Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Personal Assistance Not Supplanted by Lately Constructed Catalogues (Number 4 in a series of Library Service tips from 1876)

Samuel Swett Green graduated from Harvard Divinity School and became a known as "the father of library reference work."  His 1876 work "Personal relations between librarians and Readers" was considered ground-breaking then and still has value today. 

I have not been unmindful, in what has been said, of the great value of the assistance rendered readers by certain catalogues which have been issued lately.... I need not remind you, however, that many persons who use a library have to be instructed in regard to the use of catalogues, and need practice before they can use them to the best advantage. Entries are overlooked. Discrimination is lacking for separating good books from those of little merit, and books adapted to the capacity and particular needs of the user from those which are unsuited to his requirements. It frequently happens, also, that readers do not know under what general subject to look for a minute piece of information. 

Lately constructed catalogues are so made as to facilitate immensely the researches not only of scholars, but of the general unlearned reader. When the admirable notes found in some...catalogues...shall have been increased in numbers and made to include information in regard to the literature of all branches of knowledge, they will, particularly if kept up to date, be found of inestimable service by the general reader and inexperienced student. But the time is distant when the whole field of knowledge can be covered by these notes; and even when it shall be occupied, much personal assistance will still be needed by readers in popular libraries.
Don't assume your church library users know how to use your catalogue correctly. Even if you do simple copy cataloguing be sure to review the subject headings, keywords or tag and call number to make sure the catalogue record makes sense in your library for your congregation.

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