Category Archives: Training

Into the Swing of Things.

The beginning of April marked my seventh month here at the Newberry working on the CLIR project, and I can proudly say that I am finally a fully functioning (well, in so many words) member of the CLIR team! I have gradated to being able to add my own subject headings to records, have my portfolios go straight to peer-review (as opposed to going only to Jessica), being able to produce my own records, and being able to take part in the peer-review process myself! Being able to work my way through the training process has definitely helped to make everything much easier to grasp, and I can honestly say that although at times things were quite challenging and even a bit frustrating, there has never been a time when I felt overwhelmed or defeated. I think that that fact should serve as a testament to those who have helped train me along the way, and to the training process used on this project in general. I would definitely rate it as a success.

Of all of the different methods that have been employed to help me understand exactly what a cataloger does and what is expected out of us as members of the CLIR team, I would have to say that the exercise that has helped me quite significantly during this entire process is the act of participating in the peer-review. When I was first told that I had finally reached the point where I could start doing this, I was pretty intimidated (I mean, who am I to review the work of catalogers who have been doing this for years?), but my concerns were soon put to rest with kind and encouraging words from all of my colleagues. As I got into the process I quickly saw that this was an exercise that would help me recall and apply all of the knowledge that I have been picking up along the way during my training. What better way to solidify what you know than by reviewing the work of your peers?

Additionally, being able to see the records that other members of the team have produced, what subject headings they used for which type of documents, etc. is really helping me to be exposed to more material that I can apply to my own cataloging. I appreciate coming across all of the very specific (and incredibly handy!) subject headings that I wish I had known about all along. There have definitely been some silent (or maybe not so silent) exclamations of joy and excitement upon discovering these new and helpful subject headings, and I look forward to what I will continue to learn! As it stands, I am very much enjoying all of the new responsibilities that I have (producing records, peer-editing, doing second day checks, etc.) and would now like to work on increasing my levels of production. Thanks again to everyone who has helped me and been so friendly and patient with me along the way!

Adventures in Cataloging: The Journey Continues…

Looking back on when I first began this journey exactly five months ago today, I cannot believe the progress that I have made. Now, perhaps by anyone else’s standards this progress may seem minimal, but considering that I was not even sure exactly what it meant to be a cataloger, nor that MARC stood for something other than the spelling of the name Mark in French, I would say that some significant progress has indeed been made. The last time I wrote about my experience on this project I was just about three months in and venturing into the world of subject headings. This magnificent world both amazed me and confused me beyond all belief. Everyone relates learning how to catalog to learning a new language, and that could not be truer than in the sense of confusion that you feel trying to grasp just the idea of what subject headings are. The only other time I have ever felt this particular type of confusion was in a foreign language classroom. Like learning a new language, just when I was beginning to feel like I knew my way around and that I was comfortable with the material, the training wheels were taken off and it was time to move on to the next level of instruction (talk about a Sisyphean feeling!). Once again I found myself a bit frightened and unbalanced, but luckily this feeling wouldn’t last for long. Now I’m learning how to ride with the big kids!

As I have said before, the training, mentoring, and support that I have received from day one on this project has been nothing short of amazing. Everybody has been so kind and patient with me through this learning process. Both my peers and my “superiors” (it feels kind of odd to call them that because everyone is just so nice and approachable) are not only willing to help me, but also happy to be able to share their wealth of knowledge about cataloging in general and the CLIR project in particular. Being able to receive this kind of first-hand experience has really solidified my desire to continue on in library science in the future. Seeing just how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time, I cannot wait to see where I will be in the next few months (and all of the cool pamphlets that I have not yet discovered!)!

Starting to catalog Saint-Sulpice Collection items

As Jessica mentioned, the New Year brought with it the addition of our first set of Saint-Sulpice Collection records to the Newberry Library catalog.

