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Journal Observations

Friday, Sept. 3rd

10:30am – 2:30pm
Running total: 4 hours
My first day at Tamiment was spent completing paperwork, getting my NYU ID, and receiving an orientation to the library.  Donna gave me a full tour and introduced me to the few staff members who were in on the Friday before Labor Day.
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Tuesday, Sept. 7th
1:30pm – 5:30pm
Running total: 8 hours

I attempted to get my NetID established so that I could access Tamiment’s networked drive from my terminal, but was told it would take a few days to activate.  In the meantime, a student worker signed on for me.  I spent some time reading the Collection Development Policy and browsing through the Tamiment website to familiarize myself with the various collections.  Rachel Yood, the Collections Assistant, trained me on processing additions to the Tamiment Library Newspapers Collection, to be added to the cataloging queue.  This involves searching BobCat (NYU’s catalog) to see if a record already exists and, if not, searching OCLC FirstSearch (WorldCat) to find an existing record for copy cataloging.  I record the holdings information on a printout for the binder at the reference desk; update Tamiment’s Access database (and the hard copy in the binder); update the finding aid using Archivists’ Toolkit (and the hard copy in the binder); house the issue(s) in an acid-free folder; and add the folder to the appropriate flat Hollinger box.  Each record has its own checklist; at the end of the day, I submit my completed checklists to Rachel.  Today I completed seven records.
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Friday, Sept. 10th
10:30am – 4:30pm
Running total: 14 hours

I dove into the newspapers collection again today and completed 11 records.  Donna and Rachel both advised me not to process them in bulk, because it is difficult to keep track of the many steps involved for each one.  Unfortunately, my desk is on the opposite end of the library from the newspaper stacks, which means I spend a lot of time walking back and forth as I check boxes for duplicate issues or to verify incomplete records.  I’ve found a few instances where a previous worker forgot one or more of the steps; i.e., the hard copy in the binder is updated but the actual database in the computer is not.  There seems to be some quality control issues here.  FYI, I am still unable to sign onto the Tamiment network.
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Friday, Sept. 17th
10:30am – 4:30pm
Running total: 20 hours

Still working on the newspaper collection.  Today I only processed three records, as I got sidetracked researching one of the newspapers.  I was processing issues of Final Warning and noticed that one issue (no date) had an alternate title, Strike Back! Final Warning.  I found that there was an existing record for Strike Back!, published by the Bell Workers Action Committee, Local 1121 of the Communication Workers of America (CWA).  It turned out that Final Warning was a splinter faction of BWAC that began publishing its own paper.  The issue with the alternate title was actually the inaugural issue, and it referred to an article that had appeared “last month” in Strike Back!.  Tamiment had the issue referred to, so I pulled the file from the stacks to verify the connection and to try to determine the date of the mystery issue.  The article referred to is in the June 1972 issue of Strike Back!, and the August 1972 issue has information about “counterfeit Strike Backs put out by a small group of BWAC” last month, assuring readers that there was no connection and that they would take action to make sure their name was not used.  This put my mystery issue at July 1972.

The relationship between these two serials helped me realize the value of cataloging the newspapers, as opposed to using archival arrangement.  MARC records indicate relationships between serials (absorbed by, etc.) using the linking fields.  Archival arrangement would group serials together by a common factor, but not link them specifically in this way.  In this case, however, there was no official connection between the serials, so no relationship would be indicated in a MARC record.  Moreover, the masthead for Final Warning simply lists Final Warning as the publisher.  My research shows that Final Warning was a group of BWAC members, but that does not mean that BWAC published Final Warning.  So how does one indicate the relationship between them?  Currently, the finding aid for the newspaper collection is arranged alphabetically by title, and includes publisher and city.  There is nowhere to indicate that these two serials are linked in any way.  In a catalog record, one could include a subject heading for BWAC, or a 500 note explaining that Final Warning (the group) is a faction of BWAC.
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Thursday, Sept. 23rd
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 23 hours

