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Archive for the ‘Collection Development’ Category

Cataloging is FUNdamental

Posted by lpearle on 20 May 2020

Seriously?  How is ALA not requiring this?

When I went for my MLS there were four required classes at the Palmer School and (you guessed it) cataloging was one of them.  My professor was the man who literally wrote the chapter of AACR2R on music cataloging, but friends who had other professors learned just as much.

Yesterday, I and the other librarians met with the librarians from another local school about how we’ve approached revamping our catalog and collection.  We talked about the history of the cataloging projects (including 2005’s recataloging of the microfiche collection), our rebarcoding on the outside of books to make inventory easier, and how we’d approached both moving books around (like the 300s junk drawer and the yes… but no piles), plus how we went about weeding old, duplicate and unneeded books.  We also talked about creating norms for DDC cataloging (eg, books about genocide in general go in 364.151, while books on, say the Rwandan genocides go in 967.571) and how we’re starting to create the same kind of norms for subject headings.

It’s also given us a great, in-depth idea as to what is, and what is not, in our collection.  Not each book, but each subject area.  We know where we need to add books, and where maybe we have have enough (or too many).

Without understand how cataloging works, we’d have a collection that varied greatly from Dewey (not that I think Dewey is the be-all and end-all, but it is what most of our students will use in public libraries). Ours meets DDC, but not always where the catalogers think it should go.  And — no surprise — our students are finding books easier and making better choices.  Isn’t that the real goal?

Posted in Collection Development, Professional organizations, Rants, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Two weeks in

Posted by lpearle on 10 April 2020

It’s been two weeks since the end of Spring Break.  Two weeks since this great Remote Learning adventure started.  Two weeks of a new kind of normal.

It’s also been two weeks of Zoom meetings and chats and working from home.  One thing I’ve been grateful for is knowing that my librarian friends and colleagues are in this exact same situation, and our ability to share resources and ideas.  One thing we talked about in a gathering of those of us with supervisory or director responsibilities was how we kept our administration and faculty up-to-date on what we’re doing as we work from home.  It’s important for many reasons, including the fact that few ever really learn about the library, even in those administrative training courses.

There was a list floating around years ago about what people thought librarians did all day. Of course reading was on the list.  So was shhing.  Shelving.  Maybe tending cats and plants. Today, that list might include teaching a class in research or helping with citations.  The important thing is, people think 99% of our job requires us to be in the library.

The reality is that maybe 10% of our job requires that (less if there’s great access to ebooks in all genres).  So what are we doing all day?  We set up a digital portal and encourage students and faculty to use it.  We’re adding non-fiction ebooks to help students do research.  In lieu of displays we’re upping our outreach on Instagram, email and our LMS.  We’ve updated our Resource Guides to highlight remote learning.  We’re helping students with citations and finding resources, and requesting articles for teachers.  We’re still looking at what new books we would like to order just before we return.  We’re updating our records to help students search, adding summaries and Tables of Contents to the MARC record.  We’re tagging our fiction with diversity tags so students looking for books with certain types of experiences or characters can easily find them.  We’re also pre-processing new books so all we have to do is stamp them and relabel (if necessary) when we return. Yes, we’re still recommending reading for pleasure books, hoping that students have a library card from a system that has the book.

And that’s just within the past two weeks.  Who knows what we can accomplish by the end of the month?

Posted in Collection Development, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

Not a fan

Posted by lpearle on 3 March 2020

There are words that we, in polite society, don’t say.  Some of those words have been claimed, or reclaimed, by the group intended to be insulted by that word (eg, queer).  And some are supposed to be used only “in group”.

I raise this because one of our popular databases here is the online OED.  It’s used heavily in the ninth grade English classes, and I suspect many adults use it to find etymologies of words (or alternate spellings).  So imagine my shock when I read this on LanguageLog, that the “Y-word” has been repurposed and defined:

2. British. In extended use: a supporter of or player for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (traditionally associated with the Jewish community in north and east London). Originally and frequently derogatory and offensive, though also often as a self-designation.

Even the football club is asking for people to stop using That Word.

At MPOW the English Department has established the norm that while they may have texts that use certain language, in reading aloud or speaking about it “n-word” is to be used. That makes sense because there are many works that use that word that are still worth reading.  But there are many other words that do not need to be written or read, and this is one of them.

While looking through our language/grammar section, I and a colleague found a book listing ethnic and other slurs.  It’s now gone, despite it possibly having value in a linguistic setting.  Why provide even more ways to spread division and cruelty?


Posted in Books, Collection Development, Ethics | Leave a Comment »

The art of “yes… but no”

Posted by lpearle on 25 February 2020

One of the big project we’ve undertaken has been to go shelf by shelf, moving books to better fitting DDC numbers so our students can find what they need more easily.  Sometimes the error was a simple transposition of the numbers, with something belonging in 973 ending up with 937 on the spine label.  Some, well… let’s just say there’s been a lot of “yes… but no” regarding the decisions either in house or at LoC.

If you don’t know how DDC numbers get assigned, here’s the short version: publishers provide the Library of Congress with information about an upcoming book, including a brief summary and subject headings.  The LoC staff then translates that into a DDC number.

Yes, that’s the very short version.  The problem comes when either the publisher or the LoC staff don’t quite know what to do with a book.  For example, years ago I found The President’s Position series split between 320 and 973 (per LoC) which meant I had to figure out which place was better for my students.

This collection is no different:

  • A heart for freedom : the remarkable journey of a young dissident, her daring escape, and her quest to free China’s daughters was, as expected, in religion (248) but our students would find the author’s time during the Tiananmen uprising more interesting so we moved it to China (951).
  • Another book,  Who will shout if not us? : student activists and the Tiananmen Square protest, China, 1989 was moved from education (378) to 951 for the same reason.


It’s the head scratchers that keep us amused, though. For example:

  • One humorous in-house shelving oops was finding The Rape of Nanking with the other books on sexual assault.  Yes… but no.
  • A book on the Holocaust had a LoC assigned number that placed it in population control.  Yes… but no.
  • A book on slavery had an LoC assigned number that would put it on the same shelf as books on Wal-Mart and other retail institutions.  Yes… but no.
  • The award for What Are They Thinking went to the book Ties that Bound; three of the four First Ladies owned slaves, and there was a subject heading for each that went Washington, Martha — 1731–1802 — Employees.  Not even close to a “yes”, just  really no.  We changed that “employees” to “slaves”.

We think we’ve found all of those surprising cataloging decisions.  We hope.  It has made us much more conscious of new books and how they’ve been cataloged, however.



Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries | 1 Comment »

No time

Posted by lpearle on 18 February 2020

One of the blogs I follow, Being More with Less, had a post recently called 9 Things I Refuse to Make Time For Anymore. Now, most of these are self-care things, like not rewriting the past or guilt and resentment.  I wholeheartedly endorse those, but that’s not what I want to talk about just now.  What I do want to talk about are those professional things I refuse to make time for – some long term, some more recent.

About a year ago, there was a discussion on the AISL elist about where we placed book stamps/labels.  Waaaay back when, before barcodes, it made sense to place stamps in multiple places.  Maybe.  Some people still do, with a stamp on the top of the book and one on the title page and one on some supersecret place inside.  When I started at Milton, they also stamped the acquisition date on the back inside cover and put in a bookplate.  We no longer do that: a stamp with the library’s name, school and town on the title page, a barcode and a spine label are fine.  I refuse to make time for something that’ is taken care of by our catalog (acquisition date) and the barcode label (indicating which library owns the book).

It’s research season again, and we have many students needing help and guidance finding appropriate resources.  As I’ve blogged before, I refuse to make time for angst about students not using the best resources.