Since the start of the month, I’ve been working on my first volume of this collection. So far, I am still relying heavily on the documentation that Jessica laid out on our project wiki to ensure that all catalogers are consistent in their inclusion of the required collection information for each pamphlet. This information includes binding notes, genre terms, and former owner names. For items in this collection that were published prior to 1700, we are detailing the physical description of these pamphlets more completely than we described the French Revolution Collection (FRC) pamphlets. We will note particulars such as title vignettes, initials, and head- and tail-pieces where significant, and also include signature statements.

The image below is the title page for pamphlet discussing the death of Anne of Austria. In it, you can see the head-piece at the top and an initial (appearing as the letter “C” in the word “C’est”). You can also see the letter “A” sitting by itself at the bottom-right, which indicates that this is the first leaf in the “A” gathering of this pamphlet. Letters often appear in this position on certain leaves in each gathering of an early printed work as a way for bookbinders to keep the book’s leaves in the correct order during the binding process. For more information, view Wikipedia’s article on bookbinding.

folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser2 v2 no6

Another aspect of the pamphlets in the Saint-Sulpice Collection that differs from those in the FRC is that several pamphlets have been bound together in a portfolio to form lengthy volumes. We are cataloging each pamphlet separately in order to afford the highest level of access to the materials, but the pamphlets that are bound together will share the same holdings record in Voyager, our integrated library system. This holdings record provides information pertaining to the container (binding information) and a single call number for patrons who’d like to page the item from the stacks.

Adventures in Cataloging

While nestled within the cozy walls of a barren conference room in the Newberry Library, shivering from the subarctic temperatures of what might be the coldest air conditioning system found in a 19th century building, I was asked at the end of my interview if I had heard about the opening for a job as a cataloging assistant for the CLIR French project. Initially not taking this as a good sign as to my future employment with the Newberry for the job I had just interviewed for, I politely (and probably with a hint of sadness and defeat in my eye) said that I had heard about it, but not until after I had already applied for the job for which I had just finished the interview. Thinking that the lovely women who interviewed me were trying to console me with this prospect of another job that I could apply to instead, saying that it sounded “more up my alley” and something that might be “more interesting to me,” I kindly entertained their suggestions, telling them that although this job seemed like an amazing (and almost unheard of prospect for a graduate in French literature who does not want to immediately continue on with a PhD or teaching) opportunity, I did not think that I was going to apply because I did not have any background in cataloging or library science of any kind. I’m actually pretty sure that I had little to no clue as to what cataloging even was or what catalogers did, but for the purpose of not sounding completely oblivious (and unknowingly offensive to all the hard working catalogers out there—this stuff is tough!), we will just say instead that I had a “hazy” idea.

To make a long story short (despite my urge to mimic both the language and the length of the pamphlets that I am privileged to read on a daily basis), I interviewed for, and actually succeeded in getting the job as a cataloging assistant on the CLIR project. I have to say that I have never been so happy! Not only because this was something new and exciting, and a different way to put my French language skills to use, but it was also the opportunity to get back at all of those fancy engineers and medical students who always scoffed at my “useless” humanities degree (take that, you meanies! I dare you to prove to me that you have as much fun at your job as I do at mine!). All joking aside, I entered into this project knowing absolutely nothing about cataloging (and embarrassingly and unfortunately, not that much about the French Revolution—I should have known skipping that time period during my master’s examination would come back to haunt me), and although I have only been on the project for just about three months now, I feel like I have learned a tremendous amount of very valuable and applicable knowledge in a very short amount of time.

From the day that I began right up to now, the training that I have received on this project has been outstanding to say the least. Through the combination of one-on-one meetings, the use of templates, extremely helpful feedback, and a very hands-on just-throw-her-into-the-deep-end approach, I have been able to dive in and not only work with these amazing historical documents, but also feel like I am actually producing quality work. Thanks to the training (and patience) that I have received from those advising me, I actually kind of feel like I know what I’m doing sometimes—not bad for somebody who didn’t even know what cataloging was just three months ago! Additionally, having the opportunity to work on this project has allowed me to take a sneak peek into the world of special collections, something that has always interested me greatly. I have definitely got to have a small taste of what it’s like to work in this field, and it’s a great feeling to know that whichever career path I choose to pursue in the future—library science with an emphasis in special collections, or a PhD in French literature—the invaluable experience that I have gained on this project will serve me very well. If neither one of those career paths pan out for me, at the least I have learned a number of extravagant and imposing ways of signing a document that I have penned. Currently, I have finally entered into the terrifying world of subject headings—wish me luck everybody! I hope I make it out to the other side!
–Signé, your most zealous, loyal, eager, and faithful cataloging assistant-in-training,
Le Chev. A… de G…