I spent this entire shift working with NYU’s help desk to figure out why my NetID does not give me access to the Tamiment networked files.  Though I had been working with another student’s sign-on, each call to the IT department inevitably meant I was asked to sign out and test my own sign-on (always failing).  Since it was impossible to continue my newspaper processing in this way, I spent the in-between times reviewing Tamiment’s online exhibits on Flickr.
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Friday, Sept. 24th
10:30am – 4:30pm
Running total: 29 hours

Computer issues still unresolved, I spent the first part of the day shadowing the reference desk.  I learned the procedures for checking in patrons, which forms to fill out, how to request materials from off-site, etc.  One of the archivists noted that the reference shift was made more stressful by having to always keep an eye on the entrance in order to “buzz” people in and out.  One user from Wisconsin requested an archival collection that turned out to be held offsite.  She was confused, and asked if there was a way to see online if something was offsite.  Though the finding aids list indicates this, we discovered that when users go through the “Search Finding Aids” page, the results list does not indicate offsite status, even though it shows box and folder details for occurrences of the search terms.  This researcher had simply compiled a list from the search results list, never going through the official finding aid.  It turned out that most of her list was offsite, but fortunately she was in town for a while and was able to request them and come back at a later date.

I saw very little of what I would consider reference occur at the desk.  Most of it was clerical work, not research assistance.  Apparently this is common in archives, especially with online finding aids.  The archivists I worked with explained that most users come to the library because they’ve found a finding aid online, so they already know exactly what they want.
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Wednesday, Sept. 29th
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 32 hours

Finally got my NetID problems resolved!  Now I can officially access the networked files I need to process additions to the newspaper collection.  Today I completed eight records. It worries me that the only place that detailed holdings are recorded (until catalog records are created/updated) is in the binder.  The existing fields in the Access database do not allow for it, and the date format for Archivists’ Toolkit is not detailed enough.  So, I spent some time playing with ATK, and figured that a note could be added to each newspaper title—equivalent to a folder in a real finding aid—that contained detailed holdings.  Researchers could then see online which issues of uncataloged newspapers were at Tamiment, instead of having to use the binder on site.  Donna, however, felt that it was adding yet another step to the process; also, the records will be cataloged one day (even if the queue is very long), so that it amounted to a duplication of work.  We would be, in essence, creating a parallel catalog in ATK instead of using it to group a collection of newspapers.

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Friday, October 1st
11:00am – 5:00pm
Running total: 38 hours

Continuing the newspapers project.  Today I completed nine records.  It’s been interesting working in the company of NYU students.  My desk is next to the student responsible for scanning materials, everything from creating PDFs of invoices to creating digital objects for reproduction or display on Tamiment’s Flickr site.  Often student pages linger in the area, and it’s amusing to hear how they react to library policies or even the materials, in contrast with what I’ve grown accustomed to hearing in a graduate library science program.  I’m also able to get an insider’s view into their work habits, which vary from committed to a project on one day to non-stop Facebook on another.
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Wednesday, October 13th
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 41 hours

Now that I’ve gotten to the point where I can process newspaper records in my sleep, Donna thinks its time for something new.  So, today I was introduced to the Tamiment Pamphlet Collection.  Donna walked me through the process of adding pamphlets to the cataloging queue, and started me off with two boxes to sort and research.  The process is less involved than the newspaper collection, and it can be done in batches.  First, I check BobCat to see if Tamiment already owns the pamphlets.  But because the library holds many pamphlets that were never cataloged, I also searched two published lists of pamphlet collections: Radical Pamphlet Literature, and Twentieth Century Political Pamphlets, both of which are only available in hard copy.  If the pamphlets are already in the collection, I shelf-check to compare the condition, and set aside if they should be considered for duplicate holdings.  New pamphlets are grouped, given an accession number, housed in acid free folders and Hollinger boxes, and put on the shelf to await cataloging.
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Wednesday, October 20th
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 44 hours

