Sackler 101: Investigating the Haverfield Archive / Part I

Cast your mind back to November 2019. Life seems relatively simple. The coronavirus is about to strike its first victim but it is Brexit that is on everyone’s minds. I was in my third month as a trainee at the Taylor Institution Library and was finishing my day at the Enquiry Desk. Clare Hills-Nova, Italian Literature and Language Librarian at the Taylorian and also Librarian-in-Charge at the Sackler Library, was beginning her evening desk duty and, in the last few minutes before I went home, we were having quite an interesting conversation. At one point in time, we had both worked in rescue archaeology and I was describing how my specialism while I was studying was Roman Britain. It was a lovely conversation as I adore talking about archaeology (to anyone who will listen) and, after wrapping it up, I did not think any more of it.

Setting the scene…(Enquiry Desk, Taylor Institution Library)

 

A few days later, I received an email from Clare about the possibility of doing my trainee project on the Haverfield Archive, housed at the Sackler Library. I responded saying that I was (of course!) interested and we arranged a meeting to view it.

For those of you who are not clued up on the archaeology of Roman Britain, you may have never heard of Francis Haverfield. Haverfield (1860-1919) was Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford and seen as the chief expert on Roman Britain at the start of the 20th century. He was instrumental in persuading the Society of Antiquaries to establish a research fund in support of research excavations focusing on Roman Britain. A pioneer in his field, Haverfield helped to establish archaeology as the discipline that it is today. Indeed, he championed the introduction of Archaeology as a degree subject at Oxford: he helped fund university training excavations; and aimed to improve the methodologies that were developed by antiquarian excavators.

In the world of archaeology, Haverfield has an enduring legacy with his theory of Romanization in Roman Britain. This theory was initially delivered as a lecture and then appeared as a small book in 1912 (Haverfield, F.1912. The Romanization of Roman Britain. Clarendon Press: Oxford). Haverfield sought to elucidate the incorporation of Britain into the Roman Empire, which he viewed as a cultural assimilation rather than enforced acceptance. In CE 43, the full, gradual conquest of Britain began under the Emperor Claudius, ending in CE 87. This certainly was not the first time that Britons had communicated with the Roman Empire, as Julius Caesar described his expeditions in Britain in his Gallic Wars between 55 and 54 BCE (Caesar, Gallic Wars. Translated by Peskett, AG. 2014. Digital Loeb Classical Library).  Haverfield was the first English academic to systematically consider the cultural consequences of the CE 43 Roman invasion through archaeological evidence. To Haverfield, this evidence suggested that Britain fully participated in Roman culture. His Romanization theory challenged previous views — which reflected British early 20th century colonial values — that it was through invasion and colonisation that Britons became more ‘civilised’ and ‘Romanized’. The term ‘Romanization’, therefore, itself indicated a more ongoing and active process.

 

The Haverfield Archive consists of correspondence, coloured prints, and drawings illustrating mosaic pavements, site plans, publication extracts — an assortment of archaeological paraphernalia! The archive reportedly holds only a tiny fraction of Haverfield’s papers. Haverfield bequeathed his papers and library to the university, and these were housed at the Ashmolean Museum. In 2001, the Archive was transferred to the newly-built Sackler Library. When viewing the archive itself with Clare and the Classics and Classical Archaeology Librarian, Charlotte Goodall, I was astounded by the richness of its content and its potential for future research projects.

 

The component of this archive of greatest interest to me is the collection of images illustrating mosaic pavements discovered (mostly) in Britain. Often grouped together and mounted on very large cardboard sheets, the collection is housed in approximately thirty extremely large, transparent hanging folders, each of which contains multiple mosaic pavement illustrations. Sifting through the folders, we were delighted with each new discovery of brilliantly coloured prints and drawings.

According to Clare and Charlotte, while readers occasionally consult Haverfield’s text-based papers the mosaic pavements collection had received little or no attention. The collection would be of great interest to researchers and students, but its sheer vastness and lack of organisational documentation — there is no catalogue detailing its contents — are serious impediments to in-depth research. Therefore, my task for the trainee year appeared to be relatively simple: create an index, recording each document in detail. So that, ultimately its research potential would become clear.

Our second task was highlighted by the large, tired looking, over-full and hence unwieldy hanging folders housing the collection. Some of the folders showed cracks and tears and there was also some concern regarding exposure to light. A new plan chest had been purchased, and it was decided that the sheets would be transferred to the drawers of the plan chest as they were catalogued. New archive-appropriate ‘Melinex’ folders, suitable for horizontal storage, would also be purchased to house each sheet individually. This improved storage solution would ensure the collection’s preservation for years to come!

This will be a series of blog posts. Next time, I will showcase some of the amazing mosaic prints that I came across when creating the index of the archive.

Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library

References:

Craster, HHE. 1920. Francis Haverfield. The English Historical Review, 63-70

Freeman, PWM. 2007. The Best Training-Ground for Archaeologists. Oxford: Oxbow Books

Millett, M. 2015. Roman Britain since Haverfield. In M. Millett, L. Revell and A. Moore (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and/or Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: 25th ICOM General Conference and CIPEG Annual Meeting in Kyoto (Japan), 2019

 

One of the important ways of keeping up to date with developments in the fields of study that Bodleian Libraries subject librarians support is through international conference attendance, where they have the opportunity of finding out about current as well as new research beyond the ‘Oxford bubble’.

The 25th General Conference of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), an NGO with 44,600 members representing over 20,000 museums in c. 140 countries, took place 1-7 September 2019 in Kyoto, Japan. With 4,000+ participants, this was the best attended General Conference in the history of ICOM.

