March 26, 2009

Notes from the basement mezzanine

This is the first of what I expect to be a series (an irregular series and thus very troublesome to catalog) of guest postings by Linda Kent, cataloger extraordinaire. Linda completed her library degree at Simmons in 2005, with a concentration in archives and equal attention to cataloging and reference. She has done all three, but reports that "cataloging and archives win." She has been at NHSL since May 2006.

I had the good fortune a little while ago to receive a set of eleven DVDs to catalog. These were interviews done locally and there was of course no OCLC record for me to copy catalog. I actually had to look at the DVDs to see what the heck they were about so I could attach subject headings, length of time, names, and other pertinent information. They were donated to the library by a lawyer in Manchester and were destined for the state library’s temperature controlled room which contains rare and often old titles having to do with New Hampshire, titles which do not circulate. Patrons request these titles, pages retrieve them and patrons view them under the scrutiny of the reference librarian, in the library. That makes good sense for old manuscripts and books. In light of ongoing thefts of library materials by unscrupulous ne’er-do-wells, I applaud careful guardianship of our cultural heritage.

But these are DVDs, some 22 hours worth, which cannot be comfortably viewed in the library lobby, even if the computers there had DVD players (I need to find out – I’m in the basement, don’t forget). So these interviews, whatever their subject matter, would be removed from any reasonable public access. Librarians generally are committed to finding a balance between protection of library materials and access to those materials by the public. In this instance, we are protecting but not providing access.

So I proceeded rather glumly to begin cataloging something no one would ever see or know about. I looked through several of the DVDs, all titled with somebody’s name – e.g. Sara Mae Berman, Rabbi Regev, Fred Jervis, Al Alter, Susan Strickler, etc. – names I had never heard of. A brief viewing quickly revealed that they were all talking about the same person, someone named May Sidore Gruber. Four of the eleven DVDs were devoted to interviews with May herself. But one, happily called “The Essence of May”, distills the contents of the other ten DVDs and invites the viewer into the life of a remarkable woman, someone who lives right down the road in Goffstown and has lived her 94-and-counting years to the fullest. You may recall Pandora sweaters, from a mill I Manchester, a company May ran successfully by herself after the death of her first husband, Sol Sidore. You may know that there is a Sidore lecture series at UNH. You may even know that May’s oldest daughter, Sara Mae Berman, won the Boston marathon three years in a row. May is not only remarkable for her work but for her philanthropy, her work with the League of Women Voters, her founding of a newspaper, her contributions to the Currier Gallery. All noteworthy for sure. But the best delights in this DVD are the words of May herself, warm, funny, thoughtful, inspiring. She is interviewed by no less than Laura Knoy of New Hampshire Public Radio.

I felt as I watched the video more times than original cataloging strictly required, that many folks would benefit from watching this – art lovers, businesswomen, anyone juggling the needs of family, work, and self – and that it would be a shame to relegate this to a shelf on the top floor, protected but too far removed from public access.

So I took the DVD “The Essence of May” and copied it onto a VHS tape so I could copy that onto another DVD which circulates. (We don’t have a machine here that will copy a DVD onto another DVD.) I am hoping that this is ok under the Fair Use clause of copyright law. Yes, I spent some time on this but I believe anyone who watches the DVD will be glad I did. It runs for about 96 minutes. The state library’s call number is DVD 920 G885.

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