Today I sorted the two boxes of pamphlets that Donna had given me.  Most were marked “backlog,” though some were from gifts.  Even though they will simply be given an accession number rather than a subject classification, Donna thought it would be useful to spend a little time gathering like items together so that within each box items were not wildly different from one another.  It would also help me get a feel for the collection, and to start out with a bigger picture of what I would be working with.  Later, a third box was brought to me, containing pamphlets that had been pulled from the vertical files as they are dismantled in favor of creating “Printed Ephemera” archival collections.  These were the really interesting ones (Donna called them the Cadillacs of the pamphlets), as the processing archivists deemed them important enough to catalog individually, rather than lumped into “pamphlet” folders in the PE collections.  Many are from the original Rand School library, and there are surprisingly few duplicates.  The incorporation of the PE pamphlets into my workload reminded Donna of another step for the backlog/gift pamphlets: check to see if there is a PE file for the producing organization and, if so, simply add it to the box, rather than add it to the cataloging queue.
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Wednesday, October 27th
1:30pm – 4:30pm
Running total: 47 hours

Continued the pamphlets project today.  The process moves much slower than I had expected.  It takes a certain amount of diligence to repeatedly search through the two reference books when the chances of finding a pamphlet listed is so low.  I do occasionally find titles in RPL, but 20th CPP rarely has anything listed.  As an MSLIS candidate, I am prepared for the task, but I can’t help but wonder how many undergraduate student employees doing this work are really as thorough as necessary.
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Thursday, October 28th
2:30pm – 5:30pm
Running total: 50 hours

More pamphlets processing.  I’m starting to get a good rhythm now, referring to the written instructions less and less!  Had to clarify some of the duplicate pamphlet procedures, but it’s getting clearer.  I can now say I’ve mastered the art of scoring a folder, for what it’s worth.
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Friday, October 29th
10:30am – 4:30pm
Running total: 56 hours

Processed pamphlets today.  So far I have filled 3 Hollinger boxes, totaling 1.5 linear feet.  Each folder is double-stacked with pamphlets (side by side), about ¾ in each.  It’s very satisfying to see the wild mass of pamphlets tamed into an orderly row of folders!

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Wednesday, November 9th
2:30pm – 5:30pm
Running total: 59 hours

Continued to process pamphlets.  Today I noticed that there are three boxes in the Vertical Files area with my name on them–literally!

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Friday, November 12th
11:00am – 5:00pm
Running total: 65 hours

At this point I am processing pamphlets much more quickly, and I get a certain satisfaction from manning the process from start to finish.  I can usually gauge how many I’ll be able to complete at the start of a shift, and I try also to tackle some of the problem pamphlets each day.  I’ve been keeping a “Questions for Donna” file, including items that might be considered serials or be good candidates for cataloging as monographs (usually based on size).
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Saturday, November 13th
12:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 70 hours

Today was my first Saturday, and I got to work with a librarian (not archivist!) at the reference desk.  We had a good discussion about the layout of the reading room, procedures, and even some talk about the library profession in general.  I had planned on spending the day at the desk, but it was an unusually warm weather day and traffic at the library was slow.  So, after a couple hours I went back to processing pamphlets.  I began to tackle one of the boxes from the Printed Ephemera project that had been set aside for me.
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Wednesday, November 17th
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 73 hours

Processed pamphlets today.  I verified with one of the project archivists that I am allowed to change the dates on the folders and in the ATK finding aid of the Printed Ephemera collections when I add a pamphlet that doesn’t correspond.  So, now I’m keeping a list of collections that need to be republished and submitting them weekly.  Today I also got a chance to talk with one of the project archivists about the profession, and the different issues that have arisen when processing ephemera collections.

