Hello, folks. I’m Chris, and I’ve been working the Special Collections team since late August, 2015, so it’s about time I introduced myself.
My title is “Descriptive Records Project Archivist,” which makes sense once you know what I do here. In some respects, I’m just another cataloger—one of the people who creates and edits the bibliographic information that the public accesses via the ISU library system’s online catalog. On the other hand, I catalog selected resources from the holdings of the Special Collections and University Archives unit, a distinction which matters more than one might assume.
Before explaining that difference, here is a bio in a nutshell.
I was born in the dry heat of Palm Springs, California. When I was a boy, my family was unusually itinerant (which is a story in itself). All that moving around taught me to make my own fun, with or without other kids, so it was natural that I became a book-lover.
I earned a Bachelor of Arts in humanities with a minor in history at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. That’s where I got involved in special libraries and archives work. After a few years in the trenches, I got my MLIS (Master of Library and Information Studies) at UCLA, where I focused on informatics, especially music informatics.
My wife and I moved to Iowa in August, 2015 when she was offered a good job here. I knew little to nothing about Iowa (let alone Ames or ISU) before taking the plunge, but it’s been a real pleasure so far.
—Which brings me back to my job, and what makes it special. All cataloging is done to help people find, identify, select, and/or obtain information resources. But what if these information-seeking people have very different goals as to how they will use what they find? What if the resources themselves are fundamentally different from, say, mass-produced library books?
That’s where I come in. I have experience working with rare books, archival and manuscript collections, and “special” libraries of several kinds. This department wants to provide deeper description and documentation of its rare, unique, and unpublished materials. There are numerous ways we’re all working to increase awareness of, and access to, our collection. My contribution is to strategically catalog selected stuff that isn’t always well-represented in libraries’ traditional online catalogs. Because our subject matter is both narrower and deeper than that of Parks Library as a whole (academic libraries cover a vast range of topics), I have a terrific opportunity to learn about our specific “audiences,” how they use our resources, how and why we’ll preserve them for posterity, and so on. Doing all that requires embedding me in the department, where I share service desk duties, meet the full range of patrons, and engage directly with the team on a daily basis. In addition, I’m doing a survey of our collections to determine where we stand in terms of cataloging and documentation, and I’m redrafting some local procedures. In conclusion, “doing right” by SCUA’s patrons, collections, and staff involves both “digging in” and perceiving the “big picture.” (Pardon my mixed metaphors—what was that, three in a row?)
Best wishes until next time, Dear Readers. —Chris, Descriptive Records Project Archivist.