CHC Research Library Catalog Progress

In addition to our archival collections, the CHC is home to a research library containing over 1000 volumes pertaining to Cambridge history, architecture, and residents. While plenty of these books are widely held in other libraries, many are rare volumes not found elsewhere. To increase the usability and accessibility of our collection, both for CHC staff and outside researchers, archives assistant Emily has spent the last several months creating a library catalog. This catalog will eventually be available online through an open source online catalog platform called TinyCat, so stay tuned for the announcement and read on to learn about Emily’s progress.


Part of the CHC Research Library collection.

This project started with a spreadsheet.

Several years ago, a previous CHC archivist started adding books to this spreadsheet. She included fields for the basic bibliographic data needed to identify a book: title, author, publisher, date of publication, etc. However, she left the CHC before this spreadsheet was complete. I took over the project in February, checking the list against the volumes on the shelves of the library, correcting or adding information as necessary, and adding volumes that had been added to the shelves in the period after the previous archivist left and before I started.

The spreadsheet has evolved since then. I added and removed fields, changed classification systems, added call numbers, removed call numbers, added subject headings, removed subject headings, changed collection headings, and color coded EVERYTHING. It’s a work in progress.

Currently, I am almost finished assigning call numbers to every volume on our shelves. (Many more will be added later, but one step at a time.) When this step is finished, it will be time for the Great Reorganization, an all-hands-on-deck event when we will be removing everything from the stacks and reordering the collection by call number. We will be making flags to place in each volume (all 1,000+!) so users can find what they’re looking for. And every volume will be added to our online catalog, available for anyone to use, from anywhere in the world. As an archivist committed to making all information as freely accessible as possible, I am really excited for this thing to go live.


Our front-facing online catalog. I’ve added a few volumes already to test it out. The book covers scroll by as a sort of slide show of the collection. It’s pretty neat.

*An Ode to Online Catalogs and the Library of Congress Classification System PDFs*

Many of the call numbers I’ve assigned to each volume were found in other online catalogs. The Library of Congress holds millions of volumes and must employ hordes of catalogers, so they are the definitive source for LC classification standards. WorldCat is a “global catalog of library collections” through which one can search the online catalogs of universities, public libraries, and archival collections all around the world. These sources were invaluable to me in this process. However, some of our materials are so rare they can’t be found in any other catalog. Many others were arranged in a way that didn’t make sense for our collection. For these items, I created call numbers from scratch using the Library of Congress classification schedules, basically guides to the LC Classification System, available as PDFs, that include almost any possible classification.


In the search results page, you can see the call numbers for the volumes I’ve already added. F74.C1 is the basic classification for anything about the history of Cambridge.

Are you as excited about all of this as I am? Do you want to know more about the Library of Congress Classification System and why it is vastly superior to the Dewey Decimal System? Let us know in the comments!


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