Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sanitizing the print record

The following views are, as per the usual, my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of OHSU or the OHSU Library.

The Orbis Cascade Alliance, which is a consortium of libraries in Oregon and Washington and to which OHSU belongs, has distributed the final draft of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Distributed Print Repository, an initiative to identify unique holdings among member libraries, reduce overlap in print collections, and inform local deaccessioning projects. I am all for this. However, when I read through the MOU, I have to admit that my rare book librarian's heart practically stopped at clause 3.6 on Physical Markings and Bibliographic Identifiers:

3.6.1. Transferred Material. As soon as possible after the Member Library first obtains possession of the Materials, it shall eradicate, remove, or cover over markings of previous owners (e.g., bookplates, ownership stamps, call numbers, and barcodes) in a way that reduces confusion about ownership and that does not damage the Materials.

3.6.2. Bookplate. All Materials shall bear a Distributed Print Repository bookplate to be supplied by the Alliance.

Remove all provenance? Without damaging the book, I doubt is even possible. I respect the intended consequence: reduce confusion about who owns what in the event something gets lost in the system. But isn't there a better way? I think about all our lovely volumes, both journals and monographs, donated over the years by faculty members, alums, community health care workers. I have added tracings for many of our former owners in the bibliographic records in our catalog, but the beauty of seeing E.E. Osgood's presentation inscription to Laurence Selling far outmatches the sanitized transfer of this information through a MARC record. We need to put our thinking caps on and rework this clause, so that we can keep the print in all its messy glory--and still have a good way to tell the courier where to go!

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