Library Juice 6:27 - December 30, 2003


1. Links....
2. A Librarian's Work (1876)

Quote for the week:

"Does the black militant, political rebel, Chicano, or Establishment-shy
youth find what he wants in the neighborhood or college library? No, baby.
And it doesn't require a year-long, carefully-conducted, foundation-funded
study to prove it. Everybody knows it.

"The point is this: No amount of talk at library conferences and round
tables about "relevancy" and "social responsibility" is itself going to
enliven, enrich, un-barnacle, and, yes, controversialize library
collections. Only librarians themselves can actually make their wares
relevant to the whole community they serve: not just the respectable,
well-shaven, white middle class (who, in any event, ought to know what's
going on elsewhere from more trustworthy sources than Time/Life), but
also the dissidents, the increasingly self-aware minorities, the forces in

"If this appears to suggest that most libraries are insufferably "square,"
that the profession is murdering its own noble "Bill of Rights" by ignoring
it, and that literally millions of deprived, oppressed, and disaffected,
yet wonderfully creative, sensitive, and energetic people simply don't find
much nourishment or stimulation in the library -- well, that's right."

- Sanford Berman, "Where It's At," Library Journal, December 15, 1968. As
true today as it was then.

Homepage of the week: George Goodall




The Digital Imprimatur
by John Walker
-- important paper --

[ sent to me by Joel Kahn ]


Information for Society:
Towards a Critical Theory of Intellectual Property Policy
Sam Trosow's Dissertation from UCLA, 2002
(Winner of the 2003 ALISE award for best LIS dissertation - Congrats to Sam)

[ thanks Lincoln ]


The IFRT Report's winter issue (No. 53) is now available.
The URL is

[ sent by Nanette Perez to the IFRT list ]


Newly declassified documents on Saddam Hussein.
For your patrons who may perhaps be interested in the history of
Saddam and his relations with the West .
See the National Security Archives: "Saddam Hussein Sourcebook"

[ sent by Mark Rosenzweig to the SRRT list ]


WorldCat via Google

[ sent by Mark Gooch to COLLIB-L


A Librarian at Every Table - archive of messages

[ sent to me by Kathleen McCook ]


WIRED: Copyright Doesn't Cover This Site

As debate over the legality of online file trading rages on, a University
of Maine department takes a contrarian approach to copyright protection,
creating a network where content is open to all. By Michelle Delio.,1377,61585,00.html

[ sent to me by Dan Buki ]


:Innis and e-Texts : Conducting the Interview:
by George Goodall
PhD student at University of Western Ontario

[ George's fellow student Barbara Wolfe pointed me to his site ]


Bibliographies, for the histories of the great print library
collections in France, are being added to the online FYI France
entries now:

[ sent by Jack Kessler to subscribers of his publication, FYI France ]


Library Work with Children

Reprints of Papers and Addresses
Selected and Annotated by Alice I. Hazeltine
Supervisor of Children's Public Library St. Louis, Mo.
Edited by Arthur E. Bostwick, Ph.D.

The H.W. Wilson Company, 1917

[ found surfing ]


The Enemies of Books
William Blades
Second Edition

Elliot Stock, London, 1888
Print copy consulted: UVA Library call number Z701 .B63 1888

[ found surfing ]


"Beware of Geeks Bearing Almanacs"
AP story reporting on FBI advice to be suspcious of people using reference
materials - they might be terrorists.

[ sent by Sarah Nagel to LU ]


What Are Librarians Really Like?

[ found surfing ]


A Librarian's Work

By John Fiske
The Atlantic monthly (Vol 38, Iss 228), October 1876

I am frequently asked what in the world a librarian can find to do with
his time, or am perhaps congratulated on my connection with Harvard
College Library, on the ground that "being virtually a sinecure office
(!) it must leave so much leisure for private study and work of a
literary sort." Those who put such questions, or offer such
congratulations, are naturally astonished when told that the library
affords enough work to employ all my own time, as well as that of twenty
assistants; and astonishment is apt to rise to bewilderment when it is
added that seventeen of these assistants are occupied chiefly with
"cataloguing;" for generally, I find, a library catalogue is assumed to
be a thing that is somehow "made" at a single stroke, as Aladdin's
palace was built, at intervals of ten or a dozen years, or whenever a
"new catalogue" is thought to be needed. "How often do you make a
catalogue?" or "When will your catalogue be completed?" are questions
revealing such transcendent misapprehension of the case that little but
further mystification can be got from the mere answer, "We are always
making a catalogue, and it will never be finished." The "doctrine of
special creations" does not work any better in the bibliographical than
in the zoological world. A catalogue, in the modern sense of the word,
is not something that is "made" all at once, to last until the time has
come for it to be superseded by a new edition, but it is something that
"grows," by slow increments, and supersedes itself only through gradual
evolution from a lower degree of fullness and definiteness into a higher
one. It is perhaps worth while to give some general explanation of this
process of catalogue-making, thus answering once for all the question as
to what may be a librarian's work. There is no better way than to
describe, in the case of our own library, the career of a book from the
time of its delivery by the express-man to the time when it is ready for
public use.

