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Edited by H. R. MCILWAINE, State Librarian.
The true librarian is reluctant to discard any literature which may come to hand, yet unorganized material is ordinarily unavailable and therefore almost useless; the expectation of future arrangement may justify its retention, but such expectation is not generally well founded, as the cataloging force of a live library is constantly overtaxed. Ordinarily it is possible to catalog as separates only the more important material; minor material must be organized and its subjectmatter made reasonably available in a more economical man
The Virginia State Library has received many enquiries in regard to the handling, arrangement and final disposition of pamphlets, clippings, etc. The literature on the subjectis fairly comprehensive,1 but we have found need for a detailed and definite, yet concise, statement of procedure in its entirety. The vertical file is a customary tool in libraries for the handling of such matter, but the final disposition of accumulated material is a matter of concern. The method of thinning the file and discarding old material is an incomplete and time-consuming practice, and does not sufficiently restrict the growth of the vertical file which, admirable as it is for limited use, may grow into a clumsy tool, expensive and wasteful of floor space. The method used in the Virginia State Library has proved a satisfactory means of effecting co-ordination between the material in the vertical file and the material on the shelves, preserving, with economy of time
1 The following treatises are suggested for further study of the subject: (1) Pamphlets and minor library material: clippings, broadsides, prints, pictures, music, bookplates, maps, Chicago, American library association publishing board, 1917. 29 p. (Preprint of Manual of library economy, chapter 25.)
Contains also bibliographies of literature on the care and treatment of the various classes of minor material. These references should be consulted by the student of the subject.
(2) McVety, Margaret A. and Colegrove, Mabel E. The vertical file. Woodstock, Vt., The Elm tree press, 1915. (Modern American library economy as illustrated by the Newark, N. J., free public library, by John Cotton Dana. v. 2, pt. 18, sec. 1.)
A detailed description of methods pursued in the administration of the large and successful file of the Newark, N. J., Public library.
and labor, all matter considered of value, and restricting the undue growth of the vertical file. It is not to be considered that the following or any definite method will be equally applicable in all libraries: the problem in the small library differs from that in the large library or the special library. But as this problem concerns each of the new libraries now being launched in Virginia, the following description of procedure in the State Library is offered as a suggestive course in the administration of what has proved to be one of the most useful collections in progressive libraries:
Pamphlets, leaflets, folders, programs, excerpts and reprints from books and periodicals, and other miscellaneous minor material are received by libraries in constantly increasing quantity. Much of this matter is in the nature of advertisement or propaganda, often useful; much is of ephemeral character; much has very definite reference value: for example, many societies devoted to public welfare issue and distribute a multitude of publications on social questions. The modern library also acquires, by its own initiative, a good deal of such material for use in debates on current subjects and for current topics not immediately available in books. Such material often embodies up-to-date information which has not yet reached book form.
A definite place should be provided where all this material may be assembled as it is received. Each day it should be examined for disposition by one capable of evaluating it, who is thoroughly acquainted with the collections of the library and the amount of cataloging work on hand. Except as a matter of economy, there is no reason why much of this material should not be cataloged as fully as books. As many of the more worth-while pamphlets as the cataloging capacity of the library permits should be selected for individual treatment. These are henceforth treated as books and offer no further problem here. The rest of the material is treated according to the methods indicated below.
To build up and maintain a file of up-to-date information, the library should obtain for clipping duplicate periodicals which are rich in current information.2 The daily news
2 The following is a suggestive list:
(1) The local newspaper or newspapers.
One of the greatest news-gatherers in the world. Its Sunday issue has a "special features" section containing valuable articles on important current subjects.
(3) The Literary digest. (weekly)
paper and weekly periodical provide fresher information than the monthly or quarterly. The number of periodicals obtained for this purpose and the amount of clipping that should be done must be determined by each library according to its scope, resources, and the time that may be given to such work. Do not attempt to clip everything in the periodicals obtained for that purpose; time would hardly permit and results would not justify the assimilation of so much matter. Experience will develop judgment in clipping. The librarian should trust to periodicals and to periodical indexes for reasonable access to most current information.
The files used are the four-drawer vertical unit cabinet, in either steel or wood. Each material has its own good and bad points. We recommend steel, but in choosing between these materials, consideration as to their location and relation to other furniture and equipment may indicate the choice of wood. The difference in price is not great, but the tendency of wood is to become ever more expensive. We prefer the legal size (drawers about 15 inches wide) to the correspondence size (drawers about 12 inches wide.) 3 The former will accommodate larger pieces and reduce the folding of items, while the smaller pieces may be placed side by side in their folders, forming two or more rows across as size permits. Start with one cabinet; it will hold a surprising amount of material. Do not allow the cabinets to increase unduly; they are too uneconomical in space to be made a permanent repository and should be kept within reasonable bounds according to the methods suggested below.
Guides having standard alphabetic divisions and uniform folders should be bought. The folders should have a projecting edge upon which the entry may be plainly seen. The straight-edge folders, with the back edge one-half inch or so higher than the front, provide a maximum space for labeling. The folders may be secured with provision for expansion; the most practical have a line groove on the front of flaps about one-half inch from the bottom. When the contents of the folder become bulky enough to require additional space, one may fold along this line.
An important digest of opinion and information on current
(4) The Outlook. (weekly)
(5) The Independent. (weekly)
3 Sizes vary slightly in different makes.
Pamphlet boxes should be about ten inches tall-about the height of the average shelf. There are several styles of boxes to meet various requirements. Those open at the top and back do not protect their contents from dust so well as the closed kind, but they offer certain advantages in the convenient accommodation of tall items. Most of our pamphlet boxes are made by a local concern, according to specifications: our standard box is closed, with hinged back, and one side hinged two inches from the front; outside dimensions, ten inches high, eight and one-half inches wide, three inches thick.
A rubber stamp, bearing the name of the library, should be available to be put on each item to establish the library's ownership.
Equipment may be secured from a dealer in office supplies and equipment.4
File under subject headings. Whenever possible, use the standardized subject headings which are employed for the books of the library. These subject headings have carefully worked out relations and references, enabling one to group material logically and to locate readily the subject headings under which matter is filed. Standardization obviates the danger of separation through the use of synonyms. This uniformity of subject headings preserves the relation between the cataloged material and the minor matter under consideration, enabling one to refer readily from one to the other; it prevents the dispersal of similar subject matter under different headings; and it enables one, by working with the official list, to locate matter which would, perhaps, be lost under improvised headings which would not be properly related to each other and which would soon be forgotten.
In choosing subject headings for new topics, the Reader's guide and other periodical indexes will be found useful in providing suitable headings and references, serving also as a guide to uniformity of practice. When necessary to improvise subject headings, as, for instance, in the case of some altogether new development for which no provision has yet been made, make reference from the nearest related authorized subject heading or headings.
4 The following treatise, though devoted particularly to business files, has a thorough description of various equipment and supplies: Scholfield, Ethel E. Filing department operation and control New York, The Ronald press co., 1923.