Saturday Librarian: The WiFi strikes back

Hopefully everyone had a lovely weekend and start to the week. I’m planning to start the Saturday posts again now that the semester has begun, and I have a few fun items from the library to highlight on Thursday’s as well.

This past week, I was able to introduce the students to the ILL program which was big for me. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but for four years I sat in the upper classroom of the library, soaking in all manner of thoughts, phrases, and ideas. Arguing and pondering and generally enjoying the years. And for a brief 15 minute window, I stood at the front of that classroom and I was the expert on one small area. A bit of the goosebumps with that one, no lie.

Saturday dawned with such promise. I had my first pumpkin coffee of the fall, got to campus nice and early since I had to leave early, and I had grand plans of finalizing the server set up that was interrupted by the lack of internet followed by locked down internet. I had confirmed that the WiFi was back up, unlocked, and strong with internet flowing like a river when I was on campus Monday.

You can guess where this is going…

Yeah, the unlocked WiFi network was flakier than a croissant, with nowhere near the connectivity I needed to make sure that the client box would continue to see the server without failing at some point. So back to the drawing board on that one– I’m not in IT, Jim, I’m a librarian darn it! (Oh come on, Star Trek turned 50 this past week!)

I did manage to get our lovely check out cards cut up and available for the students:

So I had that going for me! We also have all the library books shelved. Yes, ALL of them! I have 3 awesome student workers this semester which is the most I’ve had before and man are they quick with the shelving! With the WiFi declaring that we shall not catalog, the focus at the moment is moving the art and music collections into the Music room. That will fit better from a collection standpoint and clear nearly an aisle’s worth of shelf space in the Stacks, which we can use to hold acquisitions.

Lastly, I updated the official library website. Did you know we had an official library website? The plan was to run some WordPress plug-ins to simulate an online catalog but the move from development to production didn’t work out as planned and so the decision was made to abandon that half step and move to the complete catalog solution.

But! We have the site so we might as well use it. You can find the ILL policy and circulation policy, and I am curating digital resources for student use on the site as well. To see any of these, go to and check it out! Drop me a line if there are any digital resources you think would be helpful, or if you’ve tried to fined resources for a certain type of research and come up empty and we’ll take a look.

…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.

Saturday Librarian: Bits and Bobs

Saturday Librarian: Bits and Bobs

Saturday brought another quiet working day, as a good portion of the summer promises to be. The weather was more tolerable (read: Less humid!), and that made it easier to move throughout the library without wanting to flee directly to the stacks. More books were logged and shelved, not that it stopped a whole crop of new books from appearing:

These were pulled from the music room. I am very fortunate to have the summer work study students available for a handful of hours a week, and they are making quick work of the periodicals that are stored throughout the music room and the stacks. They’re on a pace to have everything stored in another area by the end of the summer! The periodicals will still be available if needed, but they aren’t accessed enough to tie up the Music Room.

Why the move? We need space for the expanding art and music collection! The art and music, as I’m sure some of you know, is currently tucked in the back of the stacks with no room to grow, yet grow it has. There are some new books to be incorporated into the collection and they need to be shelved somewhere. The goal is to house the art and music collections in the music room itself; there are plenty of shelves and the location is far more appropriate.

Upcoming goal: get us set up on the state’s Interlibrary Loan system. More on that to come. In the meantime, have another picture of campus wearing her summer glory:

Saturday Librarian: By the Numbers

Saturday Librarian: By the Numbers

Everyone likes numbers right? How about a numerical run down of the year:

176 — books cataloged in the Ballroom and Newman Room, covering linguistics and literature

854 — books cataloged in the Scholars Lounge, covering general knowledge and starting on the (robust) Philosophy section

929 — books cataloged in the Stacks, covering a few of my favorite things history, politics, art and music.

115— books from the end of the semester that still need to be checked in and included in the numbers above, for a total of…

2,074 books checked in or cataloged during the 2015-2016 academic year.

42,945 — estimated number of volumes in the library

That puts us at a completion rate of 5%.

17 — Saturday cataloging days in the 2nd semester

48 — Blog posts

822 — Blog page views (thank you!)