New American books, whether bought or presented, generally come along in
driblets, two or three at a time, throughout the year; large boxes of
pamphlets, newspapers, broadsides, trade-catalogues, and all manner of
woeful rubbish (the refuse of private libraries and households) are sent
in from time to time; and books from Europe arrive every few weeks in
lots of from fifty to three or four hundred. It is in the case of
foreign books that our process is most thoroughly systematized, and here
let us take our illustrative example.

When a box containing three or four hundred foreign books has been
unpacked, the volumes are placed, backs uppermost, on large tables, and
are then looked over by the principal assistant, with two or three
subordinates, to ascertain if the books at hand correspond with those
charged in the invoice. As the titles are read from the invoice, the
volumes are hunted out and arranged side by side in the order in which
their titles are read, while the entry on the invoice is checked in the
margin with a pencil. These pencil-checks are afterwards copied into the
margins of the book in which our lists of foreign orders are registered,
so that we may always be able to determine, by a reference to this book,
whether any particular work has been received or not. This order-book,
with its marginal checks, is the only immediate specific register of
accessions kept by us, as our peculiar system entails considerable delay
in bringing up the "accessions catalogue."

After this preliminary examination and registry, the books are ready to
be looked over by the "assistant librarian," who must first decide to
what "fund" each book entered on the invoice must be charged. The
university never buys books with its general funds, but uses for this
purpose the income of a dozen or more small funds, given, bequeathed, or
subscribed expressly for the purchase of books. Sometimes the donors of
such funds allow us to get whatever books we like with the money, but
more often they show an inclination to favor the growth of departments
in which they feel a personal interest. Thus the munificent bequest of
the late Mr. Charles Sumner is appropriated to the purchase of works on
politics and the fine arts, while Dr. Walker's bequest provides more
especially for theology and philosophy, and the estate of Professor
Farrar still guards the interests of mathematics and physics. Under such
circumstances, it is of course necessary to keep a separate account of
each fund, and the data for such an account are provided by charging
every new book as it arrives. On the margin of the invoice the names of
the different funds are written in pencil against the entries, while the
assistants separate the books into groups according to the funds to
which they are charged. Five or six more assistants now arriving on the
scene, the work of "collating" begins.1

Properly speaking, to "collate" is to compare two things with each
other, in order to estimate or judge the one by a reference to the other
taken as a standard. In our library usage, the word has very nearly this
sense when duplicate copies of the same work are collated, to see
whether they coincide page for page. Bust as we currently use the word,
to collate a book is simply to examine it carefully from beginning to
end, to see whether every page is in its proper place and properly
numbered, whether any maps or plates are missing or misplaced, whether
the back is correctly lettered, or whether any leaves are so badly torn
or defaced as to need replacing. In English cloth-bound books this
scrutiny involves the cutting of the leaves,-- a tedious job which in
half-bound books from the Continent is seldom required. En recanche,
however, the collating of an English book hardly ever brings to light
any serious defect, while in the make-up of French and German books the
grossest blunders are only too common. Figures are unaccountably skipped
in numbering the pages; plates are either omitted or are so bunglingly
numbered that it is hard to discover whether the quota is complete or
not; title-pages are inserted in the wrong places; sheets are wrongly
folded, bringing the succession of pages into dire confusion; sometimes
two or three sheets are left out, and sometimes where a work in ten
volumes is bound in five, you will find that the first of these contains
two duplicate copies of Vol. I., while for any signs of a Vol. II. You
may seek in vain. In all bungling of this kind, the Germans are worse
than the French; but both are bad enough when contrasted with the
English, either of the Old World or of the New. This work of collating
is in general of lower grade than the work of cataloguing, and can be
entrusted to the less experienced or less accomplished assistants; but
to some extent it is shared by all, and where difficulties arise, or
where some book with Arabic or Sanskrit numbering turns up, an appeal to
headquarters becomes necessary. When a book has been collated, the date
of its reception and the name of the fund to which it has been charged
are written in pencil on the back of the title-page, and at the bottom
of the title-page, to the left of the imprint, is written some
modification of the letter C, C', C.,Cv, etc., which is the equivalent
to the signature of the assistant who has done the collating and is
responsible for its accuracy.

After this is all over, the books, still remaining grouped according to
their "funds," are ready to have the "seals" put in. The seal is the
label of ownership, bearing the seal of the university and the name of
the fund or other source from which the book has been procured, and is
pasted on the inside of the front cover. Above it, in the left corner,
is pasted a little blank corner-piece, on which is to be marked in
pencil the number of the alcove and shelf where the book is to be
placed, or "set up."

To set up a book on a shelf is no doubt a very simple matter, yet it
involves something more than the mere placing of the volume on the
shelf. Each alcove in the library has a "shelf-catalogue," or list of
all the books in the alcove arranged by shelves. Such a catalogue is
indispensable in determining whether each shelf has its proper
complement of volumes, and whether, at the end of the year, all the
books are in their proper places. When the book is duly entered on this
shelf-catalogue, and has its corner-piece marked, it is at last ready to
be "catalogued." After our lot of three or four hundred books have been
treated in this way, they are delivered to the principal assistant, who
parcels them out among various subordinate assistants, for cataloguing.