As a corollary to all that, many colleagues believe that they can best guide their students through the process and to the best resources, despite not knowing what we have that’s new or improved.   Some are still asking students to do things on paper notecards or not requiring a citation manager, despite our telling students that this is something they’ll need to use in college.  And most believe they understand how to cite, but aren’t able to figure out the information necessary from a website or database (or fully believe that an ebook is the same as a print book in content).  I refuse to make time for anger about teachers not wanting to collaborate on this, thus hurting their students research capabilities in the future..

Long before my MLS, I started in the business office of a theatre company.  We used CalcStar to do the books, actually running manual books alongside because the technology was so new we didn’t trust it.  At my next job, we migrated from manual to electronic books.  Once I became a librarian, it was difficult getting reports from the business office, so I started running QuickBooks to manage the budget and library finances.  At MPOW I have access to their financial system whenever I want (I can look, but I can’t “touch”).  It’s been a great lesson in  library management: I refuse to make time for duplicating the efforts of others.

Over the years I’ve developed a bit of a problem with elists and enewsletters and blogs.  It took 50 years to stop being a “clean plate” reader, and I’ve mastered the art of skimming the headlines and deciding if this article or that post is worth the investment of my time.  I refuse to make time for every post and every message.  Many just aren’t that interesting or necessary.

It’s a perennial issue for librarians: what do you do with the teacher who breaks copyright laws with excessive copies or streaming videos in class from their private accounts.  Most schools prize academic integrity, and yet look the other way when it’s clear that a teacher is creating a private course reader without checking to see if they can make copies year after year of the same short story or article or poem.  Most have no way to stop the streaming, grown even worse now that laptops aren’t equipped with DVD trays.  At two previous schools I waded into that frey, getting streaming licenses and checking copyright/creating legitimate course packs.  I refuse to make time at MPOW for that argument; there are other hills to die on.

What are you refusing to make time for?




Posted in Collection Development, Ethics, Rants, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Feeling vindicated

Posted by lpearle on 15 January 2020

I know that there’s been very little blogging here the first half of the academic year.  In part it’s because of a massive project we’ve been working on for the past two years that needed to be finished by the start of Winter Break.  Well… ok, part one of the project needed to be finished.  There are still two more parts, with a final end goal of June 2021.  I’ll explain about them later.

Let’s start with this tweet and my response:

When many librarians were getting their cardigans in a twist over the idea of doing away with Dewey, I didn’t understand the fuss.  After all, isn’t DDC simply a numeric representation of a subject heading?  Ok, sometimes it’s a very complicated, very specific subject heading, but still. What’s so sacred about 398.2 over Folktales?

Still, we’re a school so we need to use a system that our students will be finding elsewhere.  We could use LC but that would confuse our younger students more than DDC does.  The problem is that the numbers are assigned by humans, and humans are fallible.  We found that biographies of Marcus Garvey were in several different sections, depending on the person looking at the synopsis provided.  And then there’s The President’s Position series, cataloged into both the 900s and the 300s, asking librarians to choose where it all belongs.  There are other books, like the one about a Chinese convert to Christianity who, being persecuted in China, comes to the US – but before that, was a leader in the Tienanmen Square uprising.  My students won’t care as much about the religious aspect as they will about the Tienanmen one.

Over the past two years we’ve slowly gone through the collection and had conversations about where certain books belong.  Sometimes we’ve moved them to entirely new sections of the collection.  Sometimes we had to reorganize a section because previous cataloging had either expanded or truncated them so that books weren’t necessarily next to each other when they needed to be.  At the same time, we’ve looked at the age of the books and figured out if we needed to update or replace them.

Was it worth it?  We’ve seen students finding better resources because the collection now flows.  Just last month, three students told me that they didn’t know that we’d had so many books on their topics – few of the books were new, but the way we now shelved them meant it was easier for them to find.  And now we know what gaps there are in the collection and can start filling them.  Of course, we also know how many books we have that duplicate others (as in, how many biographies of [world leader] do we really need?), and that’s part of the next phase.