Cataloging template for FRC

Because the pamphlets that comprise the French Revolution Collection (FRC) share many characteristics, particularly the location and format of important bibliographic information (i.e. title, author, and publication information), we have made ample use of cataloging templates.  During the training process and beyond, Project Cataloging Assistants refer often to the FRC sample record on our project wiki (and copied below) to guide them as they create MARC catalog records for the pamphlets in this collection.

FRC Sample Record

Fixed fields

ELvl: I



040 |b fre (dan, dut, ger, swe, etc.)

  • Parallel record must be derived for foreign-language records; include 936 (below)

040 |b eng

  • Parallel record need not be derived as this is an English language record

041 *# [language codes if additional codes to fixed field needed; * 1st indicator and subfields vary, see bibformats]

043 ## [e-fr--- and/or other geographic area code]

099 ## FRC |a [NUMBER ]

049 ## [Case]IBVC |l bklr

  • Includes brackets around case (i.e. not supplied information)



245: Transcribe elements as found on source; do not transpose elements.

260: Transcribe publisher location and name, including addresses; transcribe date information as given.

  • 260 ## A Paris : |b De l’Imprimerie de n’importe qui, 123 Place de n’importe ou, |c l’an troisième de la liberté [1791]



1.  Nature, scope, or artistic form [500]

500  Adaptation of Calderón de la Barca’s Alcalde de Zalamea.

500  Advertisement for a baguette.

2.  Language [546]

    • 546  French and Latin.

3.  Source of Title Proper [500]

    • 500  Caption title.
    • 500  Cover title.

4.  Other Title Information [500]

    • 500  At head of title: [etc.]

5.  Statements of Responsibility [500]

    • 500  Signed, p. 5: [etc.]
    • 500  Attributed to Jacques Martin. Cf. Martin & Walter.

6.  Publication, Distribution, Etc. [500]

    • 500  Imprint from colophon.
    • 500  “24 messidor an II”—Session date from Martin & Walter.

7.  Physical Description [500]

    • 500  “Eccliastique E.”–Bottom of p. 17.
    • 500  Error in pagination: [etc.]
    • 500  Title vignette of house; a variant edition exists with title vignette of tree and different head-piece.

8.  Accompanying Material [500]

    • 500  Includes 2 tables on 1 folded sheet.

9.  Reference to Published Descriptions [510, 500]

    • 510 4# Martin & Walter.  Révolution française, |c II, 1234 (no full stop at end)
    • 500  Not in Martin & Walter.  Révolution française.
    • 500  Variant of Martin & Walter.  Révolution française, II, 1234.
    • If OCLC record already has 510s for other bibliographies, trust the information and keep the citation.  If something looks clearly incorrect or incomplete, then delete; if you’re not sure, keep it.

10.  Other format available

    • 530  Available online via Gallica bibliothèque numérique.
    • Use with 856 for links to electronic format (see below)

11.  Summary [520]

    • 520  Letter asking for better organization of the Garde nationale.

12.  Contents [500, 504]

    • 500  “Copie de la réponse des officiers du neuvième régiment de dragons, à Borie-Cambort”–P. 6-12.
    • 500  “Copie de la réponse des officiers du neuvième régiment de dragons, à Borie-Cambort … Signé: Pierre Cardin”–P. 6-12.
    • 500  “Copie de la réponse des officiers du neuvième régiment de dragons, à Borie-Cambort”–P. 6-12; signed, p. [12]: Pierre Cardin.
    • 500  Errata, p. [x].
    • 504  Includes bibliographical references [and index].
    • 500  Includes index.