Here we enter upon a very wide subject, and one that is not altogether
easy to expound to the uninitiated. A brief historical note is needed,
to begin with. In 1830 Harvard University published a printed catalogue
(in two volumes, octavo) of all the works contained in its library at
that date. In 1833 a supplement was published, containing all the
accessions since 1830, and these made a moderate-sized volume. Here is
the essential vice of printed catalogues. Where the number of books is
fixed once for all,--as in the case of a private library, the owner of
which has just died, and which is to be sold at auction,--nothing is
easier than to make a perfect catalogue, whether of authors or of
subjects. It is very different when your library is continually growing.
By the time your printed catalogue is completed and published, it is
already somewhat antiquated. Several hundred books have come in which
are not comprised in it, and among these new books is very likely to be
the one you wish to consult, concerning which the printed catalogue can
give you no information. If you publish an annual supplement, as the
Library of Congress does, then your catalogue will become desperately
cumbrous within five or six years. When you are in a hurry to consult a
book, it is very disheartening to have to look through half a dozen
alphabets, besides depending after all on the ready memory of some
library official as to the books which have come in since the last
supplement was published. This inconvenience is so great that printed
catalogues have gone into discredit in all the principal libraries of
Europe. Catalogues are indeed printed, from time to time, by way of
publishing the treasures of the library, and as bibliographical helps to
other institutions; but for the use of those who daily consult the
library, manuscript titles have quite superseded the printed catalogue.
In European libraries this is done in what seems to us a rather crude
way. Their catalogues are enormous brown paper blank-books or
scrap-books, on the leaves of which are pasted thin paper slips bearing
the titles of the books in the library. Large spaces are left for the
insertion of subsequent titles in their alphabetical order; and as a
result of this method, the admirable catalogue of the library of the
British Museum fills more than a thousand elephant folios! An athletic
man, who has served his time at base-ball and rowing, may think little
of lifting these gigantic tomes, but for a lady who wishes to look up
some subject on would think it desirable to employ a pair of oxen and a
windlass. All the libraries of Western Europe which I have visited seem
to have taken their cue from the British Museum. But in this country we
have hit upon a less ponderous method. To accomplish this end of keeping
our titles in their proper alphabetical order, we write them on separate
cards, of stiff paper, and arrange these cards in little drawers, in
such a way that any one, by opening the drawer and tilting the cards
therein, can easily find the title for which he is seeking. Our new
catalogue is a marvel of practical convenience in this respect. At each
end the row of stiff cards is supported by beveled blocks, in such a way
that some title lies always open to view; and by simply tilting the
cards with the forefinger, any given title is quickly found, without
raising the card from its place in the drawer.

In September, 1833, our library began its second supplement, consisting
of two alphabetical manuscript catalogues. Volumes received after that
date were catalogued upon stiff cards arranged in drawers, while
pamphlets were catalogued, after the European fashion, on slips of paper
pasted into the great folio scrap-books. This distinction between
pamphlets and volumes was a most unhappy one. To a librarian the only
practical difference between these two kinds of book is that the latter
can generally be made to stand on a shelf, while the former generally
tumbles down when unsupported. This physical fact makes it necessary to
keep pamphlets in files by themselves until it is thought worth while to
bind them. But for the purposes of cataloguing it makes no difference
whether a book consists of twenty pages between paper covers or of five
hundred pages bound in full calf. If you wish to find M.Léon de Rosny's
Aperçu general des langues sémitiques, you do not care, and very likely
do not know, whether it is a "pamphlet" of fifty pages or a "volume" of
three hundred, and you naturally grumble at a system which sends you to
a second alphabet in order to maintain a purely arbitrary and useless
distinction. In practice this double catalogue was found to be so
inconvenient that in 1850, after the pamphlet titles had come to fill
eight cumbrous volumes, it was abandoned, and henceforth pamphlets, as
well as maps and engravings, were placed on the same alphabet with bound

Before long, however, it began to be felt necessary to reform this whole
cumbrous system. To ascertain whether a given work was contained in the
library, one had now to consult four different alphabets,--the old
printed catalogue, the first or printed supplement, the second or card
supplement, and the eight ugly folios of pamphlet titles. These later
supplements, moreover, being accessible only to the librarian and his
assistants, were of no use to the general public, who, for the 135,000
titles added since 1833, were obliged to get their information from some
of the officials. To remedy this state of things, a new card catalogue,
freely accessible to the public, and destined to embrace in a single
alphabet all the titles in the library without distinction, was begun in
1861 by my predecessor, Prof. Ezra Abbot. This catalogue was not
intended to supersede the private card supplement begun in 1833, which
for many reasons it is found desirable to keep up. But for the use of
the public it will, when finished, supersede everything else and become
the sole authoritative catalogue of the library. Since 1861 all new
accessions have been put into this catalogue, while the work of adding
to it older titles has gone on with varying speed: in 1869 it came
nearly to a stand-still, but was resumed in 1874, and is now proceeding
with great rapidity. About fifty thousand titles of volumes, and as many
more of pamphlets, still remain to be added before this new catalogue
can become the index to all the treasures of the library.2

