#LibrariesWeek: Cataloguing, Classification, and Critical Librarianship at Cambridge University

Typographic image with the Libraries Week logo, page title, and the cover of Narrative Expansions: Interpreting Decolonisation in Academic Libraries.

This year’s Libraries Week, the annual showcase of what the UK’s libraries have to offer, is centered around the theme of Taking Action, Changing Lives, with the aim of “highlighting the diverse ways that [libraries] take action with and for their community and make a positive impact on people’s lives; to showcase their central role in the community as a driver for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and community cohesion”. 

Within this initiative is featured the upcoming Facet publication Narrative expansions: interpreting decolonisation in academic libraries, edited by Jess Crilly and Regina Everitt. The book “explores what is specific to colonial contexts that has impacted knowledge production, how these impacts are still circulating in our libraries, and what we can do about it.” 

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Bolesław Prus : the September 2020 Slavonic item of the month

It is easy to tell that a cataloguer has struggled with a set when its classmark sequence comes out as 758:53.c.201.33(1a-1c,2a-2h,4c-4d,5a-5b,5e-5f,5i,6a-6b,7a-7c).  This was one of the last things I catalogued before lockdown, and provides the beginnings (and hopefully more!) of the Library’s fine new set of Bolesław Prus.

Buying a major new set of collected works has always been a big step, and that is of course even more the case now.  Significant new academic editions often come with a similarly significant price tag, and our budgets are under pressure as never before.  Added to this is the very topical question of whether an electronic copy (if available) should be preferred (to which the answer, no matter how much readers might prefer a physical book, generally needs to be yes at the moment, price differences permitting (ebooks are largely more expensive, sometimes unbelievably so)).

Bolesław Prus (the nom de plume of Aleksander Głowacki), 1847-1912, was a major and significant writer of prose, yet the UL had relatively scant holdings.  This new set is Pisma wszystkie (Complete works), which will run to dozens of volumes.  Until this acquisition, we had only a 6-volume Pisma wybrane (Selected works) from the early 1980s and an incomplete set of a 1940s Pisma (Works; we hold v. 1, 2, 4-9, 22, 23, 25…), alongside fewer than 30 publications of individual works in Prus’ original Polish or in English translation.  The new set, providing not only Prus’ complete works but also major academic commentaries, was too good an opportunity to miss – particularly with the ever-growing success of the Cambridge Polish Studies programme, which attracts more and more undergraduates and postgraduates.

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S3-figures and the January 2020 Slavonic items of the month

The introduction to the 1945 ‘Select classes classification’

The University Library’s classification schemes can sometimes seem designed to hinder rather than aid the reader.  This post looks at some recent and lovely East European additions to the S3-figure class and briefly explains its history and current use.

In the past, the Library produced publications about specific classification schemes, chiefly for staff but apparently also for sale (many have prices printed on them!).  From my predecessor as head of department, David Lowe, I inherited a third edition of Select books classification, published in 1945 in a print run of 100 copies following a first edition in 1925 and a second very shortly thereafter in 1926.

The S3-figure class was designed for ‘select books’ which didn’t already fall into one of the other ‘select classes’ covered by the pamphlet.  Most commonly, a ‘select book’ was, and still is, something extensively illustrated or very heavy (archaeology books and art catalogues often tick both boxes) which the Library would want to provide access to only in a supervised reading room.  The class traditionally held only hardbacks but we now add sturdy paperbacks to the sequence too.  The S3-figure class was originally applied in combination with a simplified version of the open-shelf 3-figure scheme, so a book about Russian history which would count as ‘select’ would have been given a classmark starting with S586 (since 586 is the main Russian history class).  About 15 years ago, the decision was made to stop the subject classification of S3-figure books, and now the classmark is standardly S950 and otherwise reflects only size and date of publications with a running number (eg S950.c.201.1).  As is the case with many classes in the UL, then, readers need to use the subject headings in catalogue records to trace subjects for titles added to the S3-figure class since that time.  This post looks at three new additions to the class which relate to East European art. Continue reading

Exit, pursued by a warehouse operative : Soviet drama and the Library Storage Facility

Inside the new Library Storage Facility

The Library Storage Facility (LSF), whose contents can be ordered to the Library but cannot be borrowed, was opened in June 2018.  By the end of 2019, the store’s astonishing 4,000,000-book capacity will be one third full.  We in Collections and Academic Liaison have started sending a few books there, and this blog post looks at the what, the why, and the how.

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Grouping material by subject

It was only with the closure of the Guardbook for 1978 imprints, and the introduction of a new cataloguing code accompanied by Library of Congress subject headings, that serious attempts were made to analyse the subject content of each item acquired by the University Library. Up until that point subject analysis had been minimal – access points for material about a named individual, and for grammars, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and volumes of conference proceedings, without using a controlled vocabulary. For much of its earlier history, the only consideration of subject which took place was in determining where to place each item on the shelves.

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