 

Entrance to the International Conference Center, Kyoto (Photo credit: Susanne Woodhouse)

 

Entitled “Museums as Cultural Hubs: the future of tradition”, the participants discussed the role of museums in the age of multiculturalism and disasters. In particular, four plenary sessions explored:

-How museums can support societies in their search for a sustainable future
-ICOM’s commission on a new definition of the word “Museum”
-Museum disaster management
-Asian art museums and collections

The main focus however was on the new museum definition which had sent ripples through the museum world prior to the conference for two reasons. Firstly it had been launched without consulting the organisation’s 119 National Committees; secondly its content and wording was deemed by members to be inappropriate or incorrect. The last day of the conference saw the decision of the General Assembly to postpone the vote on this new museum definition approved by 70.4% of the participants.

 

Main Hall of the International Conference Center: Plenary session on the definition of museums (Photo credit: Susanne Woodhouse)

 

ICOM’s 30 International Committees, representing specialisations across the museum sector, held their Annual Meetings throughout the week at the Conference Center and at satellite venues. As Subject Librarian for Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies I am a member of the Comité International pour l’Égyptologie (CIPEG). The Committee was in for a treat as our Japanese colleagues had arranged an extraordinary symposium about their conservation project in the Grand Egyptian Museum (Cairo). During the following three days CIPEG members presented 37 papers on all aspects of Ancient Egyptian and Sudanese collections world-wide.

My paper focused on the history of the former private library of the first Professor of Egyptology in Oxford, Francis Llewellyn Griffith (1862-1934), in its time the world’s most comprehensive private library for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (including Egyptology). Francis Griffith and his wife Nora left this library to the University of Oxford, together with a very considerable fortune, to build and endow a permanent centre for the teaching of and research in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (including Egyptology). The Griffith Institute opened in January 1939 and, as intended by F.L. Griffith, it was situated adjacent to the Ashmolean Museum. The Griffith Library formed part of the Griffith Institute, a Department with independent status by Statute within the Ashmolean Museum. In 1966 the Museum’s staffing structure underwent a review, resulting in the Brunt Report (named after the Chairman of the review committee, Professor P.A. Brunt) which amongst others highlighted the top-class libraries integral to the various Museum Departments. The recommended amalgamation of these departmental libraries under a principal librarian took place in 1969, resulting in the separately governed Ashmolean Library. The Ashmolean Library, from then on, administered the Griffith Institute Library, the collection of which continued to be housed in the Griffith Institute. With the Ashmolean Library and the Griffith Library bursting at their seams, however, a new accommodation had to be sought but it was not until 30 years later that their collections were finally transferred to their new home, the Sackler Library, which opened in 2001. The holdings of this library derive from a number of separately housed collections and are the embodiment of Griffith’s vision of a research tool promoting interdisciplinary research.

Some contemporary “witnesses” are irreplaceable and therefore housed in the Sackler’s Rare Books Room. They include as Griffith’s personal copy of the 1st edition of the Egyptian Grammar (1927), authored by his famous pupil Alan H Gardiner (1879–1963). This copy contains Gardiner’s little-known hieroglyphic dedication to his teacher, a testimony of “the humble servant’s” huge veneration for Griffith. The Griffith Institute agreed to include a facsimile of the dedication in this year’s reprint of Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar.

 

Hieroglyphic dedication by A H Gardiner to F L Griffith (© Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)

 

In between plenary sessions, lectures and workshops participants took the opportunity to explore the stalls of the c. 150 exhibitors which made up the Museums Fair and Expo Forum. Amongst others there was a “shaky van” in which one could experience an earthquake with and without seismic isolation; the virtual reality stall was always busy; producers of replicas and facsimiles displayed their work carried out for museums and temples alike; publishers of exquisite art books attracted visitors with their dazzling reproduction of colours; and the publisher Routledge/Taylor & Francis showcased its publishing partnership with ICOM.

 

Having been asked to touch the replica of the National Treasure “Wind and Thunder God Screens” by Tawaraya Sotatsu (17th c, Kenninji Temple, now Kyoto National Museum), I could feel the joints of the gold leaves and the texture of the paint (Photo credit: Susanne Woodhouse)

 

Every evening delegates attended social events, ranging from a superb opening party which closed with a magnificent fireworks display, to a reception at Nijo Castle, the palace of which is a National Treasure from the early Edo period, and at the Kyoto National Museum. The organisation of this international conference ran like clockwork and the stakes are high indeed for the 26th General Conference, which will take place in 2022 in Prague.

 

Reception at Kyoto National Museum: Diane Bergman (right) the previous Griffith Librarian at the Sackler Library, Dåg Bergman (Diane’s husband), and myself (Diane’s successor in the post) (Photo credit: Susanne Woodhouse)

 

As subject librarian for Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, part of my mandate is to support the curatorial research needs of Ashmolean Museum staff. This conference, therefore, enabled me to put my work into a wider context by providing information on current challenges in the museum world, on the latest trends such as the attempt to redefine what a museum should stand for in the 21st century, and on new technologies used to preserve or reproduce cultural heritage for future generations.

Attending the subject-specific CIPEG meeting was an opportunity to keep abreast with academic and publishing developments as well as to promote the Sackler Library (and the Bodleian Libraries) and its holdings to the international community. At the same time my presentation constituted a contribution to the international scholarly discourse of the history of collections within Egyptology.

I would like to thank the Bodleian Libraries for the generous support that enabled me to attend this hugely informative conference.

Susanne Woodhouse
Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Librarian (Griffith Librarian)
Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: Keeping the University reading: How we are supporting Sackler readers’ research, study and teaching

The Bodleian Libraries’ (and the Sackler Library’s) approach is to prioritise the safety of our staff and readers, whilst working hard to make it possible to ‘Keep the University reading’.

