Issues in Cataloging Rare Books

April 27, 2019 - All

Much research has gone into digitization and digital special collections development as a way of improving access to “hidden collections.” These efforts have spurred increases in access to, or at least general interest in, special collections. Most scholarship on digitization only briefly touches on the issue of cataloging backlogs as an impediment to access. However, I argue that rare book cataloging backlogs create an uneven level of access to both physical and digitized collections. Very little research has continued to be done specifically on the rare book cataloging backlog since around 2010. I hope to bring this conversation back to the forefront, especially in light of the ever increasing interest in digitization. I explain why the cataloging needs of rare books differ from general collections, how I am defining “backlog,” and ways to solve the problems those differences create, as well as what still needs to be addressed.

Author information

Sara Belasco

Sara Belasco

Sara Belasco is currently a student at the Pratt Institute School of Information, working towards earning a Masters in Library and Information Science and an Advanced Certificate in Archives. She previously earned a BA with Honors in History of Art from Skidmore College with a Minor in Studio Art. Sara has taken numerous bookbinding and printing workshops, as well as courses from Rare Book School. After spending four years in library conservation, Sara is committed to continuing to work with rare books and special collections. Her other interests include historic book structures, the transition from manuscript to print culture, and how to navigate bringing rare book scholarship into the digital age without compromising the information their physical properties divulge.

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