Date:         Fri, 5 May 1995 00:07:09 -0400
From: Bayla Singer 
Subject:      WHTM at FAU
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L 

Today I had occasion to use a particular "special collection" at
Florida Atlantic University's main library, for the first time.

I thought I'd done my homework: used the online luis catalog to
develop a bibliography, etc.   Since I already knew that the
parking lot fills up *very* early, and that visitor parking
was limited (can you say, "less than one half percent of the
spaces"?), I arrived at 8 am, ready to work.

My first intimation of trouble occurred when I inquired
at the Info desk for directions to the collection.
"Do they expect you?"
'Um, no, I didn't know I needed an appointment.'
"Well, you're awfully early."
'I know the parking lot fills up early...'
"I'll call and see if anyone's up there... [does so] ...
   they're all volunteers up there, you know.  Nobody seems
   to be answering the phone, I'll take you up and see if anyone's in yet."

[Nonagenarian-1] was indeed working at his desk.  I tried to
  explain my project to him, with little success.  When [nonagenarian-2]
  came by, N-1 tried to summarize for -him-, with results you can
  imagine.  Both N-1 and N-2 wanted to *help* me, while I desperately
  tried to convince them I knew how to read.

I submitted to a tour of the collection w/ N-1.  You should understand
   that this collection is housed in -one- room, on ordinary library
   shelving.  Almost all the stacks in this room are devoted to the
   collection.
"The books are  here... and here... in no particular order.
  Just as they come in.  You'll have to ask me to help you
  find the books you want."
'Well, let me just look around and get acquainted with the collection,
  and I'll come back to you.'

I finally shed my «helper» after about an
  hour and a half of this, and indeed found that the collection was
  shelved in order of -accession number- rather than the call numbers
  I'd so painstakingly gathered.  Furthermore, most of the collection
  hadn't been entered on luis yet.  And still furthermore, accession
  was by accretion of donations -- wholesale 'here are all my old books'
  type donations.  Shelving by accession number thus made a weird sort
  of sense: after all, if cataloging is up to N-1 & N-2, who are *not*
  librarians of any kind (they're pretty much saturated by simply
  transliterating the non-Roman titles), and if books come in large
  batches w/o rhyme or reason, classifying and shelving by call number
  would be an  insurmountable nightmare.  Better just to keep putting
  the stuff on one shelf after another, and try to weed out duplicates
  from time to time.  (Nobody is trying to weed out *irrelevancies*)

I found a couple of books and settled down.  Then the busload of
  septa- and octa-genarians arrived, for their tour of the collection
  and a fundraising spiel.  After the spiel, they were invited to look
  around by themselves, which they did, exclaiming loudly when they
  found something of interest :)  They left at noon.  So did I, to
  feed my parking meter and my face; I resumed work at half-past.

At about 1 p.m., a local 60-voice choir arrived for practice.
  This time, I asked if there was perhaps somewhere I could work behind
  a closed door?  There was, but it was only a palliative; those folks
  could really belt out those tunes!

At three p.m., since the choir was leaving and the Ns wanted to go home,
  the collection was closed.

I'll try again next week.

--bayla