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ON CO-OPERATION IN INDEXING AND CATALOGUING COLLEGE
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE APPOINTED AUGUST, 1876.
A paper read before the Convocation a year ago on "The Administration of College Libraries," contained some suggestions as to the practicability of cooperation in the work of cataloguing and indexing. The idea of such coöperation, if not altogether new, was at least untried; and it seemed possible to devise a plan or method which should have the State of New York for its field, and which would be best carried out by means of the annual Convocations of the Regents.
Your committee, appointed after the reading of the paper, at once set about the preparation of such a plan.
The work to be done embraced, first, the indexing of the most important periodical and miscellaneous literature to date, and the adoption of a plan for its continuance; and second, the adoption of a uniform method of card cataloguing, and possibly the production and maintenance by exchange or otherwise of a general catalogue of all the college libraries of the State. The mode of doing it involved a standing committee appointed by this body who should decide what periodicals and miscellaneous works should be indexed and how it should be done; and should also recommend, after careful study, the form and contents of a card for common use in cataloguing this committee to work without pay and report annually to this body. It involved, also, the employment of an indexer and cataloguer to work under the direction of the standing committee, and to be paid by the several libraries on some equitable arrangement, such indexer to make this work a study, so that the results should be uniform in method and scholarly in character. Having entered upon the work under the superintendence of a diligent committee, an expert indexer would in a few years accumulate materials which might be printed and sold, so as to reimburse the libraries in part for the money expended, or provide the means for some further work. In the mean time cheap copyists might be employed to keep the libraries supplied with the results produced up to date, in the card form, so that the printing could be delayed till something like completeness was reached. Should this work be accomplished satisfactorily, the committee with such experience, and the indexer so disciplined by study and practice, would be able to enter upon the more difficult work of preparing in a similar manner a general subject index or library manual which was hinted at in the paper read last year, and which is more fully described in the Government Report on Libraries in the United States, at page 724.
Such is a brief outline of the plan which your committee were turning over in their minds without having reached its details, when the conference of librarians met in Philadelphia in October. Up to that time, so far as we know, little or nothing had been done by libraries in this country by coöperation. If any one had doubts, however, as to the wisdom of your course in the appointment of a committee to consider and report upon such coöperation, it took but a few hours attendanc at the conference to remove them. It soon became apparent to the members of the committee present at that meeting, that the work we were under
taking for the State of New York, might better be merged into the general work there proposed for the whole country.
The tendency toward a combination of effort among libraries which scarcely existed a year ago, has had so rapid growth, that now a scheme which should be limited to a single State would seem too narrow. tendency has been promoted in three different ways. First, the publication, in October, 1876, of the U. S. Report on Libraries, prepared by the Commissioner of Education, brought together such facts concerning them, and, also, the ideas and methods and experiences of so many librarians, as to furnish a common basis of intercourse. Second, the formation of the Library Association, at the conference, about the same time, brought the librarians into still closer relation to each other, and made it possible to enter definitely and systematically upon general plans for mutual benefit. Third, the Library Journal, which was started in September, is devoted to the common interests of libraries, furnishing a most happy means of communication among them. It is, moreover, the official journal of the Association, through which its committees report, and the questions arising in it are discussed.
The work assigned to two of these committees should be specially mentioned here, as it covers most of the ground on which we, as a committee, were expected to report to the Convocation, The first was appointed to devise a plan for the continuation of Poole's "Index to Periodical Literature," and consists of Mr. Justin Winsor, of the Boston Public Library; Mr. Wm. F. Poole, of the Chicago Public Library; Mr. Charles A. Cutter, of the Boston Athenæum. Their plan, as published in the Journal, is for a number of libraries to join in the work, and each take charge of indexing one or more series of periodicals, and send the titles, unarranged, to a central bureau, where they are to be condensed in one alphabetical arrangement, and incorporated with the matter of Poole's Index, as puplished in 1853. The committee has, also, published a series of rules, to be followed by the several indexers, and have under consideration a list of the periodicals which it is proposed to index.
