Re-labelling the library: a job well done
A little over 18 months ago we embarked on a project to re-label every book in the library by adding an author suffix to the shelfmark, as this would not only help with finding material but make re-shelving quicker and less physically demanding - many of the books are large and heavy and not all have the author on the spine, which led to a lot of precarious juggling while perched on a library stool!
The project started in earnest in the autumn of 2014 with the exciting arrival of a brand new portable labelling machine which enabled us to work along the shelves without having to move large numbers of books.
Tilly and Barbara at work with the labelling machine, under the watchful eye of Nefertiti
At first it seemed rather daunting, but as the Scots say: “Many a mickle makes a muckle”! We worked extremely well together, enjoying each other’s company and complementing Barbara’s professional expertise as a librarian with Tilly’s familiarity with the Library as a long standing EES volunteer. We very soon discovered that far from being a tedious job, our biggest problem was having to drag ourselves away from delving into fascinating publications on the way in order to get on with the task at hand – Barbara being particularly fascinated by early travel accounts and discoveries, and Tilly continually getting stuck in the language sections!
Material needing remedial work was identified, and most duplicates removed. Corrections to the catalogue were made where necessary. In particular, the Festschrift shelves were rearranged and re-catalogued by the name of the person being honoured, thus making it easier to locate specific volumes. The biggest challenge from a labelling point of view were the museum and exhibition catalogues as it was often difficult to identify a lead author.
Many folios were catalogued for the first time – this involved a lot of serious weight-lifting, and even more excitement over the contents! A particular highlight was the folio of Champollion’s expedition with its wonderful hand-coloured illustrations, and several large packages with unbound plates from Lepsius’ Denkmaeler (the cataloguing of which is ongoing).
One of Champollion's plates of Abu Simbel
A number of the books were gifts from the authors themselves and sometimes a hand-written note or letter would be found among the pages.
Whilst deaccessioning novels and other ephemera to free up much needed space for the academic core content, we discovered a splendid “mummy book” by Carl Maria Seyppel (pictured below left) and a second edition of Amelia Edwards’ Hand and Glove (pictured below right) – needless to say that those remain in the library!
It was with a feeling of achievement that we re-shelved the last set of folios early in March 2016. We both enjoyed this project immensely and now have a greater knowledge and appreciation of the contents of the Library and what a wonderful and comprehensive resource it is. The unique accessibility of the EES Library makes it popular with researchers, students and members alike, and the relabelling project has made it much easier to use. All we need now is time to revisit all the publications we only had time to wave at in passing!