Library buildings
All library sites and reading rooms are closed to readers until further notice.

Library services
Our physical services are suspended, whilst we both continue and expand our digital services.

  • eResources. The Bodleian Libraries provide access to over 118k eJournals, and over 1.4m eBooks. Our priority is to maintain access to these, and to add to the eResources that we provide for the Oxford community. All accessible via SOLO. More details here.

****Don’t forget Sackler reader relevant e-books and e-resources available via other platforms:

  • The Getty Research Portal  Multilingual and multicultural union catalogue providing FREE download capabilities for publications on art, architecture, archaeology, material culture, and related fields.
    • Currently at 143,954 (20/06/2020) digitised titles. The number of volumes on this site is growing on a near-daily basis.
    • Most publications on this site are copyright-free (and hence older), with more recent publications also included.
  • The National Art Library (at the V&A) has compiled a lengthy list of free art and design e-resources here.

 

 

 

  • Scan-and-deliver. This service provides scanned materials for readers from collections housed at the Book Storage Facility. Access via SOLO:  free for all Bodleian Libraries library card holders.
    A new service, ‘Scan-and-deliver+‘ (access here) provides scans of material in Oxford library locations. Please note: The Sackler Library is both short-staffed and also experiencing a high volume of such requests. We are doing our very best to deliver a good service ask for your patience and understanding during this rapidly-evolving situation.
  • Oxford Reading Lists Online (ORLO). The ORLO service provides students with online reading lists linked to library and open access resources and can be used in Canvas or through its own user interface. ORLO currently holds 1,000+ lists for the current academic year in support of 22+ departments from across the academic divisions. We are instigating a rapid roll-out to other courses. More details here.
  • Loans. All Bodleian Libraries books currently on loan are auto-renewed until 19 June 2020. Please hold on to books you have out; do not return them. Any fines will be waived.
  • Inter-Library-Loans (ILL). Electronic delivery will soon be available free of charge (access here). Physical ILL is suspended.
  • Oxford University Research Archive (ORA). The ORA service (access here) will continue in support of open access to Oxford research, and in support of REF 2021 [link: https://www.ref.ac.uk/].
  • eReference/enquiries. The expanded Live Chat service will be available 9am–7pm every day from Monday 23 March. Access routes here: website, LibGuides,  SOLO.  Remote assistance from expert library staff is available by emailing reader.services@bodleian.ox.ac.uk (staffed weekdays, 9am–5pm).

While we are working hard to ensure we can maintain our digital services, and expand them where possible, we will be able to do this only when it does not compromise the health and safety of our staff.

Note: Many digital services, like our catalogue SOLO or ORA are accessible to all, while some of the services and resources noted above are restricted to Bodleian Libraries card holders (Single Sign On required).

(Credit: Adapted from http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/archivesandmanuscripts/2020/03/20/keeping-the-university-reading/, by Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian.)

Sackler 101: Interactive Floorplans

 

As any reader at the Sackler Library can attest, the library presents some navigational challenges. Thanks to the combination of a confusing circular layout and the large number of different shelfmark schemes in use, it can often be difficult to find the book you’re looking for without spending an eternity wandering in circles – even for staff!

 

Image credit: Chantal van den Berg

 

In response to these navigational challenges, I began work on an interactive floor plan website in November 2018, which built upon the foundation of our existing paper floorplans – the Sackler is a five-floor library.  Through the combination of the existing (though much cleaned-up) SVG files for the paper floorplans, a hand-gathered file of shelf content information, and bit of JavaScript to weld the two together, version 1.0 was born. This early version, released for staff use in January 2019, allowed one to virtually browse the shelfmark ranges present on each shelf (and there was much rejoicing). However, as useful as this prototype was, it was clear from the very beginning that browsing alone was not enough: the floorplan had to be searchable.

This next part was rather more involved. To write a programme that could reliably identify SIX (!) different shelfmark schemes was one thing, but to account for every possible variation and error present in the library was quite another. After weeks of poring over spreadsheets of shelfmarks and endless tests of the pattern matching code, I created a system that could reliably identify any Sackler shelfmark entered and break it down into its constituent parts. This also allowed for the automatic identification of all the weird and incorrect shelfmarks hiding throughout the library, leading to hundreds of corrections. Bonus!

Now able to identify shelfmarks, the system needed to be able to locate them within the library. This actually took the most time to implement, firstly since every individual shelf had to have its shelfmark range recorded; and also because each shelfmark scheme needed to be handled differently (special prize for the shelfmarks that use Roman numerals). In summary: when a shelfmark is entered, it is broken down into elements (e.g. NA/680/.5/A45/PAL/2005), which are then compared against each shelfmark range (also broken down in the same way) recorded in the shelf content data file already created for version 1.0. When a matching range is found, the shelf associated with that range is highlighted on the map

 

 

Version 2.0 is very capable: the vast majority of Sackler Library material is searchable, including folios and pamphlets, allowing readers and staff to instantly find the exact location of any shelfmark within the library. After a period of internal use, the website was launched to readers back in Michaelmas term 2019: it can be found at floorplan.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/sackler and can be used on mobile devices. There are still refinements planned, so all feedback and suggestions for improvements are welcome.

Ben Gable,
Library Assistant
Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: The Trials and Tribulations of Cataloguing the Sackler’s Historic Sales Catalogues

 

 So the other night I was down at the library cataloguer bar (The Unauthorised Heading: you wouldn’t know it, it’s not in a part of town where nice people go) and because we hadn’t had a good scrap for yonks, I decided to mix things up by sounding off on sales documentation – meaning auction or sales catalogues – to get a rise out of some out-of-towners I didn’t like the look of.

