Bringing Out the Dead: Adventures in Cataloging, Part I

IN WHICH OUR HERO UNCOVERS BURIED TREASURE….
OUR FIRST ADVENTURE TAKES US DEEP INTO AN INTERN’S FIRST EXPERIENCE IN ORIGINAL CATALOGING, MEDICAL SUBJECT HEADINGS, AND THE WONDROUS HISTORY FOUND IN MEDICAL TRADE EPHEMERA.

 

– by Hend El-Santaricy, Library intern

In my quest to become a more experienced cataloger, I found the internship opportunity at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia (HML) to be a perfect way to achieve my goal.  My project was to catalog the medical reprints and pamphlets described in this blog.  I started the cataloging process after the collection was initially sorted by another librarian.  This allowed me the privilege of spending all my time cataloging.

I started this internship wanting nothing more than a cataloging experience.  I have had opportunities to work on different collections before.  In every previous experience, I was able to delve into a special relationship with the collection, its history, its use, and its potential.  I knew I could perform my assignment at the HML well but I was not certain, though, if I could build a relationship with a collection about the history of medicine.  I was a stranger to the medical field.

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Cripples, Prostitutes, and Quacks: Pamphlets and Reprints at the Historical Medical Library

Every librarian has come across a particular collection and has wondered what librarians in the past were thinking. The most recent such example at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia contains 700 boxes filled with uncatalogued reprints, medical trade ephemera and pamphlets. How and why did we end up with nearly 70,000 uncatalogued items?

Book Exchanges

Example of a book plate indicating exchange in the collection
Example of a book plate indicating exchange in the collection

Book and reprint exchanges were a very popular method for medical libraries to accumulate texts for their physicians without making purchases. At the head of the exchange was the Medical Library Association’s (MLA) founder and College of Physicians of Philadelphia Fellow, George M. Gould. Dr. Gould preached that resource sharing among libraries was the best way to advance knowledge for doctors. MLA’s original intent was for libraries to share their duplicate medical literature. This caused libraries to be proactive in asking for prints from publishers and for reprints from journals so they could trade them later for material they did not have. In 1890, libraries started to see increased cooperation with publishers and among each other – this is where our collection of reprints and pamphlets begins. In 1930, there is a shift from exchanging modern periodicals and pamphlets to exchanging medical treatises. This marks the end of the formation of this pamphlet and reprint collection. It can be concluded from looking at the Library’s history, and trends in medical publishing, that many of these pamphlets and reprints derive from these book exchanges.

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