The other committee, which, we would mention, was appointed to consider any matters in which cooperation may be thought to be practicable, and devise plans for carrying it on. It consists of: Mr. Charles A. Cutter, of the Boston Athenæum; Mr. Fred B. Perkins, of the Boston Public Library, and Mr. Frederick Jackson, of the Newton Free Library. This committee has already reported, through the Journal, on the size and form of cards which they recommend for general use in cataloguing, and prepared a list of suitable abbreviations for catalogues, and, also, considered other matters not pertinent to this paper.
Besides the reports of these committees, the Library Journal has contained a number of articles, from different sources, discussing plans for coöperation in the work of indexing and catalouging.
We need not describe further the aims of the Library Association, or the work of its committees, or the character of the Library Journal. Enough has been said to suggest that, since this body listened to the paper on "The Administration of College Libraries," a year ago, a new era has been begun in this department of education. With a wellorganized Association and a well-sustained journal, it may be expected that every practicable plan for coöperation will be worked out and entered upon, with the whole country for its field of operation. More than this a similar association is proposed by the librarians of England, and a meeting already called. We would not be too sanguine of results; [CONVOCATION, SIG. 8.]
very much in every library must always be determined by its own peculiarities. But it is safe to say that if the movement, now happily started in this country and proposed in England, is carried on discreetly, there will be a constant tendency toward common methods; and as methods become common, coöperation will be facilitated.
In view of this movement, your committee, in reporting on the subject referred to them, would respectfully recommend that the librarians of this State unite with the Library Association in devising and carrying out its schemes for coöperation among all the libraries of the country. We should undertake no separate work now. The Association is yet in its infancy, and its work still in a preparatory state. Plans are being matured and reported from month to month in the Library Journal. The Journal is open to all. The committees of the Association invite suggestion and criticism. They are composed of men of large experience, and of energy; and they will doubtless prosecute their several schemes vigorously. If anything is to be gained by coöperation in this State, much more may be expected in the whole country.
If, however, the college libraries require any special adaptation of this movement to themselves-if they have any special wants to be mettheir librarians should bestir themselves at once. At present the work is chiefly in the hands of the public libraries. In deference to the colleges, it is proposed that the next meeting of the Association be held during their usual vacation, about the first of September. If our needs, or our experiences suggest any plan or any modification of a plan for mutual assistance, they should then be made known.
In making this report, your committee do not wish to be understood as indorsing fully all the methods proposed by the committees of the Library Association. It is very doubtful whether as good indexing can be done, in the manner proposed, by a considerable number of libraries, even under very explicit rules, as might be expected of one or two experts who should work for pay under the general direction and criticism of a committee. Coöperation can be secured quite as effectually by a combination of capital as by a combination of labor. In such an enterprise, the first and most important thing to be aimed at is perfect work. It is very easy to make a cheap index; it is very difficult to make such an index as we now want. No one knows till he has tried, and his work has been tested by actual use, how difficult it is. Mr. Poole's Index, useful as it is, should never be reprinted, till it has been thoroughly revised by an actual examination of every book indexed in it. In this opinion Mr. Poole would doubtless concur. Numerous volumes might be named to illustrate the importance of such a revision. Now, one or two scholarly men, who should devote themselves exclusively for a time to the work of indexing, with adequate facilities, with sharp criticism, and without haste, could not fail to produce something more and better than an ordinary index. With their minds steadily on the work, they would soon come to associate with the titles and the authors, all those brief hints and condensed suggestions, which would make their work a complete guide for all time to the periodicals indexed. Everybody knows how often it happens that one or two words-a date, a place, a name, an adjective-not belonging properly to the title, will determine him to read or not to read an article. The titles should be condensed to the last degree, but these addenda should be wisely chosen, and never omitted. For many other reasons, as uniformity of style, system in cross references, et cetera.
One or two paid indexers working steadily, would, in our judgment, produce better results than many who should devote only their leisure hours to it.
Other points might be mentioned; but a review of the methods proposed is not the object of this report. We believe that it will be far better for us to work with the Library Association, though we may differ in opinion as to some details, than to undertake any separate work in this State.
OTIS H. ROBINSON, University of Rochester,
CHARLES W. BENNETT, D.D., Syracuse University.