If you give an archivist a request…

Do you remember the story of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, and how one activity leads to another? I can’t help but think about this story as my cataloging project is underway.

In my grand (unending) endeavor to put all of the finding aids into our online catalog, of course I am trying my best to make sure that many entry points are covered, including adding in new subject headings. In addition, the catalog records should be consistent in not only in which fields I decide to use but also the metadata that is placed into these fields. At this point, all the collection-level records are in the catalog, and I am now undertaking the task of putting in the container level information in each subgroup or series. I chose to put in the folder titles of collections I know are highly utilized, as it will allow me quicker access to the records that are needed, or let me know where some requested information might be located. This will also give me a jumping-off point in the future when I get back around to putting in either selected digitized records in my CuadraStar catalog, or links to the digital repository I am creating in ContentDM.

One of the features of my catalog program is being able to track reference requests and pulls, which I haven’t fully utilized until this year. So, for example, this week I had a request to find out when our current stadium seating was put in. I know that we have an artificial collection of campus buildings (Record Group 31–Campus Buildings and Grounds). However, it’s not a record group I have gotten to yet (at the container level) in the cataloging.


From the Bi-Line, September 22, 1980, page 1.

I decide, in order to properly record the reference request, that I should put in the box and the list of folders in the system. I notice that the printed finding aid doesn’t *quite* match the files located in the box, so I have to pull the box to ensure that the files I need are there, and that the full and complete list goes into the system. I find the information that was requested, and send it on, complete with the article above. Ironically, the information had been photocopied from the school newspaper–a separate record group–so the scan sent to the researcher was from the original paper and not the photocopy of the story. (Another project is underway, with volunteer help, to finally digitize all the student newspapers for easy access.)

Then I begin the task of putting in the folder information into the catalog, mainly because it’s a relatively small group of records. I then realize that not all the subject headings I have compiled up to this point covers the new information, so I have to search and then build out subject headings from LoC (http://id.loc.gov/). Looking at examples, I can subdivide geographically a few topical terms (School buildings, High school buildings, etc.), as well as create new local headings for the names of the buildings, based on examples in LCSH from college campuses. So now I have:

  • School buildings–Georgia–Atlanta
  • Pressly Hall (The Westminster Schools)
  • The Westminster Schools (Atlanta, Ga.)–Buildings

Using those (among others), that should cover the bases for this particular collection.

Along with putting the information into the catalog (slowly but surely), this project gives me an opportunity to put new labels on the boxes. I am using these self-adhesive box label holders with labels from Hollinger MetalEdge, so that if I need to alter a label, I can just change out the information quickly. I also know, if a box has the new label, it is in the system.

So, I stop to create labels for the collection, using a template that I now have. Once that’s done, I’ll get back to putting in the container level of other collections. At which point I may find a slight difference in the folder listings and the folder themselves and have to pull the box. While I’m doing that, I may realize that I need another subject heading. After I’m done, I will need to make more labels. And then I may need some coffee and a small break outside.


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