Catching Up with Tech Services

August 4, 2020

The LWL Technical Services staff like the rest of the Yale Library staff, has been working from their homes since March 16th. It has been an interesting time, requiring creative rethinking about how we can improve public access to our collections, both analog and digital, without our having access to the physical materials themselves. The technical services unit is responsible for processing new acquisitions as well as creating catalog records for items already in the library’s collections, and generally this work requires us actually having the material in our hands. The Lewis Walpole Library has a reputation for providing robust records that enable researchers to identify materials not only by creator, title, imprint, and subject but also by format, genre, and provenance. In addition to this work, staff facilitate discovery of previously photographed or scanned prints, drawings, and paintings, manuscripts, and extra-illustrated volumes by linking their digital surrogates to the catalog records.

Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances of working from home, Eileen Horansky and Scott Poglitsch, the Library’s two cataloging assistants, have been very busy in myriad ways, not only creating new records but enhancing existing records. Scott continues his work on the graphic materials, bringing the descriptions up to our current standard; thus far, he has upgraded almost a thousand records. Eileen has been creating records for hundreds for playbills that had been digitized but not cataloged individually. Eileen’s work will enable researchers to search by individual theater name as well as dates and titles of the works being performed. She also has been working on enhancing catalog records for the books owned by Horace Walpole by adding provenance and other information from A.T. Hazen’s Catalogue of Horace Walpole’s Library.

Even working from home, library staff have nonetheless been able to add to the wealth of digital copies of the libraries’ collections. Public services assistant Kristen McDonald has worked with technical services staff to make public twenty-five digitized copies of books and manuscripts, including the eleven volumes of Gray’s manuscripts, Anne Damer’s notebooks, four volumes from the Charles Hanbury Williams Papers, five volumes of Henry Seymour Conway correspondence, and seven of the books and manuscripts belonging to Horace Walpole, including his Book of Materials.

Since 2016, archivist Sandra Markham has been creating detailed finding aids for the library’s archival collections, nine to date (Click here to view the finding aids). From her home, she has been able to move forward on enhancing the descriptions of several archival collections for which preliminary listings had been created. Here again, the work has been a group effort with Scott and Eileen along with Administrative Assistant Michelle Privée all working under Sandra’s direction to prepare finding aids for manuscripts and a group of theatrical prints. Michelle has been pleased to contribute to this cataloging effort, which has given her a whole new perspective on the Library’s work.

These are just some of the tasks that have kept staff busy in the past few months. In addition, they have taken advantage of online classes, professional programs, and lectures to develop new skills and keep abreast of the current scholarship. While having meaningful work to talk about in regular Zoom meetings has helped keep our spirits up and our team spirit alive, we all look forward to returning to the library to get our hands on the collection materials that we love so well.

by Ellen Cordes