I began in a loud voice, “Literally every art library in Britain holds a collection of sale catalogues, and…”

[A clamour of angry voices rose in disagreement: the mood became as fraught as that infamous night when the Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access announced that its mission was no longer to create “AACR3,” but rather something entirely new… and I scarcely need to remind you how that kicked off.]

I stared down the room. “You heard me! Every. Single. Art. Library in…”

[whoosh!] The red-bound house copy of Library of Congress Subject Headings (25th ed., 2002), v. 5 (the thick one, and yes, I mean “S-Z”), flew within a few millimetres of my left ear and [smash!] shattered twenty two- litre bottles containing 140 proof grain alcohol and splattering the motley assembly with cheap hooch.

While many of the assembled ruffians rushed to lap up the flowing spirits, spitting out those shards of jagged glass too large even for a hardened technical services specialist to swallow, a few voices rose clearly in challenge. “Alright, then. Let’s see the bibliographic records!”

I straightened my cardigan, wrapped a weighted book snake around one fist while tightening my grasp on a 45cm ruler in the other – “bibs.? I don’t have to show you any stinking bibs.” – and leapt in swinging.

*   *   *

 

Here’s the thing about sales documentation: while I admit that I cannot prove the truth of its postulated ubiquity, neither can I nor anyone else exactly disprove it. And this is because, while a very large number of historic libraries do in fact have extensive holdings of sales cats., very few of those libraries have ever committed the time and effort to catalogue them to the same standards as the rest of their textual resources. The library catalogues of many libraries show little or no meaningful presence of sales documentation.

It’s not difficult to explain this fact. Sales catalogues bring a whole lot of weirdness to the table.

For one thing, it’s the way that sales cats. enter library collections. Libraries have frequently acquired runs of sales catalogues on subscription or standing order, which gives the sense that they were essentially a periodical/serial/continuing resource, and that it’s a simple matter just to file each in the next space on the shelf and slowly back away. But while catalogues are issued in series, and obviously carry forward many fundamental details consistently from one to the next, it is the very differences between individual sales that are essential to record: What is the specific nature of the materials being sold? Whose collections were they? When and where does a sale occur?

Historic sales documentation, meanwhile, often reaches libraries through consolidation of collections within a larger organisation (as with sales catalogues that entered the Sackler from the Ashmolean, for example), or through donation. Gifts from donors interested in the arts or material culture frequently include sales catalogues among the rest of the resources. Such catalogues are often the last resources to receive a cataloguer’s attention, being as they are frequently very slight, or sometimes bundled, or even bound, together with other catalogues (or pamphlets or offprints or ephemera…). Sales catalogues are essential resources in the study of provenance, and yet their own provenance is frequently murky.

 

 

In addition, the titles of sales catalogues can simultaneously be very long, very convoluted, and very samey, one to another, and offer a test to the patience. Anyone for “Sale of a Collection of the choicest Engravings after the Masters of European Schools, as Flemish, French, Spanish, the cities of Italy, & c., assembled by a Known Dilettante in his Seat in Somersetshire, and now offered for sale by Messrs. Christie, Manson and Woods, at their Premises in St James’s?” How about twelve sales all titled: “Modern British pictures?” Without a conscious effort by the library cataloguer to be explicit – and to remain awake – a library catalogue record sometimes fails to make transparently evident the essential nature of the resource – a listing of material objects changing ownership, changing physical location – that it describes.

In general, then, suffice it to say that almost no cataloguer thinks, “Great! An auction catalogue!” when working their way through a stack of resources. To address sales catalogues individually can be labour-intensive.

Hence, obstacles to access to the national distributed collection of sales documentation are considerable because its management has not been, and continues not to be, a priority either for the auction houses themselves, or for individual libraries. Books are exciting! Books are substantial! Books are durable! Books are big enough that they reveal visible progress as they shift through the workflow! Books books books. It’s all about books. As a consequence of under-documentation, in contrast, the extent, scope and security of sales documentation is indeterminate, relative to other published materials, and potential risk of loss to significant intellectual content exists.

This has long concerned the library community. (You’re welcome.) A project initiated c. 2002 and based at the Courtauld Institute [‘HOGARTH’] encouraged retrospective cataloguing projects, but failed to address the issue significantly, and the HOGARTH portal has now disappeared. The most useful attempt by the profession to improve (international) bibliographic control of sales documentation has been the SCIPIO project.

 

 

 

SCIPIO (originally “Sales Catalog Index Project Input Online,” which seems a bit forced but maybe HANNIBAL was already taken) encourages and standardises library cataloguing, delineating an input standard that addresses the idiosyncrasies of the form. And one advantage of the continuity between sales catalogues is that they lend themselves to systematic cataloguing using templates incorporating SCIPIO.

I quite like cataloguing sales documentation. Would I want to do it all day, every day? Umm… well… that is certainly an interesting question (is the Boss listening?). But do I think it is important that sales catalogues be catalogued individually, in records that consistently record the same data in a consistent manner, and that both local and union catalogues need to become more reliable? Absolutely. At their most basic, sales catalogues offer a unique insight into material culture. And many historic sales catalogues display significant intellectual intervention from previous owners, for example in the recording the identity of buyers, prices realized, or both, often comprehensively. They are highly valuable resources.

 

Auction catalogues offer valuable information for research in material culture and social history

 

I began this blog post because the Sackler holds a small collection of approximately 700 under-catalogued historic sales catalogues in its Rare Book Room. We briefly examined a sample of these during my project looking at resources held in the RBR, and found that only about 6% were catalogued individually in Solo, while more than a third appeared to be unrecorded in Scipio or WorldCat. (I used the word “appeared” because the SCIPIO database includes many unenhanced and frankly obsolete records, with the result that the SCIPIO standard is not applied consistently even within the SCIPIO file, and duplicate records evidently abound.)  But what I didn’t realize at first is that this collection represents only a tiny proportion of sales documentation present in the Sackler and wider Bodleian collections. I found more and more records in Solo, some very good indeed. But it remains difficult to get a clear picture of what is held, and where it is.

