Sunday, 29 January 2012

Library day in the life of ... day 4

9.15 Re-shelving

As the re-shelving situation is as bad as ever, let's give up on reality and go for a bit of fantasy and swap this day for a day when Darren Criss would bound into the library and start something
This at least gets the day off to a good start.

10.30 Manuscripts reading room

I look after the archive of the Cambridge University Greek play committee as well as running the retrocon projects. It isn't very onerous for me - the Manuscripts dept staff do all the organizing - but the pictures of old productions are fascinating - this picture shows an actor playing Zeus in 1883, complete with thunderbolt. Today somebody wants a selection of images from the production of Sophocles' Ajax in 1882. Even more interesting, he's staging a version of the play in Cambridge later this month. There's one photograph which is definitely from that production, but several others where it's uncertain which play they represent. This is where it's useful being in a university full of classicists ...

11.30 Blogging for beginners - 10 minute slot at training session on blogging

Blogging session today with other librarians in Cambridge, led by Clemens Gresser. I only had to talk for about 10 minutes, about how our Tower Project group blog works, how we get ideas and turn them into blog posts. I'm just about to boast about our 30,000 blog views a year when I find out that blog stats are notoriously unreliable.

12.45Rare books reading room

3pm Cataloguing problem of the day: cliffhangers
"The shadow of sin" is typical of the "cheap fiction" material in the tower collection. We have lots of beautifully bound books, presumably intended for middle/upper class children, or perhaps Sunday school prizes for the less well-off. But there's also lots of very cheap paperbacks and some that don't even have a cover but are printed like a newspaper. I was cheerfully cataloguing one of these - "The shadow of sin" - when I realised that it came to an abrupt end "There came a crash - the echo of a woman's cry of fear - and silence!"

Turning over the page, I found an essay on "Our food supply" and then "The children's corner" which ended in mid-sentence "when Jesus comes to live with you" - what? Several questions come to mind: is this a printer's specimen, a sort of preview copy of part of a work? An offprint? Is it part of a periodical? Is it just a fragment of a larger work and is the rest of it in another box? I tried OCLC Worldcat and the COPAC database to see if another library had the same fragment or the whole work, no luck. So it just has to be described in a note, as is often the case with this sort of ephemeral material.

I'm signing off from day in the life of now, I'm on leave tomorrow. It's been interesting to write about my working week, but also quite a challenge. Writing about cataloguing turned out to be particularly difficult: I realised how rarely I talk to non-cataloguers about cataloguing, The vocabulary is quite specialised, again (I think) as a result of cataloguers talking primarily to each other. Definitely something to think about in future.

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