as more materials are collected. If the collection was treated like an archival collection then the addition of new material will mean that the finding aid and records in the system will have to be restructured. After this brief conversation I am leaning towards Susan’s suggestion, but I will have to find out more detail about the collection itself before I make a recommendation to Tracy.

The weekly meeting with Tracy brought up the issue of the physical processing of materials. I reported back my conversation with Susan with her, and for some of the suggestions (like placing the supplements in the envelopes) Tracy agreed with. However, Tracy was not sure about placing the miscellaneous items in their own envelopes. One of her concerns was how would using envelopes would affect the processing and storage of the physical collection. We decided to work on a possible processing process for our next meeting.

Jamie was not able to come at our usual meeting time, so I went on working on the collection and saving drafts of edited/created records. I got to the part of the collection that is made up of trade paperbacks and other more common publications. I ended up going through many books because the records in OCLC were already updated to AACR2r standards and did not have any holes in their records that needed to be filled. I went through about 20 items before the end of the day on Friday, including one CD set of the Gutenberg Bible.

Friday I also started working on workflow documentation and a statistics spreadsheet. Tracy expressed that some sort of work instructions be made for the next person to work on the project. I created a very basic flowchart of the cataloging process along with more detailed instructions with adding and editing records in Voyager. I also added a “troubleshooting” section to address the major issues that I had come across during my time doing the project. The guide will be edited and added to as the semester progresses.

Week of October 15th

Monday Jamie was able to come down to start looking at the records I edited or created. However, since most of the books I looked through were trades, Jamie decided to give me the permission to change the records on my own. This made sense because most of the records only needed minor edits. I was able to work the backlog down on Monday and the beginning part of Tuesday. I left the books that I had questions about on the side for Jamie, but otherwise I ended up processing over 30 items during this week.

I guess I’m in the “medium” part of the medium rare collection with the trade publications. It is interesting to do an original record for a type catalog and double-check an existing record for a widely distributed item right next to each other. While I have been mostly following AACR2r and local practices for most of the items, I have delved into the DCRB manual at Cataloger’s Desktop on occasion. Nonetheless, I find myself using standards that their main audience is common items. This led me to question how many “general” catalogers catalog special collections. Beth M. Russell surveyed 114 ARL libraries to see how special collections cataloging were handled. The results showed that many libraries do not have a full time special collections cataloger; instead certain catalogers were assigned to special collections along with other duties.[2]

The results of the study do not surprise me. Smaller libraries cannot afford full time staff for some areas and instead use the available staff that they have now. What I wonder about those who are hired as general catalogers and then are assigned to special collections is if they adjusted from general cataloging to special collections cataloging fairly well. As I said above, the two are similar, but there are more unique issues with special collections. For example, if I was a general subject cataloger who was assigned to the SBP collection, how would I know to solve the missing date issue if I did not know about Annenberg? How can I assign the most appropriate subject headings if I do not know the terminology or have an expert in the field in-house? Sure, I can catalog the items, but that quality of cataloging will suffer from the lack of specialized knowledge and resources.

Speaking of resources, I stumbled upon the chart “Major Differences & Changes: When to Create a New Record” in one of the books on the new book display at SLIS. The chart goes through all the descriptive cataloging areas (like title, edition, etc.) and determines what differences would call for a new record. According to the chart, almost every difference calls for a new record.[3] If that was the case, OCLC would have double the records in their system! I ran into many records in which there were differences or omissions in areas like other title information. Since I deal with rare items, the record has a greater chance of suffering from bad cataloging and not being checked for quality by others. Do I assume that the record is a sloppy record or does my item needs a new record because they did not include a 246 spine title?

Week of October 22nd

Tracy and I had the meeting about the physical processing of materials. We talked about how we could possibly catch up with the backlog of cataloged material while working out a “physical processing-in process” workflow that would fit in with the cataloging work flow that I have in place now. After the records have been exported into Voyager and updated to local standards, I write the call number on the first page after the title page, and then I would transfer the following information in a word template:

  • Call number
  • Author
  • Title
  • Publication location
  • Year of publication/copyright

I then print off the call number flags for SBP to cut and add to the item while they glue book plates to the item. Once we get to the point in the collection where there is no backlog the process should go smoothly. For now, I have to go through the 80+ items already cataloged and print out flags. It’s going to take a while, so I’ll probably split my time between cataloging and flagging so I can keep up with my cataloging while not letting the collection backlog get any bigger.