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Saturday, November 20th
12:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 78 hours

It was another slow Saturday, so I went to work on the pamphlets.  I arranged another box from the Printed Ephemera collections, gathering them into general groups such as subject, author, producer, etc.  I like to keep the more modern (post-1970s) pamphlets together, as well as those from the Rand School collection.  It also helps me prioritize what will be cataloged first.

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Thursday, December 2nd
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 81 hours

Today I finally went through my stack of pamphlets to shelf-check.  These are items that have existing catalog records and should be in the stacks.  I verify that a pamphlet is actually there, and compare its condition to the one in hand.  Now I’ve got three stacks: those in better condition, those equal but interesting enough to be considered as duplicates, and those in worse condition.  I’ll ask Donna about the duplicate copies, and give those in worse condition to the Collections Associate to be sold.
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Friday, December 3rd
10:30am – 4:30pm
Running total: 87 hours

I brought the last two boxes of pamphlets from the Printed Ephemera project to my workspace; planning on sorting these tomorrow.  I cleared out the problem pamphlets again, including a folder of pamphlets that were already cataloged but with incorrect/outdated/phantom call numbers.  These I gave to the Collections Associate, who would update the BobCat records herself, rather than add to the cataloging queue.  I also came across an interesting item from the PE boxes that appeared to be a portion of a monograph–yet with no indication of the whole from which the part came.  With a little help from Google Books, I was able to determine that it was a serial from 1906.  According to BobCat, it was in Tamiment’s holdings, and to our surprise it was actually on the shelf!  So, no need to keep this portion–another “pamphlet” disposed of.
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Saturday, December 4th
12:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 92 hours

I continued processing pamphlets from the Printed Ephemera project.  The day was slow at the reference desk, so I was able to have a page help me file pamphlets that could be included in the PE files.  Donna had suggested that I make revisions or additions to the processing instructions, so I jotted down a few ideas to streamline it for future student workers.

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Wednesday, December 8th
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 95 hours

Processed pamphlets today, and had a nice meeting with Donna to discuss my remaining few weeks at Tamiment (I plan to be there through January).  I walked her through the progress of my work, and suggested that I could clean up the unprocessed pamphlets area, to make sense of what still needed to be done in the future.

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Saturday, December 11th
11:00am – 3:00pm
Running total: 99 hours

Continued the Printed Ephemera pamphlets today.  It was another slow Saturday, so a page helped me file the duplicate pamphlets that I’d collected over the past few weeks.  Although I too am a student worker, I sometimes feel as though I need to give the pages something to do when it is slow, otherwise they will simply put their heads down on the desk or spend all day on Facebook.  Perhaps due to my own professional background managing undergraduate student workers, I’ve noticed how much more could be accomplished at the library with better delegation of tasks.  Though they can be very helpful, I feel that they could be held to higher standards, both for their sake as they prepare to enter the professional world after graduation, and for the library’s sake.

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Wednesday, December 15th
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Running total: 102 hours

Still processing pamphlets from the Printed Ephemera project.  I’m near the end of one of the boxes, at which point I again start dealing with all of the “problem” pamphlets that I’ve accumulated.  This time I’ve made an action plan to make sure I can complete everything I’ve committed to before the internship is over.

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Friday, December 17th
11:00am – 5:00pm
Running total: 108 hours

My last day before the holidays was also the Tamiment Holiday Lunch.  Food was provided in the conference room, and I spent most of the time talking with one of the project archivists (who had gone to Pratt) and another intern who is in NYU’s dual degree program.  We compared programs, professors, etc. and talked about our career goals and prospects.  After lunch, I continued the pamphlets project and took some time out to walk the Collections Associate through my remaining materials.  I’ve organized everything into folders (“to be shelf-checked,” “duplicates in better condition,” etc.) so that it would make sense to anyone else who happens to pick up where I’ve left off.  Though I plan on completing days in January, I wanted to prepare for the possibility that I might not return (by then I’ll be in my last month of pregnancy, so my availability may be cut short!).

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