s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: What I do all week

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What I do all week

(or at least for 10 hours a week)

1. Select a delightfully old, dusty book from my book truck. (I’m not being facetious. I really like old books, if not dusty ones. There’s a book called How to Win Your Man and Keep Him from the 30s. I can hardly wait.)

2. Check the book for binding problems and uncut signatures. If the book has binding problems, order an archival box for it. Insert the appropriate streamers for either problem. (I talked to the librarian at the bindery yesterday. He says that they can guillotine the uncut books for me, or I can learn how to do it myself, if I want. Um, hello? Access to a way sweet professional guillotine? I’ll be there, don’t worry. On another note, “guillotine” is something of a problem word for me, because I can never remember if English speakers say /GEE-uh-teen/ or /GILL-uh-teen/, and I don’t want to sound like a snob for overly Frenchifying it. So I end up pausing for great lengths of time before I say the word. And sounding like a hick if I get it wrong. I have similar problems with “niche” and “surveillance,” which I want to pronounce /neesh/ and /sur-VAY-uns/.)

3. Record the language of the original book on a spreadsheet. If the book is in German, record whether the book is printed in Roman or in Fraktur type. (Thus far about half the books are in German, although I had one today in Dutch. I was actually hired for this job for my pseudo-skills in reading German. My supervisors don’t know how pseudo they really are, but they can only improve, right? Also, I can read Fraktur. I don’t remember why, though.)

4. Search for the book in Voyager (our online catalogue). If I find the book in Voyager (i.e., if we already have another copy), I actually have to set it aside, because I don’t know how to do added copies yet. But that doesn’t happen much.

5. Search for the book in OCLC (a joint catalogue shared with thousands of libraries). If I find the book in here, I have to save the record to a file, record the OCLC number, record the Dewey call number (if there is one) or the Library of Congress call number (if there isn’t). (Have I mentioned that we are still on Dewey? This makes us the second largest library in the country, after the New York Public Library, still to be using the Dewey Decimal system. The three other larger libraries are all on Library of Congress, namely, Harvard, Yale and the Library of Congress itself, of course. Actually, I’m told that Harvard originally had its own, independent, system. Typical.)

6. If I am blessed to have found a record which already contains a Dewey number, then I only have to go to WebDewey to double check that the number is still valid, and that I agree with the classification. If I have found a record with an LC number but no Dewey number, I have to go to LibWeb and check for LC to Dewey conversions made by other librarians. Sometimes it’s pretty easy, and a lot of librarians have consistently mapped one number to another. Sometimes it’s harder, and the books have been mapped to different numbers, or the numbers mapped are invalid, or the books mapped treat a different aspect of the subject. LC and Dewey classifications don’t match up perfectly; and Dewey is often a lot more specific, but it’s hard taking advantage of that specificity when you’re still basically unfamiliar with the system.

7. If I have neither a Dewey nor an LC call already supplied, then I have to figure out a call number myself. Which is tricky, considering that call number assignment was the section on which I did the worst in my cataloguing class. (That and headings for government bodies. Couldn’t construct one properly to save my life.) Luckily, I’ve not had any government headings to construct, but real life call number assignments can be much harder than the practice exercises. (How about a workbook for passing the test which grants you a license to sell poisonous herbicides? Anyone know that number? . . . Seriously, do you?)

8. I then save all of this information so that my G., my supervisor, can look over it when she has a chance and tell me everything I’m doing wrong. (Actually she’s very nice about it. I’m just new at it all.)

9. I fix what she tells me to fix, and then I get to enter the records into our catalogue. I search for the OCLC record again (why I have to do this twice is a fault of the current workflow, but there are advantages, for now), add the Dewey number I have now found or constructed and update our holdings on WorldCat. (This last step lets other libraries all over the world know that we, too, now posses this very important 50-year-old German book on the history of economic philosophy, and they are quite welcome to request it from us via Interlibrary Loan.)

10. I copy the record into a local file, then go into Voyager and import that same file. Then I try to save the record to the database. Voyager attempts to validate all of my headings, and if it goes OK, I save the record. If the names don’t validate, I search the OCLC authority files to check if there’s an established heading. If not, I save the record anyway. (I don’t know what to do yet if the series heading doesn’t validate. More questions for G.)

11. I establish new holdings for the record, including updating the location from “main stacks” (the default) to “Oak Street storage facility.” (That’s right. These books are going straight into storage. Way to serve the patrons.)

12. I add item information to the record, including putting a barcode on the book and updating the record to read that this book is “in process.” And then I go back to the holdings information and I submit a request for a spine label.

This is as much as I’ve done so far, although I still have to write the call numbers in the books and then apparently some little undergraduate elves somewhere in the building will put the spine labels on for me. (And I still have to figure out how to make the books come back to me after it all so I can finish up the processing.)

The sick thing is, I kind of enjoy it all.


At February 02, 2006 9:56 PM, Blogger Master Fob said...

I'm a /GILL-uh-teen/ sort of guy myself. Though I do find your work fascinating, and I don't say that sarcastically at all.

At February 03, 2006 1:44 PM, Blogger Logan said...

And there's all sorts of words which you can pronounce in contrast to the common American way, whether Modern Britishly, Archaic Britishly, Frenchly, or Latinly! If you do it enough, somebody might realize you're just having fun instead of being a snob (that is, if the person is capable of imagining phononlogy as fun):

issue /'is ju:/
harassment /'her es ment/

I think I'll compile a list. Thanks, Katya!

At February 03, 2006 6:24 PM, Blogger Th. said...


Since everyone else started there, I'll start by saying that if you don't pause, just shoot through the word, no one will notice or at least be sure or at least have time to care.

(And for harassment, I heard someone say harass the same way and was stopped dead. So maybe I'm wrong here.)

I think you're job sounds very cool.

I thought of you the other night because Lady Steed is having some production problems with a book she's making (they're actually all Quark problems and the "binding" in this case will only be staples, but still). I think we should consider getting all the bookbinding fanatics together and gather resources. Things like presses and ginormous paper cutters and either prohibitively expensive or deadly difficult to come by. Why not share the wealth?

At February 03, 2006 6:24 PM, Blogger Th. said...



The your/you're error is the most embarrassing of all!

At February 04, 2006 3:03 PM, Anonymous Petra said...

In its defense, Harvard used a system other than the Library of Congress system because Harvard's library system was founded before the Library of Congress--about 162 years before, to be precise. Typical, indeed.

(Now, though, they're still in the process of switching over the call number system, so it's just completely and utterly confusing.)

At February 05, 2006 8:25 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Th. - I think there are such places where bookbinders can gather without fear. Unfortunately, the only on I know of is in Michigan. (Which is still a good deal more convenient to me than it is to you, in fairness.)

Petra - Your point of chronology is fair enough. It just seems so typically Harvard, to assume that their way would automatically be superior. (And I had no idea that the reclass was still going on. Sweet mercy.)


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