Post by Caitlyn McLoughlin
While I am not a MLIS student, I am most definitely a student of the library, and this project has been a rewarding lesson. Because I’m one of those lucky dorks who loves her job more than most things, I jumped at the opportunity to increase my hours as a Conservation Lab assistant this past summer. My increased presence in the lab inspired my supervisors, Wil Lin and Kristen St. John, to ask around the UCLA library community for potential projects that could be completed over the summer. Enter Janine Henri, Architecture, Design, and Digital Services Librarian. She explained that there were a number of books in the Arts Library Cage stacks that needed to be transferred to SRLF for permanent housing. But before this could happen, enclosures needed to be created for the books – which were not just books, but GIANT books. The average book measures around 20” x 14” and weighs somewhere between 10 – 12 lbs.
While this doesn’t seem very heavy, handling a book that would have only been “normal-sized” for Paul Bunyan can be incredibly challenging. Most of the books are architectural in subject matter, but there are a few outlying artists’ books. These books had to be transferred from the Arts Library cage on campus to our lab in the Village. And of course, this project began in the middle of July, so the weather was less than favorable. At the end of it all, Wil; Kristen; Jennifer Martinez, the Conservation Lab summer intern; my fellow lab crony, Chris Marino; and myself spent two half-days in the Arts Library basement packing up and eventually transporting, 130 books.
Upon completion of the wrapping process, we all noted that the packages look like they came from a government confiscated Columbian biplane, so don’t worry if that’s where your mind went. Since most of the books were in pretty shabby condition, we used large amounts of bubble wrap and several layers of various types of papers to make sure that they were adequately protected for the traffic-laden ride through Westwood Village. Crony Chris and I then spent two days unpacking, signing in and admiring each book.
In the process of recording and updating the location of each book, we discovered that a good percentage of them were not in the UCLA library catalog. These books had neither a barcode nor a call number that registered in the system.
Sara Layne of the Cataloging and Metadata Center agreed to examine the books and insure they received appropriate cataloging. She is still working (and succeeding!) at getting these books entered into the system and searchable for all! In the meantime, they have a special place in the lab:
The next phase of the project was pretty cut and dry: I created a custom clamshell box for each book.
The boxes were created using E-flute corrugated board and an extremely helpful Excel spreadsheet that creates a boxing template based on the height, width, and thickness measurements of the book.
To date, about 60 boxes (with books!) have been sent to SRLF for permanent housing while the remaining half is about 85% boxed.
At the beginning of this post I maintained that though I am not an MLIS student, I am a student of the library, and what I’ve learned from this experience is that computers are not at all 100% reliable; about 30 books from this project were not in the online library catalog and therefore, unknown to the public. Because of the work of librarians and conservators, now they are; and let me tell you, they’re awesome books. My personal favorite of the batch is The Story of the Norman Conquest by D. Maclise, a collection of 42 wood-engraved plates. Who wouldn’t want to know about this book?! The defeat of Harold, the last Saxon king of England by the forces of William the Conqueror is striking in its lithographed form. Though I don’t understand the ins-and-outs of cataloging, archiving, etc. and probably never will, this experience has made me understand firsthand that librarians are more than just an aging nun asleep behind a reference desk (Catholic high school folks), and instead, they are purveyors of really cool books and endless amounts of information. As an aspiring professor, they are probably my future saviors. While all I really did was fold a bunch of cardboard, my involvement in this project has been beyond rewarding. Aside from countless paper cuts, I got the chance to protect books and hopefully, help keep them available for the enjoyment of future dorks to come.