One issue that Tracy and I spent most of our meeting discussing is the enveloping of supplemental material and flimsy stand-alone items. Tracy stressed that the envelopes must be similar to the size of the main item that it accompanies. We do have a selection of sizes so matching the sizes should not be too much of a problem. Another concern came up about the storage of the envelopes in the physical collection and the chance of envelopes or their contents being misplaced. Flags will not be printed for the envelopes, but the information will be written on a designated part of the envelope along with the inventory of the contents. Hopefully the envelopes do not end up being misplaced, but, like any other item, there is always the chance.

While cataloging I came across a book that has already been processed, but there was no flag to indicate that the item was processed. I took the item to Tracy and found out that the item was part of an exhibit. They took out the flag when they put up the display, and when they took down the display the flag was accidentally placed into an item that had the same title/author but was a different publication year and format. This mix-up does call attention to the issue of items that are the same work but different manifestation (book v. unbound plates). The information on the flag was sufficient enough for one to know which item it goes to, but sometimes the human factor comes into play and mix-ups happen. One recommendation that I could make to minimize the chance of mix-ups is to make sure that the flags stay with the items all the time, or at lease pay extra attention when replacing loose flags into items.

Later during the day on Thursday I noticed that I could not set a location limit to SBP. This confused me since I had a printout that had all the cataloged items from the collection from the last practicum. I told Tracy this and Tracy was surprised about this as well because of the printout. Tracy ended up contacting Irene Zimmerman from CTS and found out that SBP never had a location listing in the Set Limits options. However, there is a way to search for a specific library’s holdings through the guided search:

  1. Go to the “Guided” Search tab at the MadCat home page.
  2. Type “m,sbp” in the first field.
  3. Select “as a phrase” in the first drop down menu next to the text field.
  4. Select “Holdings Keyword” in the “Search by” drop down menu.
  5. Click “Search.”

I really do not like this way of searching for a library’s holdings because the general user would not know the holdings code for the library. It’s hidden and does the special collection a disservice for browsability. Nonetheless, it’s better than not having the option at all. I gave the instructions to Tracy and she will give out the instructions to people who expressed interest in searching the collection.

Week of October 29th

Going through the backlog of materials did not take as much time from cataloging than what I thought. I managed to get through most of the material that needed flags and envelopes by Friday afternoon. This was a good time to review the records that I have completed or created thus far to check for consistency. While the majority of records were fine, I did have some issues with the cutter numbers for the type specimen catalogs from American Type Foundry (ATF). It turned out that Jesse and I used different cutter numbers for the company: A44 and A544. To add to the mix, LC had its own cutter number of A517. I knew that the LC is outdated because the 17 now indicates a Russian translation of the work. The problem with Jesse’s number lies within the classification range of type specimen catalogs A5-Z. Since A1-A4 has been assigned to different topics, they cannot be used for the catalogs. That leaves me with A544. I decided to combine the A5 with the cutter extensions 44 because adding 2 cutter numbers to the A5 allows for growth in the collection. If there is another type specimen catalog from a company with a name that begins with A-An, I can differentiate that company from ATF’s run in the Z250 classification. However, there will be a problem if there is another company that begins with American. The 44 cutter number are the extension numbers for “American” so following the procedure of adding the extension cutter numbers will not work for this situation. Possible solutions include cuttering the company’s initials or subsequent words after “American.” Nonetheless I am inclined to let the next person in this practicum to make this decision due to the fact that I have not run into any type catalogs with that problem.

Tracy has given me an interesting item to work on. The item in question is a wood type specimen catalog from Hamilton (the same company that I ran across in my 10/1 entry). Because of its condition, the catalog was taken apart, pages inserted into individual mylar pockets, and rebound in a cloth binder. While the binding might present a small issue with filling out the MARC records, the bigger issue is that the catalog is missing all its front matter and some of the back matter. This leaves me without a title, date, city of publication, accurate page count, and a few other miscellaneous pieces of information to correctly catalog the item. Tracy has done some preliminary research and has found a possible title and page count, but that still isn’t enough for a solid basic record. It looks like I get to go on yet another adventure on the Internet courtesy of Hamilton.

Speaking of dates, Tracy did manage to meet with the Webcrafters people, but was not able to get any dates for the catalogs from their earlier incarnation as Democrat Printing. Argh!

[1] Type cases are large drawers where the individual characters are stored.

[2] Russell, Beth M. “Special Collections Cataloging at a Crossroads: A Survey of ARL Libraries.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 30: 4 (July 2004): p. 294-303.

[3] Task Force on an Appendix of Major and Minor Changes, Committee on Cataloging–Description and Access, Cataloging and Classification Section of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services. Differences Between, Changes Within: Guidelines on When to Create a New Record. Chicago, IL: Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, 2007.

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