Help me organize a library with lots of unbound materials
April 19, 2012 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm helping a tiny non-profit to organize their materials into a library. How should I deal with all the unbound print materials, such as print-offs of journal articles, maps, posters, and so forth?

The collection is diverse, including books and bound reports. However, a large percentage is loose-leaf articles and so on. I want to use LC call numbers for shelving, but now that I'm seeing the volume of loose items I am having thoughts about how that will work.

Caveats: Any expenses for the project would be coming out of pocket, since the non-profit is very under-funded. I am a volunteer, trying to get professional experience. They don't have a scanner or any means of digitization, and all I have is a dinky old flatbed. What they do have is a large area of shelving with Princeton files, and a large filing cabinet. I am using Mendeley to catalog the individual items.

Any input will be very much appreciated!
posted by wowbobwow to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd put as much of the loose stuff as possible in the filing cabinet. Journal articles I would probably organize by journal title (or maybe by author) rather than trying to organize them by subject. Maps and posters - are these folded up? What's their condition? Are they unique or replaceable? If they fit in a file folder, I'd consider storing them in the file cabinet.

Princeton files are great for holding comb-bound or spiral-bound reports that are a little too floppy to stand up on their own.

How much stuff do you have and how broad-ranging is the subject matter? LC may not be the best bet if you have a relatively specific, not-too-big collection. It's easy enough to get the LC cataloging data for a book and stick a sticker on the side of it, but it's significantly harder to make your own classification decision about reports and things that don't come with an LC number (I'm not saying it's so hard you couldn't do it, more that it's hard enough to maybe not be worth your time).

Also: how do the people at the organization use this stuff? - Is it an archive where they hold on to their institutional memory? Is it a source of frequently-used reference material? How often does this stuff get used? What mechanisms will be in place to *keep* the stuff organized once you're gone? These considerations should influence your decision-making.

Sounds like an interesting project! Good luck!
posted by mskyle at 12:52 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I work in a small (and growing smaller) academic library and our collection is varied: bound reports, books, journals, and lots of loose leaf articles. The articles were numbered by acquisition, the journals shelved by title, and the rest assigned LC call numbers.

I agree with mskyle about LC might not being appropriate if your collection is narrow in scope and small. Of our LC stuff, it's roughly in four call numbers I can recite off the top of my head. Too often people think we don't have an item because the call number isn't one of the usual suspects and there's only one shelf with that range.

How are people going to access the material? Will you be maintaining the collection for a while?
posted by kendrak at 12:59 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

First you need to sort out what needs to be in the library, what may be archival (were the copied articles part of a specific research project? did they create the publish the report?) and what may be discarded (are those articles available on line? are they within the scope of the organization's mission?

Rereading I see that you have asked about archives. Yes archives are the repository of institutional memory, and are often consulted during organizational anniversaries. Records in the archive can also provide documentation of the organization's function. In an ideal world they would have a records retention schedule that would help you determine what needed to be retained. Some documents -- like the flyer for the employee blood drive can be tossed as soon as the event is over, some documents legally have to be retained for X years and then can be discarded (shredded if they contain personal information like most personnel records) and some records should be permanently retained. Records in an archive have been deemed "inactive" but important enough to be retained. A record may be inactive but frequently consulted so it's a tough call. For a report that organization published that is frequently consulted you could save one copy in the archive for safety and have another in the library (university archives used to do this with yearbooks).

I have to run but feel free to memail me with more specific info about materials that might be archival and I can see if I can point you to any online resources.
posted by kaybdc at 2:29 PM on April 19, 2012

Re: access to a scanner/means of digitization: I work in a college, and our library has a public terminal attached to a flatbed scanner. Anyone is allowed to use the scanner for free, as long as they don't hog it for too long. If there are things you really feel should be digitized, you might want to check around to see if there's a public institution in your community with a similar setup.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:21 PM on April 19, 2012

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