And so I repeat: “Every art library in Britain holds a collection of sales catalogues. You have a problem with that?” Well, you’d be justified. The problem is trying to determine how much is recorded, and how much more is not?

To learn more about sales documentation held in the Bodleian Libraries (and especially the Sackler Library) and for highly useful guidance on locating the resources you need, please see the Art & Architecture Research Guide’s pages on Sales Catalogues: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/art-architecture/auctions-sales

Joseph Ripp
Special Collections Cataloguing Consultant, Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: Cataloguing the Sackler’s Special Collections

The Trials and Tribulations of Assessing a Catalogue Record

Since November 2017 I have been working on a project at the Sackler Library to assess the quality of existing library cataloguing for different subsets of materials held in the library’s Special Collections.  With the goal, ultimately, to inform the decision on whether bibliographic access to materials held in closed stacks is satisfactory, we have examined a sample of resources from the Rare Book Room and the Wind Room and asked: Are these resources recorded in bibliographic records (or ‘bibs. in cataloguing parlance’) in SOLO, and are these bibs.[i] sufficiently ‘good’ to enable readers to complete the user tasks[ii] necessary for their research and study?  While only a very small number (four out of the initial sample of 312 resources) turned out to be omitted entirely from the catalogue, we have become aware of a wide range of issues that adversely affect retrieval.  Hence, the short answer on whether appropriate bibliographic access to Sackler Special Collections materials exists, is … usually.

A number of underlying factors might contribute to this qualification: the period during which a resource was first catalogued (professional standards have varied and evolved over time, and the earliest bibs., transcribed from early printed catalogue entries, are very basic indeed), the expertise of the cataloguer, whether she or he had sufficient time to catalogue a resource adequately, and – not to put too fine a point on it – how engaged the cataloguer was on the day.[iii]

But sometimes the specific nature of the resource in hand is intrinsically problematic: some ‘books’ are much better behaved than others; sometimes ‘books’ aren’t ‘books’ at all. And sometimes the sheer mass of resources held in the Bodleian Libraries and Oxford’s constituent college libraries obscures collocation, duplication, relationships.

For this post, I’ve taken for a starting point a bib. [(UkOxU)013068990 — type the number in SOLO’s Search box and you will find the record] that’s not ‘up to snuff’.

The work is catalogued under the title:

              22 photographs from the Oxford loan collection of historical portraits exhibited in 1906.

Sounds simple enough? As catalogued, the resource is comprised of two small portfolios of black-&-white photographic reproductions of painted portraits exhibited in Oxford in 1905 and 1906.  Speaking frankly, this is the sort of thing that was probably passed over on the to-do trolley for some time[iv] before someone sufficiently brave – or foolhardy – decided that the Time Had Come. Everything about these materials is problematic, from their format, to the inconsistent way in which they are titled, to their relationship to one another and to other resources.  Clearly, the two portfolios are related. But are they, in bibliographical terms, two instances of the ‘same’ resource?

Here is what is revealed with a little bit of digging. Early in the twentieth century, three loan exhibitions of portraits of English sitters were held in Oxford’s Examination Schools:

  • In 1904, the exhibition focused on sitters who had died before 1625.
  • In 1905, the exhibition focused on sitters who had died between 1625 and 1714.
  • In 1906, the exhibition focused on sitters who had died between 1714 and 1837.

 

 

Printed catalogues were published for each exhibition, in both a large, illustrated issue, and in a smaller issue illustrated only with a frontispiece.  (It is difficult to determine, without consulting the various copies around Oxford, but it appears that the smaller issue was presented as a second edition of the larger).  In addition, a number of the portraits were photographed during the second and third exhibitions, and small portfolios of these photographs were sold as ‘unofficial supplements’ to the printed catalogues; see some examples, below. (The Sackler Library holds copies of all three illustrated catalogues, the unillustrated 1904 catalogue, and both of the photographic supplements).

 

 

So the most straightforward possibility is that eight publications (large-format illustrated issue catalogues for each of three exhibitions, small-format unillustrated issue catalogue for each of three exhibitions, portfolios of photographic reproductions for the latter two exhibitions) exist. SOLO, however, lists sixteen different bibs. (including the last, the bibliographic record which initiated this blog post):

  1. Represents the illustrated catalogues from all three exhibitions on a single record (eight holding libraries within Oxford, including Sackler)
  2. Represents the illustrated catalogue from 1904 only (ten holding libraries)
  3. Represents the small-format catalogue from 1904 only (two holding libraries, including Sackler)
  4. Appears to duplicate no. 3 above, evidently unenhanced from an original printed catalogue record (Bodleian holding only)
  5. Represents the illustrated catalogue from 1905 only (seven holdings libraries)
  6. Appears to duplicate no. 5 above, evidently unenhanced from an original printed catalogue record (Bodleian holding only)
  7. Represents the small-format catalogue – described in the bib. as the ‘second, revised edition’ – from 1905 only (six holding libraries)
  8. Appears to duplicate no. 7 above, evidently unenhanced from an original printed catalogue record (Bodleian holding only)
  9. Represents the illustrated catalogue from 1906 only (seven holding libraries)
  10. Represents the small-format catalogue from 1906 only (four holdings libraries)
  11. Appears to duplicate no. 10 above, evidently unenhanced from an original printed catalogue record (Bodleian holding only)
  12. Appears to duplicate no. 10 above, evidently unenhanced from an original printed catalogue record (Bodleian holding only)
  13. A bit of a puzzle: the title suggests that it duplicates no. 10 above, while its stated size suggests that it duplicates no. 9 above (Bodleian holding only)
  14. Represents the photographic supplement to the 1905 exhibition (three holding libraries)
  15. Another puzzle: Represents either both photographic supplements, or only the 1906 exhibition (Bodleian holding only)
  16. Attempts to represent the photographic supplement to both the 1905 and 1906 exhibitions, but under the cover title for the later supplement (three holdings, including Sackler)

Are you still with us?  The broad point is that the sheer weight of duplication, coupled with the ambiguity engendered by inadequate records derived from early printed catalogues (such as the Bodleian’s), actively hinders the researcher seeking to locate and access a specific catalogue.