Given the fact that I’m not able to devote full time to the library, I’m pretty happy with the progress we’ve made. Would I love to have done more? Sure, who wouldn’t? But for a part time librarian with part time student workers, the numbers are respectable.

More to come on the projects for the summer and into next year, in the mean time enjoy these pictures from Saturday




Saturday Librarian: *coughing*

I have been remiss the last two weeks, leaving you all without my signature charm and wit. All I can say on that score is that I truly hope none of you caught the flu this year, because MAN is it a beast. I can’t say that I’m fully recovered even yet, but recovered enough to go about my business.

It was a bummer for me, not least because it overlapped with spring break for the students, which is a good time to get into the classrooms and get some shelving done. I had also hoped to snag a couple of cool poetry books to highlight for you on Thursdays this month, as it is National Poetry month. Alas and alack, we shall have to do with some Chesterton to kick us off this week (hardly a sacrifice) and I shall find some cool poetry volumes for the rest of the month.

Progress report time: losing two weeks does not do wonders for the numbers, but we are seeing steady progress in the stacks. A total of 685 books have been verified since we started working the stacks, for a respectable 4.13% in 9 working days (Saturdays only at this juncture.) Still have to pick up the pace to get the library where it needs to be, but we’re getting there!

This week’s interesting finds:

Saturday Librarian: Grinding

Back in the summer, before I commenced work on the library, I was putting together my plan. A year one roadmap, if you will. I knew the work on the library would take a while, and after I made my case, I was told to go forth and clean my Augean stables.

I laughed at the time; I knew there was disarray, but I figured I could keep it interesting. To

So I’m basically Hercules in this scenario. Everything else is the library, but less smelly.

a certain extent, I have been able to do so, but we are rapidly reaching the point where I feel like I’m grinding. Grinding, in a video game context, refers to having to do the same thing over and over in an effort to gain a level/tool/experience/thing you want or need. And man, is that what this feels like. Needing to account for what I had accomplished and get a better idea of how long things might take, I took to each of my spreadsheets and slapped a few formulas in the bottom. Nothing spangly or flashy, just some Countifs, addition, division and a percentage at the bottom.

For context, I have one student tackling the two rooms at the top of the library, and I am fortunate that she like literature because that’s where it’s all housed– the Ps in Library of Congress Classification. I have one student handling the first floor of the library, running through philosophy and religion, the A and B sections of LCC. Everything, and I mean every other letter left over (23 for those keeping track), fall into The Stacks. And yes, it deserves it capitalization. The Stacks are cool, largely left alone, and chock full of interesting thing. Its also full of random not interesting things. Them’s the breaks, after all. I began my work on The Stacks this semester, having spent last semester getting us up and running and catching up on the check ins.

Here we are, rapidly approaching the half way point of semester 2 out of ? and we have made the following progress:

Ballroom and Newman Room: 2.7% complete

Scholars Lounge and Helm Room: 6.58% complete

The Stacks: 2.67% complete

Total completion: 3.8%

And now you know why I drink copious amounts of coffee. Feel free to send more my way. In the meantime, last weekend’s futurists have given way to the Middle Ages (not pictured, the intriguingly named “Life of a Medieval Baron”):


Treasures from the Library: Murder in the Cathedral

TS Eliot is well known to many; The Waste Land and The Four Quartets are well loved and well studied, and even those not given to poetry have at least a passing familiarity with an homage to his work in the form of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats (Fun fact: Cats is derived from Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Eliot also wrote plays; Sweeney Agonistes was written in 1926, The Rock in 1934, and Murder in the Cathedral in 1935.

The Collection holds a number of Eliot’s works (sadly, or not depending on your point of view, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is not among them.) Hunting through the collection, I made a point of tracking down volumes which were listed as being produced during the publication year. This was back in the fall, when the heat had just broken and the thought of prowling around the library in search of volumes held a certain appeal, so long as one could escape to go apple picking right after.

