French Pamphlet Collections at the Newberry Library is a three-year project funded by a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant. CLIR administers this national effort with the support of generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. French Pamphlet Collections at the Newberry Library began in January 2010 and will be completed in January 2013. Through the project, the Newberry is creating full, item-level MARC records for 22,000 French pamphlets that date from the 16th to the 19th century.
The Newberry applied for the CLIR grant to support one of its top cataloging priorities of processing hidden collections. A committee comprised of staff with library service, stacks management, curatorial and collection development responsibilities prioritized these uncataloged and undercataloged materials based on its knowledge of researcher requests, scholarship trends, Newberry collection strengths, subject areas in need of development, and strong complementary collections in other institutions. Pamphlet collections were one of the highest priorities. More specifically, the committee identified the French Pamphlet Collections as being an urgent cataloging need. The material complements strengths of the Newberry’s collection and it is in high-demand by researchers. The bulk of the pamphlets date to the period of the French Revolution and are primary sources for legal, social, and cultural history; literary studies; and the history of publishing. These ephemeral documents have often been overlooked and undervalued by past generations of scholars and undercataloged in research collections. They are of particular value to modern scholarship because they move past official histories and contribute to new interpretations.
French Pamphlet Collections at the Newberry Library is also a pilot project designed to test how the successful models developed for university libraries for hidden collections cataloging can be adapted for a smaller, independent research library. In the successful university library model, graduate student assistants play a key role in processing. Our project will test how this model will work in a library that is not located on a campus and that has no formal affiliation with an academic program. While Project Cataloging Assistant positions will not be limited to graduate students, the Newberry will make special effort to promote the positions to French language, literature and history departments at nearby universities. The Newberry’s Collection Services Department will also continue to work with nearby MLIS programs.