So what did we accomplish this year? A quick rundown for you:
Established Koha as the electronic catalog for the school. Currently available on the library network
We cataloged 3000 books over the course of the year
This is awesome when you consider we were without a network for close to two months, impeding the students and myself from adding any records during that time
We received two very generous donations to the library– between them close to 4000 books! We’re currently going through them to determine what will be a good fit for the collection.
We got Interlibrary Loan up and running, connecting to NHAIS. In addition to being able to get updated holdings into their catalog, we were able to borrow books that our students needed, as well as share books from our collection with neighboring libraries.
I incredibly grateful to the 5 students who rotated through library work study this year (at least one from each class, no less!). They all worked hard and helped get us to this point– we can say we’re truly underway with this catalog, which was not the case 10 months ago.
Special shout out to my “IT department”– my husband and my brother, who helped pull wire and fight the technological imps that threatened to drag us down. Those two are truly a blessing (even when the jokes are gently at my expense :D)
Ya’ll, I’m truly geeking out on my new catalog, and I don’t expect you to understand. Its enough for me to know that 1) we have a computer in the library 2) we have a barcode scanner that is younger than I am 3) with their powers combined, I can pull MARC records into a catalog that 4) is visible on the wifi.
That’s a pretty big 2 weeks folks (and yes, yes I milking the excuse for my tardy blogging. Wouldn’t you?) The previous cataloging that I’ve done is on a virtual machine, which means its not actually live on campus. The stuff we’ve done the last two weeks? Totally live on campus!
Some other items of note:
Phase 2 of the Music Room is done! My wonderful workers were able to get the art and music collection moved into the Music room over the last two weeks. The fabulous summer crew, you’ll remember, cleared that out for me over the course of the summer. This allows us to process some art books that need to join the collection, and gives room to expand that part of the collection as we choose.
What did we do with our extra stack space? Shelve some of my lovely acquisitions hoard. Getting those onto shelves is step one to making it easily reviewable for the faculty.
I got a question about the periodicals we’re boxing– those are not being discarded, they are being stored off campus. There are many easier ways to access journal entries than by combing through hard copy, and we need to clean up the lower stacks area and set it to better use.
Finally, I just gotta brag on my campus. It shows to lovely effect on a fall afternoon:
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.)
A post shared by Alexis the Librarian (@alibraryforallseasons) on
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.
A post shared by Alexis the Librarian (@alibraryforallseasons) on
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.
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.
Technology is a funny thing. The word itself is evocative of computers, digitization, even sci fi and space travel and infinite possibility. But that is hardly the end all be all of technology; it isn’t even the entirety of technology that we are dealing with today.
Technology in the library can be scary for some; there is an immediate fear that all those wonderful books, full of knowledge and touched by generations before us will disappear like so much smoke, leaving the walls bare and the ridding the air of that sweet vanilla smell of old books. Don’t forget, however, that the book itself is a form of technology.
Brief pause for the video that I’m convinced is shown at the beginning of everyone’s sojourn through library school:
The word technology, when broken down simply, comes out to mean the science or study of craft or art. Easy enough for everyone to agree that a book is a physical object and the result of a craft; it was certainly a technological advance over the scroll or sheaves of loose paper. There is no question of the art of the book: one need only look at an illuminated manuscript to see art; one can even look at the books of the 1890s and 1900s to see the art put into the end paper and title pages.
These days, technology in the library is generally taken to mean removing the books and going digital, to compliment the digital catalog that can be accessed both in the building and from the wider web. Being on paper at the college, it was with great interest that I read Karen Coyle’s article “The Evolution of the Catalog.” After all, we have the ability to bypass the growing pains that were felt in the 1980s and 1990s when the majority of Libraryland was going digital, simply by virtue of the fact that we don’t have to install the very first OPAC and work our way up. We can apply what was learned throughout the implementation process and in the past 35 years of digitization.
What I found most interesting, though not necessarily surprising, is that developments in cataloging and inextricably caught up in the technology in use. The system of cataloging a string was tied to the technology of paper and the card catalog; the MARC format was born out of a need to easily provide card catalog cards and was pressed into service as the foundation for OPAC records.
Now that we are firmly in the world of the digital database, the format can chance again. During library school, the focus was on Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), which is relational as opposed to listing information in a string. I’ll admit, I did not keep up with the development of FRBR once I was out of the library school, simply because of the limited number of hours in the day. Now I’m catching up. Those interested in the development of FRBR can check out OCLC’s write up as well as the documents on FRBR from IFLA.
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!
The College had a short autumnal break this week, Thursday through Monday. Not a lot of time but I’d seen postings in the caf about various places to go nearby and retreats happening and so forth. I assumed I’d have the library to myself and I could dive into the Ballroom– the beginning of the “P” section, easily the largest part of the documented catalog. As a student I appreciated being surrounded by literature and Latin grammars and Greek lexicons and so forth. It was comforting– if so many major and minor and utterly forgotten authors had been able to get their works published and purchased, surely I could muddle through my exams and essays.
As a librarian, such a set up is difficult. So much of the day takes place in the library, even on weekends. Every weekend so far, in fact, the rooms have been occupied with play practices. Finally, I thought, a morning to work as hard as humanly possible! I had left the day off my Year 1 roadmap initially, and added it back in relatively late, hoping to work ahead.
I forgot I was at TMC. Most of the students had, in fact stayed on campus for the break and were simply relaxing with their books and taking time to think leisurely. Whoops! So back to shelving I went.
Its the oddest set up; my assistant is methodically working his way through the catalog, starting with the “A” section, which is now complete. Once returning from break, he’ll be able to start on the “B” section. (For those needing a run down of what fits into what category, check it out here.) I, meanwhile, work through the returns. Its an odd ball bunch, to be sure. There’s been a trend toward all things Reformation in the last two weeks, with a large number of art books coming back in as well. Perhaps the best part of the shelf read for me, as a former student, is having dedicated time in my week to become reacquainted with the books of my youth. I certainly never got a chance to review the art and music part of the collection, so each book that comes back in is a treat that leads back to that little corner of the library.
Because of the need to review all pertinent book data for the shelf read as well as schlep and shelve, I find myself chaffing at the glacial pace we are stuck in. On average, I get 40-50 books a week done in my 4 hours Saturday shift, taking the data home to plug into the master spreadsheet and compare what was already on file. Anyone who has undertaken this type of project before and has a potentially better way, please share!
In the meantime, I leave you with some fun finds from Saturday: