Wade Catalog Librarian Elaine Hooker shares some of her thoughts and experiences on undertaking the monumental task of cataloging the Wade Center’s collections. Her work will, for the first time in its history, allow researchers from around the globe to access descriptions of what is in the Wade’s holdings.
Since its founding in 1965 by Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, the Wade Center’s collection has grown from 15 Lewis letters into a world-renowned and extremely deep collection of manuscripts (1,600), correspondence (26,500), articles (21,000), and other materials, which include over 18,000 books by and about the seven Wade authors, and several thousand books that the authors themselves owned.
Like most of the best things in my life, my involvement with the Wade Center has been an unexpected gift. Being daily surrounded by the output of seven brilliant minds has formed me in ways I continue to ponder. I find the way that each author’s scholarship influenced the others endlessly fascinating. My sensibilities tend to lean towards the personal and the intimate as shaped by scholarship and the intellect, and I have been struck by how well one can get to know these authors and who they were by their output collected at the Wade, which includes not only various editions of their own works, but books about things that interested them, books they owned, and books written and owned by people they loved. Not only is their work a gift to us, but who they were is a gift to us. And they continue to speak, shape, and influence us today.
My own credentials include a B.A. in English language and literature from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., a liberal arts school about the same size as Wheaton College, and a Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This path was born of a desire to use every bit of knowledge I had gleaned throughout my educational career in service to others.
Once upon a time (and not so long ago), in order to use a book from the Wade, you had to ask the archivist if the Wade had the item that you needed or wanted. Since the beginnings of the collection, Wade staff have diligently collected and organized information pertaining to the seven authors, but this information wasn’t publicly searchable or accessible off-site. In 2011, the Wade Center began an initiative to professionally catalog the collections according to nationally recognized library standards and make those descriptive records publicly accessible by scholars worldwide. The Wade Center’s first Catalog Librarian, Nicole Long Swanson, set up cataloging procedures and workflows and cataloged examples of various formats of materials, including all materials published prior to 1850.
Coincidentally, I came to the Wade Center in 2012 with a desire to offer my services as a cataloger just as the cataloging initiative was getting started. I began cataloging dissertations, and then continued helping to catalog general materials after Nicole took a new position. Currently, all of the dissertations, large runs of periodicals, all of the archival collections, and approximately 66% of the book collection are cataloged. After the book collection is fully cataloged, we will continue cataloging our audiovisual materials, and offer increased access to our photo collections and other artifacts.
Since joining the initiative, I have delighted in daily discoveries–from doodles penciled by G.K. Chesterton in the margins of his schoolbooks, to the book the Inklings read to each other until they burst out laughing. I’ve seen annotations in the back of A Grief Observed showing Clyde S. Kilby figuring out that N.W. Clerk was a pen name being used by C.S. Lewis before this was publicly known. And I’ve seen the map plotting out Kilby’s travels through England to meet with the players in these stories that led to important connections and acquisitions in future years.
I’m thrilled that such discoveries can now be more easily shared by researchers worldwide. My thesis in library school was about information-seeking behaviors. Sometimes researchers know exactly what they want and are easily able to identify who has those resources. But as an information professional, I have learned much about the equal importance of other techniques, often compared to pearl gathering, or following the “bread crumb trail” left by other researchers. Professionally cataloging the Wade Center’s collections exponentially increases the ways in which researchers can interact with and glean information from the collection.
As we near 2015, I can finally see an end of this project on the horizon. And yet, I sense that this end is just the beginning of one discovery leading to another and another for myself and for those who find themselves drawn into the ageless story woven by these creative and faithful writers.