This fall I attended NELA’s conference and one of the sessions was about something very similar.  Turns out, Brookline PL is doing the same, leaving me feeling rather achy from all the books we moved but also really validated.


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The average day, fall version

Posted by lpearle on 25 October 2019

Last October, the AISL blog had a post called What do you do all day? (sort of similar to the Library Day in the Life posts I did years ago).  I thought it might be interesting to share what an average day in my library looked like but quickly realized that we have two very different “average” days, first in fall when there is little going on and then in spring when Research Season hits.  Lucky you, there’ll be an update in March!

Usually I arrive at work around 7:30 (depending on traffic it can be 7:45).  Two mornings a week I have a meeting, either all school or just Upper School Faculty.  The school day starts at 8:20 and ends at 3:30, with the library open until 6pm and then again from 7pm – 9:45pm.  Here’s what yesterday, October 24th, looked like.

05:00 – Wake up, take my “pre-breakfast” pills, watch some tv I’d recorded yesterday, check email and news sites

06:00 – Breakfast, continue to read/watch, get dressed, etc.

07:20 – Leave for work.

07:45 – Arrive at work, check in with my assistant.  The Middle School Librarian has two “trivia question of the day” calendars and we usually try to answer those questions at this time.

08:00 – Time for the Upper School Faculty meeting, where we had a discussion about an academic issue.

08:20 – The school day starts.  I have bills to pay and our budget to reconcile and cataloging to do so I’m holing up in the office where I will be less disturbed than if I’m out on the desk.

09:10 – The advisor for the Conservative Club asks about what books we have from that perspective.  I said that we’re interested in presenting different points-of-view, and if there’s a list that she can recommend we’ll buy whatever we don’t currently have.  And if the club wants to put together a display we would be happy to make that happen.

09:35 – Our sixth grade has a reading buddy program with the first and second grades.  Today we got photos to post to our Instagram feed.

09:50 – Over the past few years we’ve been working on our collection and the second pass is almost done.  I spent Sunday through Tuesday at the NELA19 conference and attended this session from Brookline Public Library.  

It was really affirming to see that others are struggling with some of the same issues we have been (cataloging not consistent, or in areas that don’t make sense, or made up Dewey numbers).  Today we’re finishing moving the 973 books into “correct” shelf positions (I’ll have to change call numbers  in the catalog and relabel the ones that have moved).

12:15 – Done with the move!  Lunch time!

12:45 – On to the next bit of the project, working on the 974-999 books.  First step, download the accession list for those books.  Next I’ll sort by copyright, highlighting the books more than 20 years old (we’ll see if they need to updated or weeded when we get to those books).  Then I’ll sort by call number and start to see what needs to be moved/changed.  Tomorrow we will move all these books, and I’ll do the changes/relabeling for 973-999.

16:00 – Each of us take one night as a late night, and tonight’s my night.  I help a teacher prepare a display for tomorrow’s Upper School Parents Weekend.  She’s part of AWARE (Alliance of White Anti-Racist Educators) and we bought a number of books to supplement the books we already had to help support their work.

17:45 – Let students know that we’re closing in ten minutes (there are several people who come in at 7pm and staff the library during evening study hall, so the boarders and day students who want to study here at night can).

18:00 – Walk out the door.

18:30 – Get home.  Time for dinner, relaxing (with a new book), cuddling with the cats.  Lights out around 8-8:30.

Tomorrow, as a wise fictional character once said, is another day.




Posted in Collection Development, Conferences, School Libraries, Student stuff, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

Time to breathe

Posted by lpearle on 13 November 2018

Because second semester is essentially Research Semester, with three months of classes (often 15-20 classes a day), we tend to tackle major projects in first semester.  Perhaps not the smartest idea, given the exhaustion I and the other librarians face by, well, now.  Luckily Thanksgiving Break is just around the corner, and then it’s a short time to Winter Break… and after that, we’re setting up for Exam Week and hurtling into Research Season.