 

 

But the Sackler Library is our immediate concern. Record 1. is a solid overall record, but it does have problems.  First, nowhere in the bib. is the exact title of any of the three catalogues transcribed verbatim, even though the MARC (‘Machine Readable Cataloging’) standard allows the opportunity to do so.  Second, while collecting multiple physical pieces under a cursory ‘3 v.’ (as done here) was common practice until quite recently, it does obscure the textual and illustrative extent of each piece.  And third, some aspects of its ‘subject analysis’, the parts of the bib. that describe the intellectual content of a resource, rather than its physical form, are either incorrect, or unduly vague.

More alarming, however, is record 16, which first brought the situation to our attention.  The cataloguer began with a bib. for the later supplement, borrowed from the library at the Getty Research Institute.[v]  But s/he then attempted to accommodate both of Sackler’s photographic supplements on this single record, an attempt that, without fundamental revision, was doomed (doomed!) from the outset.  (To base a record for a ‘continuing resource’ — or series — on a later issue rather than on the earlier is, in technical cataloguing parlance, ‘naughty’).  And in any case, should the two supplements in fact be considered as two instances of a single resource?  Are they more closely related to each other, than to the exhibition catalogue that each ‘supplements’?  In intellectual terms, the decision to combine both on a single bib. is dubious; in practical terms, it effectively obscures that Sackler holds the earlier supplement from any researcher not aware of its title (although the bib. does provide this, redundantly, three times).  There are additional problems with the record, including another occurrence of an unhelpfully vague statement of physical extent (‘2 portfolios’); subject analysis inherited from Getty that is sufficiently far from correct practice to inhibit collocation with other similar resources; errors in coding variant title information; a simple typo, stating that the earlier portfolio contains thirty, rather than thirty-nine individual photographs…

 

 

This record ticks a lot of wrong boxes.

So what should have happened?

  • In the first instance, the two supplements should have been catalogued separately.  They do not form a series (a ‘continuing resource’ in current Cataloguerspeak).
  • Cataloguing rules afford good ways to collocate related resources.  It is possible to establish each exhibition as a distinct entity (MARC X11) and to use these entities to connect all works related to that exhibition.  Further, standards allow us to point between the catalogues and their photographic supplements (MARC 740).
  • Subject cataloguing will always be inconsistent, at least until Skynet takes over.  But context is important.  A cataloguer cannot help but be influenced by the records s/he has recently worked on; by the same token, it’s worth quickly checking for usage already present in the catalogue as a whole, in order to improve consistency within the bibliographic file and to avoid introducing new errors.
  • Ideally, a cataloguer would have noticed the proliferation of bibs. and contacted the Bodleian’s Database Maintenance team.  They’re very helpful, and very good at sorting these things out: we’re all in this together, comrades!

Now, this is an isolated record, and we don’t know the circumstances that led to its errors.  And, to be fair, it was not a simple knot to unpick.  In contrast, most records in the sample are about adequate for retrieval.  The concern is that even when bibs. abstain from any single mortal sin, unforgivably odious in the eyes of the Cataloguing Gods, many nevertheless evince accretions of minor peccadilloes that, collectively, place them in a parlous state.

So, next time SOLO reveals the exact resource that you sought, remember that it was the combined knowledge and judgement exercised by library cataloguers that thwarted the powers of entropy and enabled this discovery.

Joseph Ripp
Special Collections Cataloguing Consultant, Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Notes:

[i] Want to be effortlessly cool like a library cataloguer? Refer to a catalogue bibliographic record as a “bib.”

[ii] For readers whose FRBR2a is rusty, the catalogue should enable the reader to: “Find > Identify > Select > Obtain” resources.

2a “Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records”: do please try to keep up…

[iii] As measurable by the international standard of T minus coffee/T minus quitting time/T minus holiday/T minus the gentle slide into a well-earned and indefinite rest in the Home for Former Cataloguers and Otherwise Punchdrunk Precisians.

[iv] Not entirely speculative: the less-than-ideal state of conservation of these portfolios suggests that they might have lingered in a corner or beneath an ever-replenishing pile of books for some time until fished out, catalogued and hastily stuffed into an ill-fitting box “to get them out of our lives forever.” (They are now somewhat more adequately housed.)

[v] The existence of tools that facilitate sharing bibs. is one of the great strengths of the international library community.

Sackler 101: Sunday Opening… Part II

 

“At 12:00 noon on 14 January 2018, the beginning of Hilary Term, the Sackler Library opened on a Sunday for the first time. Planned as a soft launch, and despite minimal advertising, by the time the Library closed at 18:00 the reader count had reached fifty-five and the Sackler [which had already established itself as the University library with the longest year-round, staffed opening hours, had increased this number to 78 hours per week]”:

M-F         09:00-22:00
Sat          11:00-18:00
Sun         12:00-18:00

This is how Sackler Operations Manager Frank Egerton opened last year’s blog post about the new Sunday opening hours at the Sackler Library. It was clear that both Saturdays and Sundays are very popular with readers. Over the last year, we have continued to gather reader counts for Saturdays and Sundays both via gate entry data and at set times during weekend shifts. We also still receive positive feedback from readers about our year round, 7 day a week opening hours.