Another great undertaking was begun simultaneously in 1861. The object
of an alphabetical catalogue like those above described is "to enable a
person to determine readily whether any particular work belongs to the
library, and, if it does, where it is placed." If you are in search of
Lloyd's Lectures on the Wave - Theory of Light, you will look in the
alphabetical catalogue under "LLOYD, Humphrey." Now this alphabetical
arrangement is the only one practicable in a public library, because it
is the only one on which all catalogue can be made to agree, and it is
the only one sufficiently simple to be generally understood. For the
purpose here required, of finding a particular work, an arrangement
according to subject-matter would be entirely chimerical. Nothing short
of omniscience could ever be sure of finding a given title amid such a
heterogeneous multitude. Every man who can read knows the order of the
alphabet, but not one in a thousand can be expected to master all the
points that determine the arrangement of a catalogue of subjects, -- as,
for example, why one of three kindred treatises should be classed under
the rubric of Philosophy, another under Natural Religion, and a third
under Dogmatic Theology.3 But while it would thus be impracticable to
place our final reliance on any other arrangement than an alphabetical
one, it by no means follows that a subsidiary subject-catalogue is not
extremely useful. He who knows that he wants Lloyd's book on the
undulatory theory is somewhat more learned in the literature of optics
than the majority of those who consult libraries. For one who knows as
much as this, there are twenty who know only that they want to get some
book about undulatory theory. Now a subject-catalogue is preeminently
useful in instructing such people in the literature of the subject they
are studying. They have only to open a drawer that is labeled "OPTICS,"
and run along the cards until they come to a division marked "OPTICS -
Wave-Theory," and there they will find perhaps a dozen or fifty titles
of books, pamphlets, review articles, and memoirs of learned societies,
all bearing on their subject, and enabling them to look it up with a
minimum of bibliographical trouble. Such a classified catalogue
immeasurably increases the usefulness of a library to the general
public. At the same time, the skillful classification of books presents
so many difficulties and requires so much scientific and literary
training that it adds greatly to the labor of catalogue-making. For this
reason great libraries rarely attempt to make subject-catalogues. At
every library which I visited in England, France, Germany, and Italy, I
received the same answer: "We do not keep any subject-catalogue, for we
shrink from so formidable an undertaking." With a boldness justified by
the result, however, Professor Abbot began such a catalogue of the
Harvard library in 1861, and carried out the work with the success that
might have been expected from his prodigious knowledge and consummate

It is sometimes urged that, in deference to the feebleness of human
memory, an ideal library should have yet a third catalogue, arranged
alphabetically, not according to authors, but according to titles. This
is to accommodate the man who knows that he wants Lectures on the Wave -
Theory of Light, but has forgotten the author's name. In an "ideal"
library this might perhaps be well. But in a real library, subject to
the ordinary laws of nature, it is to be remembered that any serious
addition to the amount of catalogue-room or to the labor of the
librarian and assistants is an expense which can be justified only by
the prospect of very decided advantages. In most cases, the
subject-catalogue answers the purposes of those who remember the title of
a work but have forgotten the author. In the very heterogeneous classes
of Drama and Fiction, where this is not so likely to be the case, the
exigency is provided for in Professor Abbot's system by a full set of
cross-references from titles to authors.

From this account it will be seen that any new book received to-day by
our library must be entered on three catalogues,--first on the card
supplement which continues the old printed catalogue, secondly on the
new all-comprehensive alphabet of authors, thirdly on the classified
index of subjects. In our technical slang the first of these catalogues
is known under the collective name of "the long cards," the second as
"the red cards," the third as "the blue cards," - names referring to the
shape of the cards and to certain peculiarities of the lines with which
they are ruled. When our lot of three or four hundred books is portioned
out among half a dozen assistants to be catalogued, the first thing in
order is to write the "long cards." Each book must have at least one
long card; but most books need more than one, and some books need a
great many. Suppose you have to catalogue Mr. Stuart-Glennie's newly
published Pilgrim Memories. This is an exceedingly easy book for the
cataloguer, but it requires two cards, because of the author's compound
name. The book must be entered under "Stuart-Glennie," because that is
the form in which the name appears on the title-page, and which the
author is therefore supposed to prefer. It is very important, however,
that a reference should be made from "Glennie" to "Stuart-Glennie," else
some one, remembering only the last half of the name, would look in vain
for "Glennie," and conclude that the book was not in the library.
Suppose, again, that your book is Jevons on Money and the Mechanism of
Exchange. This belongs to the International Scientific Series, and
therefore needs to be entered under "Jevons," and again on the general
card which bears the superscription "International Scientific Series."
Without such a general entry, books are liable to be ordered and bought
under one heading when they are already in the library and catalogued
under the other heading. The risk of such a mishap is small in the case
of the new and well-known series just mentioned, but it is considerable
in the case of the different series of British State Papers, or the
Scelta di Curiosita Italian; and of course one rule must be followed for
all such cases. Suppose, again, that your book is Grimm's Deutsches
Woerterbuch, begun by the illustrious Grimm, but continued by several
other hands. Here you must obviously have a distinct entry for each
collaborator, and each of these entries requires a card.

