Tag Archives: Project Cataloging Assistants

Mixing and matching

Because our work is progressing so swiftly and efficiently on our French pamphlet collections, we have begun to catalog two additional collections at the Newberry, which up to this point had only been cataloged at the collection level.  The special strengths and backgrounds that our project team members bring to the table have allowed us both to maximize the efficiency of the project while maintaining an exceptional level of quality in our catalog records and to begin to process additional collections of scholarly importance that match their skill sets.

As both Jennifer D. and Shawn mentioned in previous posts below, they have begun to catalog the Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection (BLC), a collection comprised mostly of Italian and French opera libretti from the 16th to the 20th centuries bequeathed to the Newberry in 1993 by noted musicologist Howard Mayer Brown.  As musicologists, they are the ideal candidates to catalog this collection, which complements the Newberry’s large music collections.  Just as with the French Revolution Collection (FRC) and the Saint-Sulpice Collection, Shawn and Jennifer submit their cataloging work for a peer review.  For BLC, however, they submit their work to each other rather than to other members of the project team.  Because of their music knowledge, they are very familiar with helpful bibliographies and other reference sources and are able to bounce ideas off each other.

Pamphlet from the Pamfletten-Verzameling (not yet cataloged)

Pamphlet from the Pamfletten-Verzameling (not yet cataloged)

The other collection that we recently added to our project is the Pamfletten-Verzameling, a collection of 1,600 primarily Dutch pamphlets published between 1574 and 1849 and bound into 45 volumes.  Most deal with the history of the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, and Scandinavia, and especially with the relations between the Netherlands and England in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The pamphlets published during the late 18th century in particular are an essential complement to the French Revolutionary pamphlets in FRC.  Many of these pamphlets–such as the example pictured here, whose title translates in English to Europe Before the Bar of Justice, or, The Triumph of France –were published in French or espoused many of the revolutionary political ideas of the French Revolution.  This collection highlights the interconnectedness of all of European politics through many turbulent centuries.

David is the primary cataloger for this collection.  His facility with languages and adeptness at cataloging “bound-with” volumes are valuable assets.  He honed his skills cataloging bound-withs–volumes in which two or more separately published items have been bound together–with his fine work on cataloging the Saint-Sulpice Collection and assisting with other cataloging projects.  David’s work on collections of cartographic and travel materials have exposed him to plenty of publications in Dutch and German.  In order to ease into the Dutch language, he is cataloging this collection starting with the most recent publications and working back to the earliest.  In this way, he can avoid dealing with difficult Gothic typefaces present on older pamphlets until he has grown more accustomed to the Dutch language.

Stay tuned for more project management insights, cataloging banter, and new discoveries from all of our pamphlet collections.

Promoting hidden collections cataloging efforts at IACRL

Today I attended the 2012 conference of the Illinois Association of College and Research Libraries (IACRL), where I presented on our work to catalog the Newberry‘s French pamphlet collections, particularly the French Revolution Collection (FRC).  The theme of the conference, “Adopt, Adapt, Accelerate,” attracted speakers from many disciplines within academic and research libraries, who spoke about innovative technologies, assessment tools, and workflows that librarians can implement today and encouraged a long-view, dynamic way of thinking about the future relevance of libraries.

As the sole cataloging librarian on my panel, I was eager to speak about the continuing relevance of cataloging to the future of librarianship and ways in which we can create new workflow efficiencies in cataloging.  In the spirit of the conference theme, I spoke about our project model, adapted from a model employed by many large university libraries to catalog large hidden collections.  The university model relies on graduate student workers to process large cataloging backlogs, “hidden” because they are uncataloged or inadequately cataloged.  Our project is a pilot project to determine whether we can adapt the large university model to a smaller, independent research library like the Newberry that is not affiliated with a formal academic program or located on a campus.

One of the most successful aspects of our adapted model is the peer review workflow, through which the Project Cataloging Assistants proofread each other’s cataloging work before I do a final review.  The pamphlets in FRC are also relatively uniform in format and size (as you may note from the image below), which makes them conducive to template-based, expedited cataloging.  The added layer of quality control and peer learning opportunities resulting from the peer review workflow, the relative homogeneity of FRC, and the Cataloging Assistants’ extraordinary ability to navigate between the often disparate realms of production and quality have greatly contributed to the success of our project and its underlying model.  More than two-thirds of the way into our project, I feel confident declaring it a success!

French Revolution Collection (FRC)

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…

Reflections over coffee and ginger snaps

Last week CLIR Program Officer Christa Williford stopped by the Newberry while she was in the Chicago area for a coffee break with our project staff.  Our staff shared some of their thoughts with Christa about their work on the French pamphlet cataloging project and how it has affected their career plans.  Several staff working on the project are currently finishing or have completed graduate programs in library and information science, while others are PhD candidates or hold a master’s degree and had limited or no experience working in libraries before their current positions at the Newberry.  Most of the library school students and graduates felt that they would want to continue with a career in cataloging.  Other project staff mulled over beginning a graduate program in library science or continuing toward a PhD in the fields in which they already hold a master’s degree, including musicology and French literature.

While our staff have somewhat disparate backgrounds and different career paths, the knowledge, enthusiasm, and work ethic that each individual brings to our project have been invaluable.  Our system of peer review of catalog records helps to match complementary skills, strengths, and knowledge bases so that our project team can efficiently create high quality records.

While some cataloging projects are not always appropriate for students and subject specialists without experience in library work, the homogeneity of our French pamphlet collections has made our cataloging project an ideal pilot project for testing the viability of employing students and specialists for certain types of cataloging projects.  For this project, we have been able to rely on the advanced French language skills of our Project Cataloging Assistants and the use of templates, which make our cataloging work consistent and efficient.  As we are more than halfway through our project, it is important to reflect on the successes of our project model so far and to look ahead to how this model can be adapted to future cataloging projects.

New Project Cataloging Assistant hired!

We are pleased to announce that Anna Gutierrez has begun her new position this week as our newest Project Cataloging Assistant.  Welcome, Anna!

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]

Full-time Project Cataloging Assistant position posted

We posted the job description for a new full-time Project Cataloging Assistant position.

New Project Cataloging Assistant hired

We’re pleased to announce that Jennifer Dunlap has joined our project staff as a full-time Project Cataloging Assistant.  We closed the part-time position without filling it, and plan to post another full-time position at the end of August.

Project Cataloging Assistant Job Openings

We have posted a full-time and a part-time job description for our project.

New Project Cataloging Assistant Hired

We are very excited that Shawn Keener has accepted our offer for the vacant Project Cataloging Assistant position.