Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Flash-mob cataloging: We did it!

We did it! Eighteen flash-mob catalogers descended upon the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and left having cataloged a wonderful 2,500-book library (available here).

I’ve posted my photos here. (UPDATE: link is here.) Jeremy has a nice blog post and some photos. Brian, the “Swiss Army Librarian,” posted his photos here.

For me the highlights were:

  • The diversity of people—LibraryThing nuts, local librarians, Audubon people.
  • The Audubon people were grateful, if a little stunned. Katya, who drove five hours to get there, floored them.
  • The Audubon library had its own bespoke classification system–I’m trying to get hold of it. They translated it to tags, which rebellious LibraryThingers added to as necessary (ie., no moths, pshaw!)
  • The couple—librarian, programmer—who competed to do the most books. The programmer won. How did he do it? “I pretended I was killing orcs.” With reference to multi-volume sets (echoing Gimli) “It only counts as one!”
  • It was great showing one retired librarian to cataloging books on LibraryThing and have him say “That’s it?”
  • The books were different. Our last flash-mob cataloging effort was for an Episcopal church, which had a lot of overlap with my library and interests. The Audubon Society shared only two of those books, and only one with me (The Diversity of Life). My dad’s (partial) library overlapped a lot more.
  • What do we make of the Personality of insects? Carl Sandburg also had a copy. But LCSH does not allow “Personality” to be so subdivided. Species-ists!
  • Most Legacy Libraries share no books. Darwin and Hemingway do, of course. And Walker Percy who has, I think, the best library of the Legacy Libraries, excepting maybe Jefferson.
  • As Jeremy points out in the notes, Audubon shares with Ian Flemming James Bond’s Birds of the West Indies. (Yes, that’s where he got the name.)
  • Again, Katya did all the “hard” cataloging, including two not in WorldCat.
  • Books with rulers. News to me.
  • Taxidermy animals. My son, Liam, should have been there.
  • Mike and I fixed bugs in real time–and pushing collections (again) by mistake. (We pushed a major speed-up for the Audubon library alone; I’ll be looking at extending it to all members.)

Next time we do this, we need to plan for a group-wide dinner/drinks afterward. With no group event, Mike, Jeremy, Katya and I headed to Cafe of India in Harvard Square for dinner, and a brief prowl of Harvard Book Store. Mike and I learned a lot, as usual. If librarianship were to be extinguished from the earth, I bet Jeremy and Katya could bring it back–with all the rigor it ever had (although it would be friendlier to tags).

Thanks to everyone who participated. You gave a day’s worth of your time, with only a CueCat and a t-shirt in return–and the knowledge that naturalists throughout Rhode Island will be able to search the Audubon library from home, something many public libraries in New England still don’t allow!

What’s next? With a church and an Audubon society under our belt, I want to do something different, like a historical society.* Katya and Jeremy both had good ideas there–something in Maine perhaps? Stay tuned!

Labels: Audubon Society, flash mob, flash-mob cataloging


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