It’s actually been a few weeks since I first began my work with the Reference Library Collection, but it has been very interesting and challenging. When I first walked into the Historical Society I was impressed at how well they had done with as few resources as they had available, and with limited professional input. There were a few times I cringed, however for the most part the archival collections are in good, usable condition and will be available for many years to come.
The Reference Library Collection is in a unique situation, particularly when compared to my past experiences. The Museum Director Berlin brought me in to help inventory and catalog the collection, and to help her understand the relationship the collection should have with Casa Grande Valley Historical Society in terms of availability, use, and storage. Berlin would like to take the collection and make it available to the public for research and reference.
From an initial standpoint the storage and organization are not ideal. The collection is divides between two locations: two bookshelves directly across from the Museum Director’s office and a closet is in a corner of the upper floor, tucked away from sight.
The Reference Library Collection is a mixture of periodicals and books of varying subject matter, and are either placed in specific order on bookshelves or stored in boxes on the same shelves. The books that have a call number on the bookshelves (both in the Director’s Office and the closet) are organized in what appears to be a combination of the Dewey Decimal system and a notation of the first three letters of the authors’/ editors’ last name. These books are cataloged in a card catalog, and a sample of the collection have been entered into Past Perfect.
My initial thoughts on the collection are:
– The current location of this collection does not facilitate use.
– The combination of Dewey/ bookstore call number system is confusing, as some of the books were published without a specified author, editor, compiler, or publisher.
– The card catalog is confusing- divided by collection, rather than subject, author, and title (which is all thrown in together). Also the amount of cards in the card catalog makes me wonder if every book is cataloged.
– The books entered into Past Perfect do not indicate the assigned call number and the location label is using a currently in speculation, so there is no way to verify which books in the collection have been entered into PP without looking for each individual item by title, which is difficult considering the call number system.
– There is little known about how the collection was acquired. The accession records may need to be gone through to find the dates and sources of items.
After discussing the hopes/plans for the collection and reviewing the situation Berlin and I have determined that rather than creating a library which will be open for public use, this collection would benefit from being treated like a special collection due to condition and subject. This collection will need to be inventoried, possibly weeded and reorganized in a more user-friendly way, and cataloged in Past Perfect. A collection plan for the reference library/ special collection will be developed and used as a part of a collection plan for the entire museum.
My current tasks:
– Inventory the collection in a spreadsheet to understand what is contained in the collection, as well as if each item has been cataloged and where (card, PP?)
– Record and photograph the initial state of the collection, continuing to record progress throughout the project
– Contact other libraries, museums, and historical societies in order to gain a better understanding of how to handle this collection
– Work with the Museum Director to develop and implement a collection plan
Onward and Upward!