…And we’re back

…And we’re back

Happy fall, everyone! School has been back now for about a week, and at least this weekend, the weather has turned decidedly fall-wards. That is to say, lightly breezy, low humidity, and cool enough at night to leave the windows open. The other plus side of this weather is that the library loses the stuffiness that comes with high summer, and its pleasant all the way through, not just in the stacks.

Lots of exciting goings-on to report as I enter year 2. First, today I’ll be running an orientation to the Library for both new and returning students, which hasn’t really happened before. I’m looking forward to running folks through the basics: how to read a call number, how to use the card catalog, and how to use our new Interlibrary Loan program.

Some of you may have seen the Instagram posts over the summer, but its true that we secured a server for the library with the goal of running a digital catalog! Koha is running and we just need to finalize the end user set up (also, we need a desk for our check out station in the foyer.)

Exciting as it is to have the digital catalog started, I feel the need to sound caution: we have limited MARC records and we must enter in the holdings one by one. Lest we have forgotten, that’s 45000 entries.

I am incredibly grateful to NHAIS for sending over the 6000+ MARC records that we had in the NH Union catalog. Its a wonderful starting point! I’m also blessed to have 3 student workers helping me out this year! For those keeping score, I started with 1 last fall, then 2 last spring. Having the increased support is marvelous.

Finally, Interlibrary Loan has arrived! As of, well, now, students and faculty have access to Interlibrary Loan through the NHU PAC, connecting us with the libraries of New Hampshire. For other institutions in the state, we absolutely lend as well, we just don’t have all of our holdings in NHU Pac, so make sure to email me if you are looking for something that is esoteric enough that we may have it. We also have non-esoteric holdings, but the odd, the old, and the humanities are kind of our wheelhouse.

Welcome back everyone!

Saturday Librarian: To Boldly Go…

Saturday Librarian: To Boldly Go…

When I first showed up in my librarian capacity, one of our stated goals was to make sure that we got a digital catalog. Its not a new technology — digital catalogs began to show up in the 1980s and they were commonplace by the late 90s. Even now in 2016 the smaller libraries of the word find a way to digitize their catalogs, and the hope was that we would do the same.

At first, I considered an inventory to be our goal. After all, we needed to know what to load into the OPAC, right? Fast forward a year, and the inventory is decidedly off the pace I had expected, primarily because I was trying to make sure that we had the basics of a catalog record, just in case we couldn’t get full MARC records to start. A year is a good amount of time upon which to base a decision. You can base your decisions on the good and the bad and the middle of the road. And so we’re embarking of the catalog now and continuing the inventory in the new system.

Why? Quite simply, we have to be able to track circulation and Interlibrary loan material, and we have to have that system in place before the students return. Then too, the inventory is a lot easier when you’re only confirming the barcode is right and the book is on the shelf — MARC records can be pulled into our new system directly from NHAIS.

So what did we do today? We got the server, got it plugged in and got the operating system and basic installation of our new cataloging software installed. The main stumbling block had more to do with the suddenly disappearing internet, and Saturdays are hard to troubleshoot tech issues because of the number of players that are not working. The course of technology never did run smooth.

Lest anyone take the preceding paragraph the wrong way, this is not meant to imply that the installation is difficult or untenable, or that we run the risk of losing our catalog in a way that doesn’t exist with the card catalog. There are redundancies that will be in place on premises and off, and we will also reach the point where we have our catalog included in the NH State Library’s Union catalog, to help facilitate our ILL relationships. Its very difficult to be a good ILL partner with a card catalog.

In fact, sadly, I’m still on Excel spreadsheets. The installation could not be completed in a day, and so Excel is still our catalog– for the moment. Still, in the space of a day, we’ve come closer to our online catalog then we have before. The students will start to come back in about a month, Freshmen first for orientation followed by the returning Sophomores and Upper Classmen. My hope is that they will have a new catalog there to greet them and the choice of serendipity in the stacks or precision recall of materials, whatever the situation may call for.

Paper Google, Index cards, and the evolution of information

Paper Google, Index cards, and the evolution of information

Many of you are fond of the card catalog, so this little find may be of some interest. Poking around on the internet, I came across an article on Popular Mechanics about the history of the index card, and how the advent of the modern index card was due in no small part to the development of the library catalog. As an aside, they referred to the Mundaneum in Brussels which maintained the world’s largest repository of documentation.

Intrigued, I looked it up. Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine started the project , creating the International Office of Sociological Bibliography in 1893. What started as a collection of books branched out to photographs, maps, newspapers and articles– microfiche was created in 1906 to help support the desire to document everything. Information, however, grew and grew and the scope of the project was rapidly expanded to the point where it was simply not possible to document everything. They did what they could, though.

The Mundaneum was more then just a collection of information, hence the nickname Paper Google. If you were to write into the Mundaneum and request information on a subject, sending along your blank index cards, you would receive them back with information. Cool, right?

Vast swaths of this collection of knowledge, however, are gone, lost to World War II. What is left can be fond in Mons, Brussels. Should I ever find myself in Brussels, I would certainly visit. Even so, the glimpse at a particular section of knowledge management is cool. After all, there is data and metadata, and technology to capture it. As one evolves, so do the others to catch up or take advantages of developments, and so it goes on. Index cards were an advantage over big catalog books that had to be reprinted with every change; electronic catalogs are an advantage over card catalogs where a work can only be classified one way (or more than one way but with many cards and man hours to facilitate it). It will be interesting to see what additional changes are in store in the future.

Wonderings: Card Catalogs

Throughout the discussion of work on the library, I have found that everyone has a basic opinion on the card catalog. There is no middle ground, no one who could take it or leave it. The first opinion is that they should have been gone yesterday or the day before, and onto a better, brighter, less handwriting intensive future. The second opinion is that computers and OPACs have their place, no question, but that’s no reason to also ditch the card catalog.

From what I can gather, the card catalog love stems from a few things. Some love the look and feel of the old oak, the heft of the drawers as they search among the cards. It adds a tangibility to the research and makes the researcher feel more integral to the process– they are fully in control of their search, and connections are made, or not, as part of their thought process. Others just love the look and nostalgia of the catalog, never mind the maintenance.

Unfortunately, we are a one person library with over 45,000 monographs in the collection. For those who have not run a card catalog, there is not just one card per book– there are cards for title, author, and any subject headings (or keywords) that you want the patron to be able to find tied to the work. Particularly with academic works, those subject headings lead to a vast number of cards. I could spend 80 hours a week for years bringing the card catalog back into form as a working, accurate, well oiled machine, by why do so?

Still, there is something very fitting about having the card catalog standing sentinel in the foyer of the library. One thought I had was to maintain a simply catalog for the special collections– title and author, no subject headings, and the collection is a non circulating collection, so nothing would be leaving the designated area anyway. It would allow us to keep the smaller catalog in use that would rarely have new additions and require minimal maintenance. It might be a good middle road between nothing digital and only digital. Is such an effort worthwhile? For those who love the old card catalogs, what about them do you love and miss? For those who prefer digital, would having the small card catalog for a small, non circulating collection be bothersome? The records could certainly be maintained in the OPAC as well. All thoughts are welcome!