This is a guest post by Amanda Felicijan. Amanda is a Digital Library Technician in the Reformatting Projects Section of the Preservation Services Division. Amanda is responsible for preparing materials for reformatting, database entry and quality review.
Pinning and linking is a small, but vital, part of the process by which books in the collections are tracked. There are three items required for this process: an object, a barcode, and a database. In the case of the Preservation Services Division’s (PSD) Brittle Book Project, the object is, as mentioned in the title of the project, a book. The books with which we work are sent to us from the Collections Management Division (CMD) General Collections. The General Collections are a catch-all, with subjects ranging from the grammar of Algonquin languages to annual rainfall measurements in Zimbabwe. What these books have in common is that, barring some exceptions, the books have all suffered damage, whether from water, time, or being read to pieces. These items are sent to us for digitization, with the original ultimately intended for long term storage.
When a shipment of books is delivered to PSD, the first task is to assess the volume’s suitability for digitization. Some items are too brittle to be safely handled, others already have electronic copies available, and still others with extant electronic copies are missing important components, such as fold-out maps and other ancillary materials.
Before any of the approved books can be entered into PSD’s digitization workflow, they must have a barcode which is linked to an Item Record in the Voyager Integrated Library System (Voyager, ILS) database. Some of the volumes come to us already pinned (barcoded) and linked (to an Item Record), but some are not. At its most basic, pinning and linking is slapping a barcode onto a book (in the upper right hand corner of the back cover of the book or its housing), and scanning this barcode into the Item Record in Voyager. This provides us with a means of tracking the item wherever it goes. As these books are intended for off-site travel, it is vital that we know precisely what is being moved, when it is being moved, and to whom. It’s a far more effective method than putting a picture of the book on a milk carton with a message inquiring, “Have you seen me?” should it ever go missing.
Of the books which have not been pinned and linked, most are older, with only fragmentary records created before the MARC standard, and sometimes having no catalog entry at all. These books are then sent back to the originating collection for the collection’s cataloging staff to sort out before PSD processes them further. It may be of interest to the reader that tales have been told of catalogers who went searching for records in the card catalogs, never to be heard from again. Those are probably just stories meant to frighten young library technicians, though. Probably.
More often than not, there is a valid Bibliographic Record, though creating new Item Records for volumes in series of monographs and serials is not unusual. In either case, creating or updating a record, the barcode attached to the book is added to the database and will become a part of the book’s identifying information. Occasionally, a barcode already exists for the item in hand, but was lost due, most likely, to a missing cover or envelope. In these cases we simply reprint the barcode using an adorably named Zebra printer, and the less adorably named CC&LPU Voyager app. Sometimes when I use the printers, I like to imagine tiny zebras in painter’s overalls and hats, pushing paintbrushes along the stickers. They are very noisy little zebras.
After the records have been updated, and correctly linked to the bestickered physical object, the books are ready for inclusion in PSD’s Brittle Books workflow database. Once there, salient characteristics of the books are recorded. The books’ languages (for Optical Character Recognition [OCR] purposes), the page counts, the number of fold-outs, and the digital destinations (such as the Library’s website), are recorded for transmission to the contractors who will then scan the items.
Upon the book’s return to the Library, the new electronic copies are sent through PSD’s Quality Review process, in preparation for the eventual upload of the item to the Library’s digital collections. The physical copies are then returned to their respective collections.
Once uploaded, the Bibliographic Records are updated to include entries for the new electronic copies. In this manner, books become available (depending upon their copyright status, of course) to patrons worldwide, which would not be possible for the physical object. Silly as it sounds, this would not be possible without a barcode allowing us to track the object, and link all of its parts, tangible or otherwise, together. Proof, I think, that small things truly can make a difference.