Friday, January 16, 2009

Manuscripts cataloging for WorldCat


Published books may be considered rare or scarce, but such published materials are often owned by many different libraries. Manuscript collections, however, are unpublished and truly unique.

Our extensive manuscript holdings at Tulane have traditionally been made accessible to researchers who are physically present in the Special Collections Reading Room, through very detailed hard-copy finding aids and catalog cards of various vintages. The award-winning Special Collections web site has served to publicize some of our most significant holdings. We have now started including records representing our collections in the international WorldCat database, as well as our local online catalog. These catalogs act as discovery tools which enable remote scholars to learn of the existence of our one-of-a-kind collections held at Tulane. It is hoped that in the future, images of many of the materials themselves will be made viewable online as digital surrogates, helping support the long-term needs for both preservation and widespread unrestricted access. The Manuscripts Department also intends to make digital finding aids fully accessible through the web site and catalog.

The Howard-Tilton Memorial Library online catalog allows searching by keyword, title, author, subject, and call number. To quickly retrieve a sample of records for manuscripts collections, do a call number search for “manuscripts.” When selecting an individual record, remember always to request the detailed view for fullest information, as the catalog generally automatically defaults to the brief view. These records which point to our manuscripts may be discovered using all of the available types of searches, including the popular and powerful keyword approach. Keyword is especially useful if you are interested in researching an unusual word or name, such as “Rouquette”, “Stanhope”, “Lacombe”, or “Westwego”.

Anyone in the world who has access to WorldCat through their academic institution or public library will be able to retrieve the full standard MARC records representing our collections, using an even more powerful array of search strategies. For example, using a keyword search in WorldCat, a researcher may limit the type to archival materials, specify to limit by holdings in our own library, rank responses by number of libraries, etc. Also the title-phrase search can be very specific and effective.

The catalog record for one of the foremost and very highly requested collections, the John Kennedy Toole Papers (cited in Eira Tansey’s post of December 19, 2008) includes hyperlinks in both the local online catalog and in WorldCat, leading the scholar to a brief finding aid as well as a photographic portrait of the author.

As we create and mount more digital objects, the possibilities for links from the catalog are endless. If you have suggestions about which of our collections to bring to the top of the cataloging queue, or how to further enhance our efforts to publicize our collections through cataloging or other ways, please comment to the blog post.

Posted by Susanna Powers

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