In writing the long card, the first great point is to ascertain every
jot and tittle of the author's name; and, as a general rule, title-pages
are very poor helps toward settling this distressing question. For
instance, you see from the title-pages of Money and Pilgrim Memories
that the authors are "W. Stanley Jevons," and "John S. Stuart-Glennie;"
but your duty as an accurate cataloguer is not fulfilled until you have
ascertained what names the W. and S. stand for in these cases. In the
alphabetical catalogue of a great library, it is a matter of the first
practical importance that every name should be given the utmost
completeness that the most extreme pedantry could suggest. No one who
has not had experience in these matters can duly realize that the number
of published books is so enormous as to occasion serious difficulty in
keeping apart the titles of works by authors of the same name. "Stanley
Jevons" and "Stuart-Glennie" are very uncommon combinations of names;
yet the occurrence of two or three different authors in an alphabetical
catalogue, bearing this uncommon combination of names, would not be at
all surprising. Indeed - to say nothing of the immense number of
accidental coincidences - I think we may lay it down as a large
comprehensive sort of rule, that any man who has published a volume or
pamphlet us sure to have relatives of the same name who have published
volumes or pamphlets. Such a fact may have some value to people like Mr.
Galton, who are interested in the subject of hereditary talent, and who
have besides a keen eye for statistics. I have never tabulated the
statistics of this matter, and am stating only a general impression,
gathered from miscellaneous experience, when I say that the occurrence
of almost any name in a list of authors affords a considerable
probability of its re-occurrence, associated with some fact of
blood-relationship. One would not be likely to realize this fact in
collecting a large private library, because private libraries, however
large, are apt to contain only the classical works of quite exceptional
mean and less important works which happen to be specially interesting
or useful to the owner. But in a public library the treasures and the
rubbish of the literary world are alike hoarded; and the works of
exceptional men whom everybody remembers are lumped in with the works of
all their less distinguished cousins and great-uncles, whose names the
world of readers has forgotten.

A librarian has the opportunity for observing many curious facts of this
sort, but he will seldom have leisure to speculate about them. For while
a great library is an excellent place for study and reflection, for
everybody except the librarian, his position is rather a tantalizing
one. In the midst of the great ocean of books, it is "water, water,
everywhere, and not a drop to drink."

To make up for the extreme vagueness with which authors customarily
designate themselves on their title-pages is the work of assistants who
write the long cards, and it is apt to be a very tedious and troublesome
undertaking. Biographical and bibliographical dictionaries, the
catalogues of our own and other libraries, university - catalogues,
army-lists, clerical directories, genealogies of the British peerage,
almanacs, "conversations-lexicons," literary histories, and volumes of
memoirs, -- all these aids have to be consulted, and too often are
consulted in vain, or give conflicting testimony which serves to raise
the most curious and perplexing questions. To the outside world such
anxious minuteness seems useless pedantry; but any skeptic who should
serve six months in a library would become convinced that without it an
alphabetical catalogue would soon prove unmanageable. "Imagine the
heading 'SMITH, J.,' in such a catalogue!" says Professor Abbott. Where
a name very common, we are fain to add whatever distinctive epithet we
can lay hold of; as in the case of six entries of "WILSON, William,"
which are differenced by the addition of "Scotch Covenanter," "poet, of
London," "M.A., of Musselburgh," "of Poughkeepsie," "Vicar of
Walthamstow," "Pres. Of the Warrington Nat. Hist. Soc."

New difficulties arise when the title-page leaves it doubtful whether
the name upon it is that of the author, or that of an editor or
compiler. The names of editors and translators are often omitted and
must be sought in bibliographical dictionaries. Dedicatory epistles,
biographical sketches, or introductory notices are often prefixed,
signed with exasperating initials, for a clew to which you may perhaps
spend an hour or two in fruitless inquiry. In accurate cataloguing, all
such adjuncts to a book must be noticed, and often require distinct
reference-cards. Curious difficulties are sometimes presented by the
phenomena of compound or complex authorship, as in works like the
Bollandist Acta Sanctorum, conducted by a group of men, some of whom are
removed by death, while their places are supplied by new collaborators.
Some other immense work, like Migne's Patrologiae Cursus Completus, will
give rise to nice questions owing to the indefiniteness with which its
various parts are demarcated from each other. Many German books, on the
other hand, are troublesome from the excessive explicitness with which
they are divided, with subtitles and sub - sub - titles  innumerable, in
accordance with some subtle principle not always to be detected at the
first glance. The proper mode of entry for reports of legal cases and
trials, periodicals, and publications of learned societies, governments,
and boards of commissioners, is sure to call for more or less technical
skill and practical determination. Anonymous and pseudonymous works are
very common, and even the best bibliographical dictionaries cannot keep
pace with the issue of them. Were we can find, by hook or by crook, the
real name of the author of a pseudonymous work, it is entered under the
real name, with a cross-reference from the pseudonym. Otherwise it is
entered provisionally under the fictitious name, as, for example.
"VERITAS, pseudon." Anonymous works are entered under the first word of
the title, neglecting particles; and the head-line is left blank, so
that is the author is ever discovered, his name may be inserted there,
inclosed within brackets. In former times it was customary for the
cataloguer to enter such works under what he deemed to be the most
important word of the title, or the word most likely to be remembered;
but in practice this rule has been found to cause great confusion, since
people are by no means sure to agree as to the most important word. To
some it may seem absurd to enter an anonymous Treatise on the Best
Methods of preparing Adhesive Mucilage under the word "Treatise" rather
than under "Mucilage;" but it should be remembered that he who consults
an alphabetical catalogue is supposed to know the tile for which he is
looking. And, in our own library at least, any one who remembers only
the subject of the work he is seeking can always refer to the catalogue
of subjects.

