I began reclassifying the Mark Longman Library 4 or 5 years ago as a background task. I am a Library Assistant in the cataloging department at Special Collections and my priority is to support the librarian and the cataloguer and then Reading Room duty; much of my time is spent fetching, returning and problem solving. While it is a background task and low priority as regards some of the other collections the Mark Longman Library has become my child and very special.
The collection consists of around 4,000 books, pamphlets and journals on subjects related to the history of the book, including bibliography, book production, publishing history and practice, readers and reading, and literary biography.
Formerly the ‘books about books’ collection was donated to the National Book League by Maurice Marston, its first secretary; the collection was expanded following the launch of an appeal in 1972 in memory of Mark Longman, Chairman of the National Book League 1967-1971.
The collection passed to the University Library in 2002. It was classified in the Bliss bibliographic classification and maintained on a card catalogue. While the collection did not require special conditions we decided also to keep in open access and browsable. However, it was important for the catalogue to be electronically accessible as well. So while I downloaded the records I reclassified the books into the Dewey Decimal System instead.
This has meant I have handled every book in the collection. I have skimmed, flicked, browsed, read – not just to discover the subject matter but because it was interesting or just plain beautiful!
Some have been so deep, profound or obscure I have almost abandoned them. I am not a trained cataloguer and sometimes the subject matter is not clear. Nonetheless, these experiences have ensured that the task, considered by some as tedious or not required, has been and continues to be for me a labour of love.
There are also many pamphlets in the collection and it is tempting as they will be time consuming to put them in a box marked ‘pamphlets’. However these have proved to be as diverse and precious as the books; possibly containing unpublished literature by the famous and not so, that would otherwise be considered a mere leaflet, publishing literature or ephemera.
I was hoping to tell you about some of the gems I have discovered over the years, so maybe next time …