13.  Copy Being Described [561, 563 (rare for this collection)]

    • 561  Owner’s signature: Nicolas Sarkozy. |5 ICN
    • 561  Stamp: La bibliothèque des Augustins, Paris. |5 ICN
    • 563  [Binding note]
    • 561s and 563s should be cut/pasted from the bib record to the MFHD when doing 2nd day checks.  Remove |5 ICN from field(s) after pasting into MFHD.


655 #7 Pamphlets |z [COUNTRY] |z [CITY] |y [YEAR]. |2 aat


Trace other contributors to work, publishers, and added entries from item-specific notes:

710 1# Corps législatif. Conseil des anciens.

710 2# Imprimerie nationale (France), |e publisher.

700 1# Sarkozy, Nicolas, |d 1955-, |e former owner. |5 ICN

710 2# Bibliothèque des Augustins (Paris), |e former owner. |5 ICN


852 8# |b sc,frc |k Case |h FRC |i [NUMBER] |t 1

  • Copy specific notes like a torn page are added to 852 |z.  Not every 852 will need |z–rare, probably.
    • 852 8# |b sc,frc |k Case |h FRC |i [NUMBER] |t 1 |z Imperfect: p. 5-6 torn with text missing
    • 852 8# |b sc,frc |k Case |h FRC |i [NUMBER] |t 1 |z Laid-in: folded sheet with ms. notes

856 41 |u [URL] |z Full text

    • Use in conjunction with 530 (above) for links to electronic versions

866 #0 |8 0 |a [for a multi-part item, the range of parts held]

  • E.g., a 3 v. piece for which we have all volumes: |a v.1-v.3 (note no spaces)
  • Abbreviation of the parts is based on the language of the materials, and how listed on the pieces
    • t.1-t.3 (tome)
    • ptie.1-ptie.3 (partie)
    • no.1-no.3 (numéro)


910 ## [catalogers initials]

936 ## PR [OCLC number of parallel record]

Cataloging training (3)

Finally getting into a groove working with the French Revolution Collection (FRC) pamphlets. I think I may have even (almost) mastered the order of the MARC notes fields.  I encountered a bit of newness with this week’s pamphlets including using Antoine-Alexandre Barbier‘s Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes to (successfully) find authorship attribution for anonymously or pseudonymously published works and how to create a parallel record in OCLC.  I also came across some interesting topics this week.  Among my favorite pamphlets were those on the prison system in Philadelphia and the gabelle tax. Wikipedia, particularly the French articles, has been extremely helpful in getting a brief overview of French Revolution topics that I had no previous knowledge of.

Au revoir!

As the last day of my job at the Newberry, today marks the end of my involvement with the French pamphlet project. Cleaning out my desk over the past week has produced a sort of time capsule from the year and a half that I spent in this position. I found the MARC worksheet I was given my first week (it’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t know what went into the 245 or 300 field of a record!). There were notes from our earliest team meetings, in which we discussed the peculiarities of emphyteusis and eminent domain, annuities and émigrés, and made extremely important decisions about whether to append “Pamphlets” or “Sources” or “History” or “Early works to 1800” to various subject headings (I’m pretty sure the New York Times reported on our decisions). Missing from my notes are the more entertaining parts of our meetings, in which we shared the funniest, weirdest, and most ridiculous pamphlets we had come across lately.

From my desk, I also unearthed scraps of paper on which I had scribbled my questions about cataloging: how much guesswork can we do about where a pamphlet has been printed? What is the difference between the subject headings “Aristocracy (Political science)” and “Aristocracy (Social class)”? What do we do when the information we find in the definitive bibliography of French Revolutionary pamphlets is clearly wrong? How can we tell the difference between variant editions and states? Although there are still no cut-and-dried answers to all of these questions, over time I have learned how to handle a variety of confusing and murky situations, often by using the sacred principle of “cataloger’s judgment” (i.e. “just make a decision and stick with it”).