To treat more extensively of such points as these, in which none but
cataloguers are likely to feel a strong interest, would not be
consistent with the purpose of this article. For those who wonder what a
librarian can find to do with his time, enough hints have been given to
show that the task of "just cataloguing a book" is not, perhaps, quite
so simple as they may have supposed. These hints have nevertheless been
chosen with reference to the easier portions of a librarian's work, for
a description of the more intricate problems of cataloguing could hardly
fail to be both tedious and unintelligible to the uninitiated reader.
Enough has been said to show that a cataloguer's work requires at the
outset considerable judgment and discrimination, and a great deal of
slow, plodding research. The facts which we take such pains to ascertain
may seem petty when contrasted with the dazzling facts which are
elicited by scientific researches. But in reality the grandest
scientific truths are reached only after the minute scrutiny of facts
which often seem very trivial. And though the little details which
encumber a librarian's mind do not minister to grand or striking
generalizations, though their destiny is in the main an obscure one, yet
if they were not duly taken care of, the usefulness of libraries as aids
to high culture and profound investigation would be fatally impaired. To
the student's unaided faculties a great library is simply a trackless
wilderness; the catalogue of such a library is itself a kind of
wilderness; albeit much more readily penetrated and explored; but unless
a book be entered with extreme accuracy and fullness on the catalogue,
it is practically lost to the investigator who needs it, and might
almost as well not be in the library at all.

In the task of entering a book properly on the alphabetical catalogue,
the needful researchers are for the most part made by the assistants;
but the questionable points are so numerous, and so unlike each other,
that none of them can be considered as finally settled until approved at
head-quarters. After the proper entry has been decided on, the work of
transcribing the title is comparatively simple in most cases. The
general rule is to copy the whole of the title with strict accuracy, in
its own language and without translation, including even abbreviations
and mistakes or oddities in spelling. Mottos and other really
superfluous matters on the title-page are usually omitted, the omission
being scrupulously indicated by points. As regards the use of capital
letters, title-pages do not afford any consistent guidance, being
usually printed in capitals throughout. Our own practice is to follow in
capitalizing the usage of the language in which the title is written;
but many libraries adopt the much simpler rule of rejecting capitals
altogether except in the case of proper names, and this I believe to be
practically the better because the easier method,4 though the result may
not seem quite so elegant. After the transcription of the entire title,
the number of volumes, or other divisions of the book, is set down; and
next in order follows the "imprint," or designation of the place and
date of publication. Finally, the size of the books (whether folio, or
quarto, octavo, etc.) is designated, after an examination of the
"signature marks;" the number of pages (if less than one hundred or more
than six hundred) is stated;5 plates, wood-cuts, maps, plans, diagrams,
photographs, etc. are counted and described in general terms. Any
peculiarities relating not to the edition, but to the particular copy
catalogued, are added below in a note; such as the fact that the book is
one of fifty copies on large paper, or has the author's autograph on the
fly-leaf. In many cases it is found desirable to add a list of the
contents of the work; and if it be a book of miscellaneous essays, each
essay often has an additional entry on a card of its own.6

These details make up the sum of what is entered on the body of the long
card; but in addition to all this, the left-hand margin contains the
date of reception of the book, the fund to which it is charged, or the
name of the donor, and the all-important "shelf - mark," which shows
where the book is to be found; while on the right-hand margin is written
a concise description of the appearance of the book (i.e., "5 vol.,
green cloth"), and a note of its price. When all this is finished, the
book is regarded as catalogued, and is sent, with its card in it, to the
principal assistant for revision. From the principal assistant it is
passed on to me, and it is the business of both of us to see that all
details of the work have been done correctly. A pencil-note on the
margin of the card shows the class and sub-class to which the book is to
be assigned in the catalogue of subjects; and then the card is separated
from the book. The book goes on to its shelf, to be used by the public;
the card goes back to some one of the assistants, to be "indexed." In
our library-slang, "indexing" means the writing pf the "red"
and "blue" cards which answer to the "long" card; in other words, the
entry of the title7 on the new alphabetical and subject catalogues begun
in 1861. For the most part this is merely a matter of accurate
transcription, requiring no research. When these "red" and "blue" cards
have been submitted to a special assistant for proof-reading, they are
returned to me, and after due inspection are ready to be distributed
into their catalogues. But for the original "long card" one further
preliminary is required before it can be put into its catalogue.

Besides the various catalogues above described, our library keeps a
"record-book" or catalogue of accessions arranged according to dates of
reception. This accessions - catalogue was begun October 1, 1827, and
records an accession for that year of one volume, price ten shillings
and sixpence! In 1828, according to this record, the library received
twenty - one volumes, of which eighteen were gifts, while three were
bought at a total cost of $14.50! But either these were exceptionally
unfruitful years, or - what is more likely - the record was not
carefully kept, for the ordinary rate of increase in those days was by
no means so small as this, though small enough when compared with the
present rate. The accessions-catalogue has grown until it now fills
twenty - one large folio volumes. The entries in it are made with
considerable fullness by transcription from the long cards. Usually a
month's accessions are entered at once, and when this has been done the
long card is ready to take its place in the catalogue.

In this account of the career of a book, from its reception to the time
when it is duly entered on all the catalogues, we find some explanation
of the way in which a librarian employs his time. For while the work of
cataloguing is done almost entirely by assistants, yet unless every
detail passes under the librarian's eye, there is no adequate security
for systematic unity in the results. The librarian must not indeed spend
his time in proof-reading or in verifying authors' names; it is
essential that there should be some assistants who can be depended upon
for absolute accuracy in such matters. Nevertheless, the complexity of
the questions involved requires that appeal should often be made to him,
and that he should always review the work for the correctness of which
he is ultimately responsible. As for the designation of the proper entry
on the subject-catalogue, the cases are rare in which this can be
entrusted to any assistant.

