Monographs in Archival Collections

A lot of archival collections come in with monographs. Either works written by the creator of the collection, or used in their research, or just left in the office/attic/basement whatever and thrown in the boxes with everything else.

Archives usually don’t want to retain mass published monographs. They’re bulky, they’re commonly available (really, who’s going to drive three hours and sit in a reading room to get something they can pick up at the local library or bookstore), and once something is in the archives it’s usually there for a very, very long time. So you’re paying to store those books for a very, very long time and taking up valuable shelf space.

But what do you do with them?

One approach is to photocopy the title pages, put all the title pages in a folder in the collection, and get rid of the books. Maybe you check if it’s the last copy or rare, but the point is the books don’t stay in the collection. Or if you have an attached library you can ship them over to the stacks.

But what if you want to preserve the intellectual place those books had in the collection, still put them in the stacks, and also create links between the finding aid and the catalog records? One of our donors, Bruce “Charlie” Johnson is a clown and has donated not only his personal papers, but is in the process of donating his extensive library of books on clowns and clowning.

I also wanted to get the books in the library catalog and shelved rather than in boxes. I also wanted to create links between the archival material and the books. That way patrons could find the books  through the catalog (instead of just the finding aid), and staff could pull them from the shelves rather than sorting through boxes. Here’s what I ended up doing:

We use Archon for our finding aids. The noting the books in the finding aid part was simple. Under “Related Publications” in Archon I added a list of the books. For the ones I have cataloged, I also included the call number and a link out to the catalog record. Like so:

3 Ball Juggling by Ken Benge. GV1558.B46 1982 Link to catalog record

That’s a line from the finding aid, or you can see the whole thing here:

This shows someone looking at the finding aid that the book is part of the archival collection, the call number is right there if they want staff to pull it, and if they want more details about the book (edition, publisher, whatever) they can click and go to the catalog record. The books without this information I haven’t gotten cataloged yet, but at least they’re in the finding aid. And I threw in a paragraph in the scope note explaining all of this to patrons.

That was simple enough, because a finding aid is (at least in part) just a big list of stuff anyway. They’re good at showing that sort of information. The trickier part was getting the catalog records to document that a book was part of that collection, but once you know how to it’s not that difficult. If you go to the catalog record (link above) and click on “staff view” (next to the little yellow triangle) in the upper right corner, you’ll see the MARC codes.

The crucial piece here is the 730 field. The 730 is an “added entry-uniform title” field. You can see the full explanation with all the notes at

Basically it’s there so that if the item being cataloged is part of something larger, you can provide that information. In this case, the book 3 Ball Juggling by Ken Benge is part of the Bruce “Charlie” Johnson Collection. But that’s not true of all copies of 3 Ball Juggling, so we add a $5 INS field to show it only applies to our local institution. Now the catalog knows that the book at ISU is part of the archival collection (just make sure the title in the 730 matches the title of the collection exactly or the catalog will think you’re referring to something else), but another copy of 3 Ball Juggling at another library isn’t. We’re part of a cataloging consortium, so we have to be careful to make these distinctions even in our local catalog.

We also add a 541 field in our holdings record which says “Special Collections copy donated by Bruce ‘Charlie’ Johnson.” The 541 field is the “immediate source of acquisition” note, or in English, donor note. It tells us where the book came from, and we make it public so patrons can see that as well. It’s probably not as useful to the catalog, but it’s highly visible to patrons (shows up even in the brief search results) and it’s another link that might point them towards the archival collection or other books.

So I’ve got the finding aid linking the books in the archival collection to the catalog, and the catalog understands that the books are part of the archival collection. If someone searches our catalog for Bruce Charlie Johnson, it returns the books and the archival collection. And patrons don’t have to go the finding aid to figure out we have the books. Otherwise a patron searching in the catalog for Bruce Charlie Johnson would just get the archival collection (we put records for our finding aids in the catalog), have to go to the finding aid (in Archon) to find out about the books, and then go from the finding aid back to the catalog for the books. Which seems like a lot of unnecessary steps when I can do this instead.

I want to stress that I’m not arguing that archives should begin keeping monographs because this is possible. Unless you have an associated library and want to retain the books in question anyway, I wouldn’t change current practice. And I haven’t done the studies to prove that patrons even care about this. But I’m cataloging the books anyway because we have a large collection of circus monographs, and it’s not much more time to add them in a list to the finding aid and provide the call numbers and links, and it’s another access point that might get someone to something they didn’t know they were looking for, and it gets them out of boxes and on shelves which is better for our space management. I will probably keep doing this given the minimal extra time involved.

Any questions, comments, or advice? All are welcome, and I hope you found this useful.