I’m definitely holding on to the running list of favorite subject headings that I kept during the project. Those that actually ended up in my records include “Rogues and vagabonds,” “Brigands and robbers,” “Swindlers and swindling,” “Sexually transmitted diseases,” and “Illuminati,” as well as fantastic subject strings like “Clergy—Alcohol use” and “Seafaring life—Study and teaching.” Then there are the random ones that I somehow came across in my many searches, subject headings like “Boy with leaking boot (Statue)” and authorities like “Almighty God, 1950-” (he’s alive!). Not on the list, and infinitely more frustrating, are the headings that don’t exist, even though the subjects come up in our pamphlets again and again: payment in kind, the Thermidorian Reaction, political denunciation.

Although I won’t miss the vagaries of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), I will certainly miss the pleasure of working with such an important and comprehensive collection of documents, as well as such an intelligent and engaging group of catalogers.

Oh, and the pie. I will really miss the pie.

Cataloging Training (2)

The training and practice cataloging that I completed during my first two weeks have proved to be a great introduction to finding records for items in OCLC and editing them to better describe the items in the French Revolution Collection (FRC). In working through my first portfolio of FRC pamphlets I learned to look for publication information in a colophon, if it is not present in the title information, which pages to check for abbreviated title information, depending on the length of the pamphlet, and became more familiar with several bibliographic reference sources such as André Martin and Gérard Walter’s Catalogue de l’histoire de la Révolution française, also known as Martin & Walter.

Through my training I have become very comfortable with the different standard MARC fields used in FRC records; punctuation in the title entry and physical description fields has become practically second nature now. I am still working on learning the standard order of notes, so that I do not need to constantly reference the FRC Sample Record. The use of a local field [902] has been very helpful in the beginning stages of determining ‘aboutness’ and is a good starting point towards assigning subject headings.

Cataloging training (1)

It’s the beginning of my second week as part of the CLIR French pamphlet project and I’m excited to soon get to work on the pamphlets.  Training is going well; I am quickly remembering everything that was covered in my ‘Organization of Knowledge’ course regarding AACR2R and MARC tags.  The punctuation for the 245, 260, and 300 MARC fields took a day or so to become comfortable with. I am surprised at how many records I come across that still have the older standard punctuation in those fields.  I find myself hoping that an item will have an inscription, bookplate, or stamp that I can note to help trace the provenance of the item, or an ambiguous title that needs to be supplemented with a contents or summary note.

Transitioning out of the project

As I prepare to begin an exciting new (for me) position as Acquisitions Manager, I’m surveying the landscape of the French pamphlet project, what we’ve learned, what we’ve accomplished…  I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made in the 9 months or so since the project officially began.  The candidates we found for the Project Cataloging Assistant positions have done a great job.  With an intellectual curiosity and a desire to accomplish a job-well-done, I’m glad to say that in terms of our projected time-line, we are ahead on our production statistics.  It’s also been satisfying to see the growth in cataloging skills among the assistants.  Remembering the challenge it was for me to teach subject analysis, I’m happy to say now that there are some subjects for which various assistants have developed an expertise, through research and perhaps trial-and-error, and I find myself drawing on their insights when cataloging a pamphlet of the same subject.  I’m happy to leave the project in a good state of operation, with the project humming along.  It’s also exciting to know that as Jessica assumes the role of lead cataloger for the project, she’ll be bringing some fresh eyes that will no doubt be helpful in tweaking the current workflow and that, as staff will (unfortunately, but probably) turn over in the course of the project, she’ll have the chance to work with new Project Cataloging Assistants, have the great experience of learning by teaching, and have the enjoyment of seeing the cataloging skills of new assistants develop and flourish under her guidance.  Much thanks to everyone for the chance to work on this project, and for all the help and collaboration I received along the way.  The project truly felt like a team effort and I was glad to play a part of it!