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Librarians vs. Archivists

Librarians vs. Archivists
Next week, city council’s finance committee is to consider the naming of the new archives and library materials building, the one Mayor Jim Watson had proposed to name for Charlotte Whitton and he now proposes to name for James Bartleman.

I understand that part of the reason for choosing Bartleman, aside from all his positive attributes, is that the building is both a library and an archives building, and the library fans and the archives fans each want their own champion’s name on the building. The librarians are damned if they’ll accept an archivist’s name and the archivists are damned if they’ll accept a librarian.

Herewith, a salvo just launched from the library side, which wants the building to be named for Claude Aubry, Ottawa’s first bilingual chief librarian.

Books for Sale at Library of Michigan

Early in its history the Library of Michigan collected books within broad categories of topics and circulated them in wooden traveling boxes across the state, especially in areas where there were no libraries. The books in the collection were categorized under the Dewey Decimal System. In 1987 when the Library of Michigan converted to the Library of Congress system, the original Dewey books were never rolled into the new system. In essence, they became a shrine to the Dewey system and were seldom touched.

Donald Todaro, who has overseen the auction as assistant director of the state library, said in the last several decades the collection saw little or no use, even though the books occupied nearly half of the fourth floor of the Library of Michigan.

When former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration was looking for ways to save money it determined the library was an easy target. Ultimately, the library was hit with more than $1 million in cuts. It was able to maintain its Michigan and Genealogy collections while pretty much everything else was determined to be expendable, including staff: The library once had more than 130 employees, but that dropped to 32.

From the Lansing City Pulse, Library of Michigan wraps up its sale of 75,000 out-of-circulation volumes. The rare books however have mostly been culled from the collection.

Checking Out

Piece in the NYT by Shannon O’Neill. She is an archivist and reference librarian at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.

AS a librarian and archivist, I am often asked if I believe that, one day, libraries will disappear. While the present situation for many libraries is difficult — budget cuts, closings and furloughs — I think that libraries will persist.

One of my duties as an archivist is to document history. Given this, I cannot help but preserve the library artifacts that I find.

Full piece here. (Contains slide show of library items)

UK Display of Defaced Dustjackets by Playwright Joe Orton & Kenneth Halliwell

As crimes go it was not the most heinous of offences, but Islington council's principal law clerk, Sidney Porrett, made it his mission to nab the perpetrators.

"I had to catch these two monkeys," he said. "They were a couple of darlings, make no mistake."

The darlings in question were the playwright Joe Orton and his boyfriend – later murderer – Kenneth Halliwell, and the crimes were taking library books and returning them with comedy collages on the dustjackets.

After a fruitless investigation that involved undercover librarians, Porrett eventually caught the pair in an elaborate sting operation and they went to jail for six months each.

From Friday, the story of their crimes will be retold by the council, which is putting on display 40 of the 72 dustjackets that the pair defaced.

Islington's local history manager, Mark Aston, said it was the first time the jackets – "they're of international interest I'd say" – had gone on show in this number in the same place, and they shined a light on two fascinating lives and characters. More on Orton's short but dramatic life here.

Piece from Guardian UK.

Ark. Archivist Finds Missing Moon Rock

Last week, an archivist in Arkansas was sifting though boxes of papers from President Bill Clinton's gubernatorial years when he came across a surprise — a piece of the moon. The moon rock had been missing for about 30 years, and it was just one of about 180 moon rocks that are currently at-large. Melissa Block talks with retired senior special agent for NASA Joseph Gutheinz about the other missing rocks.

