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Special Libraries: Non-Traditional Libraries


Article List
Academic Libraries
      Disaster Recovery at Rio Hondo Community College
      Serials Holding Display Project at University of Southern California
      Staffing Strategies in Academic Libraries

AIM in the News
      Belinda Beardt, Speaker at SBVC Fall Convocation
      Belinda Beardt, Speaker at SCALL Fall Meeting
      Linda McKell Awarded the Mark Baer Award

AIM Services
      AIM Outplacement Services

Job Search Tips
      Electronic Resume
      Frequently Asked Interview Questions
      Interviewing Tips & Techniques
      Interviewing: From Both Sides of the Table
      Networking Quickies
      Questions to Ask the Interviewer
      Resume Writing Tips
      Retooling Your Career
      The Ten Commandments of Interviewing
      What else can I do with my Library Tech degree or certificate?
      What NOT to ask during an interview?
      Where to Find Library Jobs

Public Libraries
      AIM's Project Team tackles San Francisco Public Library Project
      Creative Staffing at Torrance Public Library
      Fresno County Partners with AIM
      Solano County Library Expands

Special Libraries
      Consultants Provide Solutions
      Law Libraries - Staffing Strategies
      Microfilming History
      Non-Traditional Libraries
      The Law Librarian Employment Market

Every Collection Is Not Based on Books



Organizations in a variety of industries are finding the skills and services of librarians to be useful. Tracking items and objects such as charts, chairs, boats, and bears requires information tagging and data base creation skills similar to those used for books, reports and magazines. Librarians and information professionals are able to combine the best of cataloging, records management and indexing and abstracting to help in addressing these needs. Two of our clients have found this to be the case!


The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park's mission is the preservation and interpretation of the history and achievements of seafaring Americans. Visitors can tour historic vessels such as the square rigger Balclutha and view maritime tools, crafts, figureheads and paintings in the museum located across from Ghiradelli Square. They can also browse through books, manuscripts, plans and historic photographs at the maritime library. The museum and library receive over half a million visitors each year!


Created in 1951, the Park's collection of West Coast maritime objects is among the finest in existence. The Museum collection includes over 30,000 individual objects, 1500 linear feet of manuscripts, 250,000 photographic images and over 120,000 pages of plans. How do you keep all of these items organized so they can be found? You must have on board a dedicated and resourceful Supervisory Museum Specialist like Judy Hitzeman.


Donations come from everyone--from an old seafaring uncle's attic to American President Lines. Needless to say, there is a backlog. The Park Service contracts out cataloging as funds become available. AIM has supplied contract staff to them as a Federal contractor for the past several months. Diane Cooper, who began this project for AIM, reports, "Finding each item can be challenging and fun because it is a typical museum set-up with many different types of storage. The job requires detective skills, a little bit of mountain climbing, and a sense of humor."


Diane has been inputting the old manual system cards into the database system used by the Park Service. Once basic information is entered, the items can be sorted into organized groupings. Then, the fun begins--each item has to be physically examined to make sure the description and measurements are correct.


Items to be examined range from buttons on the uniforms of Southern Pacific workers who ran the ferries to ornamental moldings from ship cabins, as well as navigational instruments and rather large parts of ships. Cataloging, classifying and inventorying each item presents some interesting problems, since they need to be physically seen, if possible. While some artifacts are located on site, others are located at such places as the San Francisco Cliff House or in museums in Hawaii. (No, Diane didn't get to go to Hawaii!)


Keeping up with the cataloging and inventory at the Maritime Museum takes fortitude and determination, but it is and will be appreciated for years to come by future researchers. "Without proper and adequate museum cataloging, there is no intellectual or physical access to a collection," commented Judy Hitzeman. With the flexibility of using contract project staff, the museum can get help whenever funding becomes available.


Other types of unusual items that need tracking have to do with the movies. We all know that Hollywood and the movies are "make believe" but the people at Modern Props in Los Angeles know exactly how much effort it takes to make "make believe" appear real. From academy award winning movies to 30-second commercials, each production must provide the actors with appropriate surroundings to create the setting. Given the time span of the movies, that could mean coming up with a space shuttle cockpit, 36 French bistro chairs or a vintage teddy bear.


Mark Robinson, President of Modern Props, realized the company needed an expert's help to further develop and organize information about their collection as well as index and track the thousands of catalogs that Modern Props collects as additional resources.


The company has been in business for some 20 years and has gathered over 35,000 props. They focus primarily on contemporary, futuristic or electronic props and have worked on such films as Men in Black, Star Trek, and Batman. They also have a design library and a huge collection of sci fi and B movie posters.


"My sister is a librarian at UC San Diego so I called her to find out where we could locate a librarian to fit our needs. She told me about AIM. We checked out the AIM web site and began the search," reported Mark. Thus, AIM received the inquiry via email from our web site. Kathleen Smith of AIM's Los Angeles office met with Olivier Albin, a manager at Modern Props, who commented, "We need something like what public libraries use to track books." They wanted someone who had an interest in design and who could be flexible because of the many types of things they have. A passion for the work was also an important element in the hiring decision. Kathleen sent over several appropriate candidates and they selected Judith Samuel for the position.Judith has a perfect background with degrees in art history and folklore and is in the process of getting a master's in library science degree.


"I was very impressed with the quality of people that AIM sent over. It was clear to me that they would be able to really help us do the job and contribute to the overall efficiency as well as profitability of the company," Mark commented.


Whatever props are needed, Modern Props will find or make it. Now they hope to make the best use of their extensive catalog collection and continue to be an exciting resource for their clients. As skilled librarians continue to find new channels for solving a variety of informational problems, AIM will continue to find and supply people with these important skills.




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