I distinctly remember finding Murder in the Cathedral in the Newman room; it was right after I had been able to relax, knowing that an original Charles Dickens was not sitting on the shelf for all and sundry (how happy I was for the catalog to be wrong on that score!) IMG_20160206_132814908The Eliot works were newer, less than 100 years old, so there was no concern that the book would be hanging on by the threads that made up the paper. Sure enough, there on the shelf stood a slim black volume, stamped Murder in the Cathedral. It was a wholly unassuming volume, as so many are from that time. There was not detail work or embossing on the cover, nothing to make you think this book was anything other than a text book. And yet…

For those unfamiliar with the work, the titular murder is that of Thomas Becket in 1170; the Cathedral in question is Canterbury Cathedral in England. Even without being turned into a play, the incident is dramatic. Henry II, the King of England and founder of the Plantagenet dynasty clashed with his archbishop early and often once Thomas stopped being the King’s friend and started being the archbishop he was appointed to be. Famously (and inaccurately) Henry is said to have shouted “Will someone not rid me of this troublesome priest?” Some say turbulent, some say meddlesome. Edward Grim, a contemporary and witness of the assassination, is generally trusted when he records Henry’s utterance as “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?” Several knights took the statement to heart, rode out, and murdered Becket within the Cathedral itself.

The play was first performed in Canterbury; not just in the town, but in the Chapter House of the Cathedral itself. It has been performed many times, as well as being made into a film and turned into an opera. Portions of the original play were scrapped in the editing process; they later became the basis for Burnt Norton, the first of The Four Quartets. Copies of Murder in the Cathedral, as well as The Four Quartets, can be found in the Newman Room.


Technology in the Library

Technology in the Library

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.

Treasures from the Library: Sonnets on Shakespeare

Welcome to the new blog series! Hopefully you guys get as much of a kick out of the random, weird, and wonderful things in the collection as I do. First though, a quick word to clarify: when I feature something as a treasure of the collection, it may or may not have monetary value. It may be a book with an interesting story or it may be a first edition of an author that is a favorite of the college. There are many types of value, after all.

Now, onto our first find!

My first question for you is, have you ever heard of Major General Ethan Allen Hitchcock? If the answer is no, don’t worry, I hadn’t either. Ethan Allen Hitchcock was born in Vergennes, VT in 1798. As an aside, you should visit Vergennes if you ever get the chance. Its a beautiful little town about 7 miles away from Lake Champlain. Seriously difficult not squee at the quaint nature of the town when you drive through. But back to the task at hand. Vergennes was named after the Comte de Vergennes at the suggestion of Ethan Allen. Ethan Allen being the grandfather of Ethan Allen Hitchcock, and famous for a great many things in his own right.

The son of a judge/delegate to the Constitutional Convention/part of the group who founded the University of Vermont and the grandson of the man who captured Fort

General Ethan Allen Hitchcock. He doesn’t have time for your shenanigans.

Ticonderoga and helped found the state of Vermont, the good (eventual) General had a lot to live up to. After graduating from the US Military Academy, Hitchcock moved through the ranks, serving in the Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. He was out of service for a time before returning to serve in the Civil War, attaining the rank of Major General.

He was a military man, through and through. And yet, somewhere in between marching all over the country and commanding troops during a war that was the bloodiest to date, he found time to write. The flute and alchemy were his two loves, but he clearly had a soft spot in his heart for Shakespeare, as this little volume attests.

Remarks on the Sonnets of Shakespeare was published in 1867, four years before Ethan Allen Hitchcock passed away. It was the last book he wrote that was published in his lifetime. His journals, Fifty Years in Camp and Field and A Traveler in Indian Territory would only be published posthumously.

The copy we possesses is not in the best condition: it has visible wear on the spine and there are sections that are detaching from the spine. Its to be expected of a little book from 1867 that has rattled around for almost 150 years. There aren’t any distinguishing marks on the book, so I can only guess where it might have come from. Most of our library books began their library career elsewhere before retiring to our collection, and that very well may hold true for this little volume as well.


For those looking to read the work, this volume has been removed from general circulation until we can decide how best to proceed. However, the Internet Archive has a digital copy that can be found here.