Here are some fun facts about our Saturday and Sunday opening hours. We looked at our weekend reader numbers for Hilary Term 2018 and compared them with those for the same period in 2019. As you can see, the number of weekend readers has gone up in Hilary Term 2019.

Sunday opening is still a success after one year! Sunday opening was initially presented to readers as a two-year trial. Given its continuing success, it seems very unlikely that these extended hours will be discontinued after the trial period ends.

Chantal van den Berg
Library Assistant
and
Frank Egerton
Operations Manager

 

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

 

Sackler 101: How to Get a Workout

Shelving at the Sackler Library

The Sackler is a busy lending library for several disciplines, and many books are borrowed and returned each day.  Our dedicated shelving team and other Reader Services staff members do an invaluable job at keeping on top of the stacks of books needing to be shelved every day.

During academic year 2017-2018, Sackler staff shelved over 175,000 books — more than half of the total number of books in the whole library.  This is a really impressive effort, and shows just how important shelving is to the successful operation of the library. Moreover, art/architecture/archaeology books are heavy.  Shelving 175,000 Sackler Library books entails a great deal of strenuous lifting.  Who needs a workout?

The pie chart (below) breaks down those 175,000 books.  Most books needing to be shelved were on the ground floor and 1st floor, followed by the lower ground floor, then the 2nd and 3rd floors.  The ground and 1st floors house monographs and journals on Classics and Classical Archaeology, Ancient History, Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Egyptology.  The 2nd and 3rd Floors house the Western and Eastern Art collections, supporting the research, study and teaching needs of a more wide-ranging readership, but fewer in numbers — hence the lower shelving figures.

As expected, we do more shelving during term time than during the vacation, and shelving has been more or less the same each term, with a slight reduction for Trinity term, when exams are held (and fewer books are needed for essay preparation, etc.).

Image created by Grace Brown

We asked Library Assistant Heidi Macaulay to comment on the past year’s changes in the Sackler Library’s shelving procedures:

“The past academic year at Sackler saw much restructuring, part of which resulted in an improvement in the library’s shelving situation.  New weekend opening hours resulted in more Library Assistants joining the Reader Services staff team, and most Library Assistants now have daily shelving responsibilities.  The net effect is that there are many more hours spent shelving each week.

Procedurally, shelving is now standardised across all floors as a system.  Book-trolleys for shelving, labelled with shelf marks, have also been standardised and on every floor they are located on the south side of each reading room.  (The exception is the ground floor, where they remain located near their respective stacks and keep exit routes clear in case of fire.) This standardisation makes it much easier for readers and staff to locate items which have been consulted in-house and are waiting to be shelved.

Such changes also make it much easier to determine where exactly any given Reading Room book is located:  On the correct shelf; waiting to be loaned to a borrower; held at a reservation point; forming part of the daily morning desk sweep for each floor (these books transfer immediately to the appropriate re-shelving book-trolleys for each floor); or on the book returns trolleys near the ground floor Help & Circulation Desk. 

Having additional Reader Services staff engaged in shelving also enables us to carry out more consistent work on book conservation/cleaning, missing book searches and shelf tidying and locating any missing books.  (If a book remains missing,  its status on SOLO will be updated to reflect this.)

As further added value, these changes bring an increased presence of Library Assistants to the Reading Rooms.  While there, they can help with readers’ queries (eg, finding books!) at point of need and also help ensure that the reading rooms remain calm working environments.  All the while shelving methodically on all  floors throughout the day.

All of these changes combine to further enhance readers’ experience in effectively locating and using the books they need.”

So the next time you wonder…

 

Chantal van den Berg, Grace Brown and Heidi Macaulay, Members of the Sackler Library’s Reader Services staff team

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: Caring for our books

It may come as no surprise that ‘out with the old and in with the new’ doesn’t apply at the Sackler Library. Contrasting with our previous blog post about the New Books Display, this piece will shed light on how we look after some of the Sackler’s open-shelf collections.

As a busy research library catering to a variety of academic disciplines, it is understandable that some books may be older than others and hence more likely to suffer from wear and tear. The frequent or incorrect use of certain volumes also increases the likelihood of damage, the effects of which can manifest as broken head caps and torn pages. Cracked spines may also result from books being ‘crushed’ open on PCAS machines. To prevent such occurrences, and to protect our material for the future, the Sackler supports established procedures for the safe handling of books. Additionally, a suitable alternative for scanning fragile or oversized items has been made available to all readers. Located on the second floor, our high-resolution overhead scanner allows users to make detailed scans without having to flatten books to an excessive degree.

 

Books with broken head caps.

 

Acknowledging the paucity of available space for new acquisitions, staff at the Sackler are also involved in a ‘Space Creation Project’. One of the project’s aims is to ensure our collections continue to be housed appropriately and don’t become too tightly packed together. This will help minimise the risk of avoidable deterioration like ripped spine covers, which all too readily result from an over-zealous bid to extricate a squashed book.

When readers or staff members do identify a book as in need of attention it is temporarily removed from the shelves. This development is duly reflected on the online catalogue (SOLO) which displays a ‘sent for repair’ message below the entry in question. In certain cases a quick fix isn’t an option, so each month we earmark a certain number of volumes to be sent away to a commercial bindery. Here, our books are rebound by a specialist contractor who ensures they come back to the library looking as good as new. We make the most of this important service by selecting some of our high-circulating paperback titles to be rebound as well. Converting student staples to hardback is something we are very keen to do; it increases the shelf-life of books on reading lists and helps us to provide our readers with the publications they need, throughout the year.