To classify the subject-matter of a book is not always in itself easy,
even when the reference is only to general principles of classification;
but a subject-catalogue, when once in existence, affords a vast mass of
precedents which, while they may lighten the problem to one who has
mastered the theory on which the catalogue is constructed, at the same
time make it the more unmanageable to any one who has not done so. To
assign to any title its proper position, you must not merely know what
the book is about, but you must understand the reasons, philosophical
and practical, which have determined the place to which such titles have
already been assigned. It is a case in which no mere mechanical
following of tradition is of any avail. No general rules can be laid
down which a corps of assistants can follow; for in general each case
presents new features of its own, so that to follow any rule securely
would require a mental training almost as great as that needed for
making the rule. Hence when different people work independently at a
classified catalogue, they are sure to get into a muddle.

Suppose, for example, you have to classify a book on the constitution of
Massachusetts. I put such books under the heading "LAW - Mass. -
Const.," but another person would prefer "LAW - Const. - Mass.," a third
would rank them under "LAW - U.S. - Const. § Mass.," a fourth under "LAW
- U.S. (Separate States), § Mass. - Const.," a fifth under "LAW - Const.
§ U.S. - Mass.," and so on, through all the permutations and
combinations of which these terms are susceptible. Yet each of these
arrangements would bring the title into a different part of the
catalogue, so that it would be quite impossible to discover, by simple
inspection, what the library contained on the subject of constitutional
law in Massachusetts; and to this extent the catalogue would become
useless. Many such defects are now to be found in our subject-catalogue,
greatly to the impairment of its usefulness; and they prove conclusively
that the work of classifying must always be left to a single
superintendent who knows well the idiosyncrasies of the catalogue. This
work consumes no little time. The titles of books are by no means a safe
index to their subject-matter. To treat one properly you must first peer
into its contents; and then no matter how excellent your memory, you
will often have to run to the catalogue for precedents.

As a rule, comparatively few cards are written by the librarian or
principal assistant. Only the most difficult books, which no one else
can catalogue, are brought to the superintendent's desk. Under this
class come old manuscripts, early printed books without title-pages,
books with Greek titles, and books in Slavonic, or Oriental, or
barbarous languages. Early printed books require special and varying
kinds of treatment, and need to be carefully described with the aid of
such dictionaries as those of Hain, Panzer, and Graesse. One such book
may afford work for a whole day. An old manuscript is likely to give
even more trouble. There is nothing especially difficult in Greek
titles, save for the fact that our assistants are all women, who for the
most part know little or nothing of the language.8 In general these
assistants are acquainted with French, and with practice can make their
way through titles in Latin and German. There are some who can deal with
any Romanic or Teutonic language, though more or less advice is usually
needed for this. But all languages east of the Roman-German boundary
require the eye of a practiced linguist. To decipher a title, or part of
a preface, in a strange language, it is necessary that one should
understand the character in which it is printed, and should be able to
consult some dictionary either of the language in question or of some
closely related dialect. One day I had to catalogue a book of Croatian
ballads, and, not finding any Croatian dictionary in the library, set up
a cross-fire on it with the help of a Servian and a Slovenian dictionary.

This served the purpose admirably, for where a cognate word did not
happen to occur in the one language it was pretty sure to turn up in the
other. Sometimes - in the case, say, of a hundred Finnish pamphlets -
the labor is greater than it is worth while to undertake; or somebody
may give us a volume in Chinese or Tamil, which is practically
undecipherable. In such cases we consider discretion the better part of
valor, and under the heading "FINNISH" or "CHINESE" write "One hundred
Finnish pamphlets," or "A Chinese book," trusting to the future for
better information. Sometimes a polyglot visitor from Asia happens in,
and is kind enough to settle a dozen such knotty questions at once.

Another part of a librarian's work is the ordering of new books, and
this is something which cannot be done carelessly. Once a year a council
of professors, after learning the amount of money that can be expended
during the year, decides upon the amounts that may be severally
appropriated to the various departments of literature. Long lists of
desiderata are then prepared by different professors, and handed in to
the library. Besides this a considerable sum is placed under the control
of the librarian, for miscellaneous purchases, and any one who wishes a
book bought at any time is expected to leave a written request for it at
my desk. As often as we get materials for a list of two or three hundred
titles, the list is given, before it is sent off, to one of our most
trustworthy assistants, to be compared with the various catalogues as
well as with the record of outstanding orders. To ascertain whether a
particular work is in the library, or on its way thither, may seem to be
a very simple matter; but it requires careful and intelligent research,
and on such a point no one's opinion is worth a groat, who is not versed
in all the dark and crooked ways of cataloguing. The fact that a
card-title is not to be found in the catalogue proves nothing of itself,
for very likely the card may be "out" in the hands of some assistant.
Nothing is more common than for a professor to order some well-known
work in his own department of study which has been in the library for
several years, and so long as the art of cataloguing is as complicated
as it now is, such misunderstandings cannot be altogether avoided. Very
often this is due to the variety of ways in which one and the same book
may be described, and cannot be ascribed to any special cumbrousness or
complexity of our system. All this necessitates a thorough scrutiny of
every title that is ordered, for to waste the library's money in buying
duplicates is a blunder of the first magnitude. Yet in spite of the
utmost vigilance, it is seldom that a case of two or three hundred books
arrives which does not contain two or three duplicates. One per cent. is
perhaps not an extravagant allowance to make for human perversity, in
any of the affairs of life in which the ideal standard is that of
complete intelligence and efficiency.

