Monday, September 19, 2022

The Library Project

By Rachel Dworkin, archivist


Sometimes visitors ask me what it is I do all day. Each day is different, but I currently have an interesting project I’m working on. In addition to the over a million manuscript items and 14,000+ photographs in our archival collections, the Booth Library here at the Chemung County Historical Society also contains over 2,000 books. They include government publications, local history books, genealogies of area families, works by local authors, and scholarly works about topics related to our other collections. Right now, I am in the midst of a project to assess and update our holdings. It will be a multi-stage process. 


All of our books are cataloged on the Southern Tier Library System’s (STLS) StarCat catalog. In recent years, I’d built up a bit of a backlog of new books which needed to be added. In August, catalogers from STLS came to catalog the new books and add them to their on-line system. They assigned each book an item ID and a call number based on the Dewey Decimal System. Call number are assigned based on their topic: 000 is computer and information science; 100 is philosophy and psychology; 200 is religion; 300 is social science; 400 is language; 500 is sciences like physics, chemistry, and biology; 600 is technology; 700 is arts and recreation; 800 is literature; and 900 is history and geography. This system is used by libraries throughout the world. Each topic then subdivides so, for example, a history book on Chemung County would be 974.779 plus the first three letters of the author’s surname. Once the call number had been assigned I created a label for each book.


The next step is shelving which involved quite a lot of shifting. I started at the very top in the 000 section, adding the new books and dusting as I went. I’m also weeding as I go. Shelf space in our library is at a premium and I want to make sure that every book we have is relevant to our mission and up-to-date in terms of scholarship. Our mission is to document and share the history of the Chemung Valley. We don’t need a history of Albany County or a list of the heads of households in the 1790 census for Connecticut. The Steele Memorial Library has agreed to take any discards, so I am putting together a box for them. Once I’ve selected which books to pull from the shelves, I’ll contact STLS so that they can transfer the catalog records to Steele when I bring them the books.

Once all of that is done, I’ll be bringing back the folks from STLS to do a shelf read. They’ll go through each shelf to confirm that everything on the shelf is also in the catalog and add anything that isn’t. I hope to have this last bit completed sometime in the coming year. And now you know at least a little bit about what I do all day!



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