Friday, February 12, 2010

Libraries Personnel Remove Book Pocket Cards; Find Archival Treasure

Libraries personnel finished the huge task of removing old circulation cards from books and bound periodicals on January 8, 2010, a project that began in late November 2009. Personnel from every unit of the Libraries participated in this project, which resulted in every volume being taken off the shelf and checked for a circulation card. Cards were removed and shredded if present. This process was repeated for 894 ranges. (A range is one side of connected bookshelves.)

The reason for the project was identity security. One of the Libraries’ paraprofessionals noticed that many circulation cards contained the Social Security numbers of previous borrowers from when those numbers were used at Ball State. Those cards had not been stamped since 1991, when the Libraries began using an automated checkout system. The cards just had never been removed.

While there were no names associated with the numbers on the cards, Dean Arthur W. Hafner believed this was a situation that needed to be corrected. “We knew it would be a huge project,” said Dixie D. DeWitt, Financial and Business Services Manager, “and we knew it was necessary for us to do this, because the University Libraries are committed to student, faculty, and staff privacy.”

Some unexpected benefits came out of the project. For example, several employees noticed the unusual characteristics of certain books. An old edition of Don Quixote caught the eyes of Jim Bradley, Head of Metadata and Digital Initiatives. He brought it to John Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections, to inspect, who then transferred the book to the Libraries’ Archives. “The binding and paper caught my attention,” Jim explained, “and when I took a closer look, I realized the book had been individually run through a press.

It turned out to be a rare example of copperplate, and I also found another set of books that the same illustrator had done.” John Straw explained that items that are signed, limited editions, or rare in some other way are housed in the Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections. As to another benefit, while working on the project, Dixie commented, “During my scheduled times there was almost always a student needing assistance finding an item in the stacks. I enjoyed helping them because I don’t get to do that very often.”

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