The danger of buying a duplicate because a card-title does not happen to
be in its place is one illustration of the practical inconvenience of
card - catalogues. The experience of the past fifty years has shown that
on the whole such catalogues are far better than the old ones which they
have superseded; but they have their short-comings, nevertheless, and
here we have incidentally hit upon one of them. Besides this, a
card-catalogue, even when constructed with all the ingenuity that is
displayed in our own, is very much harder to consult than a catalogue
that is printed in a volume. On a printed page you can glance at twenty
titles at once, whereas is a drawer of cards you must plod through the
titles one by one. Moreover, a card-catalogue occupies an enormous
space. Professor Abbot's twin catalogue of authors and subjects, begun
fourteen years ago, is already fifty-one feet in length, and contains
three hundred and thirty-six drawers! During the past six weeks some
four thousand cards have been added to it. What will its dimensions be a
century hence, when our books will probably have begun to be numbered by
millions instead of thousands? Gore Hall is to-day too small to contain
our books: will it then be large enough to hold the catalogue? Suppose,
again, that our library were to be burned; it is disheartening to think
of the quantity of bibliographic work that would in such an event be
forever obliterated. For we should remember that while a catalogue like
ours is primarily useful in enabling persons to consult our books, it
would still be of great value, as a bibliographical aid to other
libraries, even if all our own books were to be destroyed.9 This part of
its function, moreover, it cannot properly fulfill even now, so long as
it can be consulted only in Gore Hall. Our subject-catalogue, if printed
to-day, would afford a noble conspectus of the literature of many great
departments of human knowledge, and would have no small value to many
special inquirers. Much of this usefulness is lost so long as it remains
in manuscript, confined to a single locality.

For such reasons as these, I believe that the card-system is but a
temporary or transitional expedient, upon which we cannot always
continue to rely exclusively. By the time Professor Abbot's great
catalogue is finished (i.e., brought up to date) and thoroughly revised,
it will be on all accounts desirable to print it. The huge mass of cards
up to that date will then be superseded, and might be destroyed without
detriment to any one. But the card-catalogue, kept in accordance with
the present system, would continue as a supplement to the printed
catalogue. The cumbrousness of consulting a number of alphabets would be
reduced to a minimum, for there would be only two to consult" the
printed catalogue and its card-supplement. Then, instead of issuing
numberless printed supplements, there might be published, at stated
intervals (say of ten years), a new edition of the main catalogue, with
all the added titles inserted in their proper place. On this plan there
would never be more than two alphabets to consult; and of these the more
voluminous one would be contained in easily manageable printed volumes,
while the smaller supplement only would remain in card-form.

It is an obvious objection that the frequent printing of new editions of
the catalogue, according to this plan, would be attended with enormous
expense. This objection would at first sight seem to be removed if we
were to adopt Professor Jewett's suggestion, and stereotype each title
on a separate plate. Let there be a separate stereotype-plate for each
card, so that in every new edition new plates may be inserted for the
added titles; and then the ruinous expense of fresh composition for
every new edition would seem to be avoided. It is to be feared, however,
that this show of having solved the difficulty is illusory. For to keep
such a quantity of printer's metal lying idle year after year would of
itself entail great trouble and expense. The plates would take up a
great deal of room and would need to be kept in a fireproof building;
and the interest lost each year on the value of the metal would by and
by amount to a formidable sum. It is perhaps doubtful whether, in the
long run, anything would be saved by this cumbrous method.
Possibly-unless some future heliographical invention should turn to our
profit-the least expensive way, after all, may be t print at long
intervals, without stereotyping, and to depend throughout the intervals
on card-supplements. But this question, like many others suggested by
the formidable modern growth of literature, is easier to ask than to answer.

In this hasty sketch many points connected with a librarian's work
remain unmentioned. But in a brief article like this, one cannot expect
to give a complete account of a subject embracing so many details. As it
is, I hope I have not wearied the reader in the attempt to show what a
librarian finds to do with his time.

John Fiske.

1 We have lately found it convenient to make the collating precede the
assignment of funds, but the change is so trivial that I have not
thought it worth while to alter the text.

2. About seven thousand of these old titles were added during the year
ending in July, 1876.

3 See the excellent remarks of Professor Jevons, in his Principles of
Science, ii. 401.

4 Since this article was written, I have adopted the simpler rule,
applying the French system of capitalization to all languages, with the
sole concession to our English prejudice of capitalizing proper
adjectives in English titles. Much time is thereby saved, and much
utterly useless vexation avoided.

5 In order to point out books of exceptionally large or small size. I
believe it would be better to state the number of pages in every case.

6 Where the essays are by different authors, a separate entry for each
is of course necessary, though this is not always made on the long cards.

7 The marginal portions of the long card are not transcribed in indexing.


ISSN 1544-9378

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