Friday, December 14, 2007

I talked to my boss today about getting catalog cards that could go through the printer, and while I had her blessing to make free with the Gaylord catalog, talked her into spine labels for the printer as well as more book tape. Christmas gifts for the geeky librarian!

I completed my campaign to pull the library into the 20th century by making my best pitch for putting the catalog on the computer, and I think I've talked her into it (as far as I can tell, her hesitation is due to the number of staff hours it would take to do the data entry. But the museum worker there and I pointed out that it was the sort of work you could do during quiet times and pick up and put down. Plus we have a couple of new volunteers just ripe to abuse with a stultifying project). And it's a good thing I did because I discovered a couple powerful new reasons to have the catalog on computer.

First, I dropped an entire drawerful of cards. Fortunately, they dropped in a clump and didn't get out of order, so it was easy to clean them up. But that wouldn't happen with a computer. Of course, dropping a computer would have much more disastrous consequences, but I don't think I would have as many occasions to be carrying around our desktop. Also, electronic records are much easier to duplicate than five hundred billion catalog cards.

Then, I was filing cards and discovered a problem I hadn't thought of before but is an obvious issue in any library with records going back far enough: outdated subject headings. More to the point, outdated subject headings that use terms that are now considered offensive. Specifically, I was in the N drawer and found the section of cards for the subject headings that start with "Negro." Erk. I pulled them all as quickly as I could so I could update them to the current term and went through the rest of the catalog to get the other related cards that might have those subject headings on them.* And while I was at that tedious task, I thought about how easy it would be to simply call up on the computer all the records that use that term and change them in one fell swoop. A five minute job, which will take me much longer since I have to retype all of the cards and then file them again. I can't wait until we move our level of technology into the 1980s.

*If reading about this makes you want to rant about all of the PCness rampant in the world today, please don't bother sharing it. While on the one hand I certainly have my eye-rolling moments and occasionally want to point out that changing what you call yourself isn't necessarily going to leave behind the baggage of prejudice you experience, it seems to me that an awful lot of what people call PC is common politeness. And it seems like an awful lot of the time, when I see people ranting about it, what they're really saying is that they don't want to interrogate their internalized racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., and they resent being made uncomfortable by you bringing the topic up and making them think about it.

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