 

A selection of rebound titles.

 

Information and statistics on the rebinding process.

 

The timely replacement of important core texts is another key aspect in our mission to partner readers with resources. During the routine maintenance and tidying of shelves, Reader-Services staff identify any items that may have fallen into disrepair and liaise with Subject Librarians to ensure a suitable alternative is made available. A recent result of this process has been the arrival of some shiny new copies of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, intended to augment the reference material available to Classicists ahead of the upcoming Michaelmas term.

 

The steps we take to preserve our collections are not just remedial and staff work concurrently behind the scenes to assist in preventative conservation projects like book cleaning. This process centres around the use of a conservation-grade vacuum cleaner with a fine-brush adaptor. With the correct technique this machine lifts dust from the covers and text-block of a book whilst minimising the risk of damage. Book cleaning also provides an opportunity to check for pests or mould, and should this yield any concerning results, the Bodleian Conservation team are on-hand to provide appropriate support.

 

Book cleaning in progress.

 

Typically, cleaning is done in blocks of no more than two hours to reduce manual handling, so don’t fret if you discover that the item you’re looking for is receiving some TLC ­- it’ll be back on the shelves before you know it!

Ross Jones
Library Assistant

Sackler 101: Offsite deliveries

 

If there is one thing that libraries in Oxford are always short of, it’s space. The Bodleian Libraries receive around 1,000 new items per working day and now hold more than 13 million in total. This means ever more publications are vying for limited space on open-access shelves at individual libraries such as the Sackler.

Over the years, the Bodleian Libraries relieved some of this pressure by storing books in a variety of places. These ranged from below ground in the centre of Oxford itself, to offsite facilities at Nuneham Courtenay (5 miles outside Oxford) and even a disused salt mine in Cheshire. These were replaced by a new large-scale Book Storage Facility (BSF), which opened in 2010 after a three-year build and the Bodleian’s biggest ever book move, which you can read more about here.

Situated on the outskirts of Swindon, the BSF is designed to house and conserve less-frequently-used items, while making them available to Bodleian Libraries’ readers on request. As a trainee on the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Trainee programme, I visited the BSF earlier in the year. This was a fantastic experience that really helped me appreciate the logistics involved and see how the Sackler Reader Services team fitted into the bigger picture.

 

The scale of the storage shelves at the BSF.

 

When you enter the main storage area at the BSF, the scale of it strikes you immediately. The building itself is huge, resembling an aircraft hangar from the outside. Inside, the shelving units are 11.4m tall in aisles 71m long, making a total of 230km of shelving. Every book or item is stored with others of the same dimensions, so they fit into archive-standard boxes that look like long magazine files. Every shelf, box and individual item has its own barcode so items can be tracked.

 

Each shelf, box and book is barcoded.

 

The BSF’s computer system is vital to the logistics of books entering and leaving the facility without being ‘lost’. The system logs book requests that Bodleian readers place via SOLO and calculates the most efficient order for ‘picking’ the requested items on any given day. The BSF staff work through the list in order, fetching the books and scanning each one with a handheld device as they go. They do this using machinery that is part forklift truck and part cherry-picker, which can move down the aisles swiftly (but safely) and enable staff to reach the top of the high shelves.

 

The machinery used to access the highest shelves.

 

Once all the books have been fetched, BSF staff sort them according to which library they have been requested to arrive at, such as the Sackler. Staff put into each book a computer-generated white slip identifying the destination library and reader, and pack them into blue crates. A dedicated Bodleian delivery team then delivers them by van.

The BSF deliveries are an important part of the work done by Reader Services staff at the Sackler, with two deliveries coming in each day. Each delivery consists of multiple crates (with ten or more crates during peak demand in term time). While still helping readers with circulation and enquiries, staff at the desk make it a priority to process the delivery efficiently to help readers have access to their requested books as soon as possible.

To do this, we unpack the crates and scan each book in before putting it on the reservation shelves behind the desk ready for collection. We also add a friendly green slip reminding readers that the books must be returned to the desk when not being consulted.

 

Unpacking the delivery crates.

 

As with normal loans, each book has a due date for return to the BSF. The BSF computer software generates a list of due books and sends it to us every morning. We take each book on the list off the reservation shelves, scan it using the computer again, take out the green slip to be reused, and then pack all the books into crates to be collected by the delivery team and driven back to the BSF.

 

 

Art, archaeology and architecture books — the primary areas of study at the Sackler — are notoriously heavy. As a result, our deliveries are consistently heavier than other libraries’ and are a serious manual handling issue. Tuesday mornings are when we receive the longest lists of books to return to the BSF. On one term-time Tuesday morning, I counted and weighed the books we returned to the BSF so we could get a snapshot of the kind of materials people are ordering to our reading room. That morning, we sent back 58 items which weighed 38.57kg in total (meaning the average weight was 0.65kg), with the heaviest weighing 2.48kg and the lightest, a small pamphlet, just 0.01kg. As for the books coming in, our highest number of crates to reach us in one afternoon’s delivery was fourteen.

The BSF delivery system makes available for readers a huge variety of items, and it is always fascinating to see what has been ordered. While many of the items are directly related to the subjects covered by the Sackler’s open-shelf collections, some items are on more unexpected or intriguing topics, as demonstrated by the images in this post.

 

 

 

The deliveries are a great daily reminder that readers are working on cutting-edge research topics, and using the Sackler Library as a preferred working space – not just a place where books happen to be housed. For me as a trainee, it also reinforces the idea that a vital aspect of librarianship is enabling and extending people’s access to the resources they need.

Emily Pulsford
Graduate Trainee Librarian