Listen to story on NPR

Boswell's Presumptuous Task: The Making of the Life of Dr. Johnson

Review essay published in American Archivist

In 1763 James Boswell, a young Scot of twenty-two, met Samuel Johnson, then fifty-three and the most famous literary figure in London. From then until Johnson's death in 1784, Boswell was a frequent companion of the great man and, as he proved in his biography published in 1791, Johnson's documenter as well. After reading a couple of sentences of such description of this relationship, one could easily dismiss this as a minor literary event. Yet, Boswell's Life of Johnson was a pioneering biography, and, astonishingly, the book has stayed in print and been read by generations over the past two centuries. James Boswell's scholarship, methodology, and his own papers constitute an interesting story for archivists and other records professionals. Adam Sisman's study provides insights into how journals were conceived and created, glimpses into earlier perceptions of archives, the connection of archives to individual reputation, and a miscellany of other aspects of the formation of documents that demonstrate why archivists need to read outside their own professional literature.

Read full book review

Mark Twain House Employee Embezzled One Million Over Eight Years

An employee of the Mark Twain House and Museum in West Hartford, Conn., has admitted in court to embezzling $1 million from the organization that maintains the author's historic home. The Mark Twain House, like the homes of some of America's other best-known writers, has faced financial difficulties. Most, however, were not systematically plundered. Report from LA Times Jacket Copy.

Longtime (and now former) staffer Donna Gregory regularly raided the organization's coffers for eight years; she pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return, Reuters reports.

According to court documents, Gregory submitted false information over the Internet to the Mark Twain House payroll vendor between 2002 and 2010. The misinformation allowed additional pay to which she was not entitled to be deposited into her bank account, classified as payroll advances.

She then adjusted the ledgers to cover up the advances by reclassifying the amounts as utilities, maintenance and similar items. She also falsified the Mark Twain House's bank statements to hide the advances, authorities said. Gregory used the Mark Twain House's check-writing system to write checks payable to herself and forged her supervisor's signatures on those checks, authorities said.

Keeping Scrapbooks Out of the Scrap Heap

From the New York Times: Next year is the centennial of America's great folk legend, Woody Guthrie, and fortunately for all of us, and thanks to a grant from the IMLS, we will be able to view some of the artifacts he collected over the years.

Woody Guthrie saved paperwork documenting his peripatetic life, from utility bills for New York apartments to fliers protesting shanty demolitions in Seattle and lyrics for folk songs performed at a Los Angeles radio station. He and his family put some of the artifacts in scrapbooks, but that did not fend off damage over the years.

A scrapbook page with a letter from Woody Guthrie to his sister. Grants are helping preserve deteriorating scrapbooks.

The glues and album bindings weakened and failed. The page edges turned brittle and crumbled. Newspaper clippings yellowed and tore.

The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, which the family helps run at a tiny office in Mount Kisco, N.Y., has long had to keep researchers away from the more fragile scrapbooks. “Anytime anyone looked through, I knew we would lose a portion of it,” said Tiffany Colannino, the collection’s archivist. -- Read More

Internet Archive Digital Librarian Seeks One of Every Book Written

"Tucked away in a small warehouse on a dead-end street, an Internet pioneer is building a bunker to protect an endangered species: the printed word...So far, (Brewster) Kahle has gathered about 500,000 books. He thinks the warehouse itself is large enough to hold about 1 million titles..."

Read more from the Associated Press via the Globe Gazette.

On Mistakenly Shredding a Prized Collection

Carla Tracy, director of the Thomas Tredway Library at Augustana College in Illinois writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Shortly after I began my career as a librarian, the Web made its appearance to the general public. Even with the broad scope afforded me through my educational background, I didn't believe the Web would amount to much. I could not imagine that this unimpressive resource would shake the very concept of the library as it had been known for hundreds of years.

The shaking hasn't stopped yet. College librarians are faced with the challenge of expanding digital media and study space while reducing print media. That reduction includes withdrawing books from the shelves, which, in effect, means selling, recycling, giving away, storing off-site (for those who can afford it), discarding, or shredding texts. Suddenly college librarians, among the world's greatest lovers of books, are viewed in certain corners as book destroyers.

If a library is a growing organism, then I've felt the growing pains keenly on our campus these last few months. In leading our library staff through an effort to remove certain books used only once in the past 25 years, if at all, I stand at the head of a series of events that inadvertently sent part of a reprint collection, written in classical Chinese, to the recycling center.

More from Chronicle.com.

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