The most recent Newberry Minute video that I worked on deals with several large collections of pamphlets from the French Revolution. The collections, as detailed on the Newberry’s website, came to the Newberry in the late 1950s. The collections document, in a very rich and detailed way, what people were thinking and writing about during this turbulent time in French history.As the video discusses, a majority of the items deal with political, economic, and other social issues. But other times, like the boot maker’s pamphlet in the video, provide a different grain to the texture of our understanding, revealing how the culture at large got along at the time.
Jennifer Thom, who presents in the video, is the Cataloging Projects Manager at the Newberry. Right now, her main job is to oversee a large, grant-funded project to create detailed catalog records for these collections (or the FRC). Currently, these pamphlets can be considered to be “hidden collections,” which libraries use to designate substantial collections that are not accessible to users. In the library world these days, accessibility almost always means accessible through a finding aid like an online catalog. The problem with the FRC is that there exists a paper catalog of a similar collection owned by the Biblioteque nationale in Paris. Newberry staffed have annotated this catalog to indicate what we hold as a stop gap measure.But, as you can see below, the collection is very large, and the analog, paper catalog is not the most efficient way to discover what these boxes contain.
The team that Jennifer oversees, supported by funds from the Council on Library and Information Resources, are working to create what are called item-level catalog records for the FRC. An item-level catalog record contains detailed information about each item in a collection (rather than a general description of the collection as a whole, or descriptions of large chunks of the collection). With these detailed records loaded into the online catalog, Newberry users will be able to search for these great resources using keywords, titles, and subject headings.