  • For example, last year we tackled the junk drawer, and this year we’re continuing looking at the collection – thus far we’ve done the 500s, 600s and 700s (with luck we’ll get through the 800s before second semester; the 900s will wait until next year).  The past two years have brought up some humorous cataloging oopses.  I’ve already mentioned that at PCS I found “The Wrath of Grapes” miscataloged as “The Grapes of Wrath”.  What we’re finding now are more problems either as the Library of Congress is creating the CIP information or in-house as things were cataloged:
      • The Rape of Nanking was found with other books on sexual assault
      • The section on population control contained a book on the Holocaust
      • Among the books on stores like Wal-Mart was a book on slavery
      • The Bone Woman, about a forensic anthropologist working on mass graves, was in the anthropology section
      • Going Dutch: how England plundered Holland’s glory is about the rise of England as a world power, not about art theft and belongs in history, not art

    Each of these books gets a “yes… but NO!” from us and we move it to where it will be found and useful to our students.  There are, of course, many more that are reasonably in one area of the collection but we feel belong elsewhere.  Still, it’s these gems that keep us going.

  • We’re also moving books around physically.  Thanks to this rethinking project, there are shelves we don’t need in our library and would really be helpful for our Art Department library, so we’re rearranging things to free up a bookcase that will be moved over Thanksgiving Break.  It’s also a great opportunity for us to rearrange some of the second floor tables (oddly enough, neither we nor the administration feel that a group “hiding” in a corner playing Fortnight is a group best using the library’s resources and that a rearrangement might help them see the error of their ways).
  • Our Resource Guides are being revised and added to, including one on Violence in America and one designed to provide resources for the recent visit from the Defamation Project. Thanks to our History Department teachers helping assess the utility of a discovery service, EDS will join our offerings – leading, we hope, to better searching during Research Season.
  • The Greater Boston Cooperative Library Association is hosting this year’s AISL conference and Milton will be hosting one morning (during the start of our Intro History classes doing research); I’ll be reprising The What If… Scenario with my two co-presenters and “hosting” a Dinner with a Local Librarian.
  • I’m still reading for the Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction award… a little behind on that, but I can catch up, right?

While it’s not quite an official honor, I was interviewed by one of our Spanish classes (I’m guessing they translated my English answers into Spanish for a class presentation) and our photography teacher asked if I’d sit for one of his advanced students who was being assigned to take a mere 15 minutes for the photo shoot and to turn it around the next day, mimicking some of the realities of being a professional photographer.  The student and I chatted while he was shooting, and this was the final photo:

Next week I’ll be at the ALAN Workshop then away for Thanksgiving Break.  With all that’s going on, it’s good to have time to breathe!

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Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 20 August 2018

One final round-up before school begins.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

  • Do you have students who study architecture or the classics or ancient history?  This twitter thread on ruins might give them some interesting resources.  And then there’s Tutte le opere from the Museo della Civilta Romana
  • LGBTQ issues (especially Stonewall) are always popular research topics at my schools.  NYPL has great online resources to help.

Tech Stuff


  • The larger site deals with NYC’s grid but there are maps of other grids – perfect for thinking about city planning, urban life, etc..


Posted in Books, Collection Development, Links, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 6 August 2018

As promised, here are more of those links I’ve collected.  Helpful tip: if you’re saving things as Twitter bookmarks, you can access them on your laptop by changing from to

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff


  • As a lifelong Red Sox fan, it’s fun checking out the Library of Congress’ Baseball Archives.  It’s probably fun for fans of other teams, too.
  • Timesuck, but in a good way: GeoGuesser.
  • When I attend conferences (in person or virtually) I take notes longhand and then transcribe into a blog post (or other document).  NPR on why it helps me learn.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Links, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »