Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ruminations on FRBR and Rare Books

One of my students asked about FRBR manifestations and expressions and whether they could be compared to edition, impression, issue and state, as described in standard texts about Analytic Bibliography. They are particularly interested in theoretical similarities.

It's a difficult question to answer, particularly for one who looks at practice and not theory.

When we talk about editions and their various forms we are looking at an instance of setting type and looking at how that set type varies over time until the type is reset (new edition). One of the issues with FRBR and RDA for Rare Books is the loss of the granularity between editions, impressions, and issues. If they are all lumped together, it will become impossible to actually identify different editions, impressions, and issues, not to mention comments about state (minute changes in layout, punctuation, and errors in pagination).

Rare Book librarians have been revising and updating their cataloging procedures and protocols in light of FRBR and RDA, but it is a slow process and they aren't ready to jettison the specificity of AACRII 2nd edition in favor of something that doesn't take that specificity into account. 

As the semester progresses, we'll look at many reference tools and articles that will help us understand how to differentiate and describe editions. That's what analytic or descriptive bibliography is all about. Take a look at the diagram in Belanger and the discussion in Williams to get a better understanding of definitions for bibliography. Both contain visual examples of bibliographies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Stored off site? Is it "out of mind"?

Many of our cultural heritage institutions have run out of shelf space, out of on-site storage space, out of room.  No matter how much we weed, there are still more books, documents, and objects that arrive at our institution, day after day, week after week.  It's a sad reality, but our institutions cannot keep everything on-site, not even the Library of Congress.

Weeding isn't an option in many institutions. Special Collections, Archives, Historical Societies, Museums, and Rare Book Rooms are hard pressed to weed collections. In fact, many gain objects and materials due to poor condition, rarity, risk of mutilation, or re-classification as 'medium rare.' So how do we control the ever growing number of items in our collections? 

We could hone our collections so they fit within the scope of our collection policies. In this case, deaccessioning is a possibility and materials are moved to private collectors and to other institutions.  
We could reappraise our archival collections, removing all duplicates, digitizing where possible, and offering unprocessed backlogged materials to other institutions. Again, we just shuffle the 'cards' around.

Over the past twenty years, more and more of our collections have been moved to on-site and now off-site storage. Moving items to storage has increased over the past 5 years when universities realized that there's lots of expensive real estate tied up in library buildings and shelving, real estate that could be used as community space, collaborative space, and more. Journals were moved to storage or even discarded because the print runs were digitized. The same is true of government documents. In our rush to digitize, we've discarded and stored.

Now many items in Archives, Historical Societies, and even Special and Rare Book Collections are stored off-site in environmentally controlled, safe facilities. It can take 1-3 days for items to be retrieved depending upon when they are requested. 

While there are lots of articles about "Hidden Collections," Erika Jenns raises the question of how putting items in storage contributes to the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. "Just Lines in a Spreadsheet? Maintaining the relevance of materials in offsite storage." American Libraries (January 10, 2016): 

If items aren't in the stacks, aren't available via browsing the shelves, then are they doomed to live in storage forever? We know it's not the case for closed stack libraries like NYPL and Cleveland Public Library and historical societies, but what about traditional academic and public libraries? 

It's harder to browse our collections when items are in storage. Our patrons must request items then wait for them to arrive. In the days of instant gratification, it's difficult for our patrons to understand that items in storage and take time to arrive. 

Until "everything" is digitized, we'll be grappling with on and off site storage, with requesting items, and moving them around. 

We'll be discussing this topic and others in Rare Books this semester I look forward to your solutions.