Thursday, July 17, 2014

More sexy librarian work

I realized that no one's asked me what work I've been doing here and further realize no one probably cares, but in the interest of putting together a quick post and therefore quieting my chastiser, here are a few pictures of my workspace.

First, though, my work started with an inventory of articles and other kinds of information that the interpreters use to present their programs. I'm not sure how useful it is because it dates to about the 80s, but I was asked to do it, so I did. In the bottom drawer of the file cabinet that held the articles was a large stack of 11x17 manila folders that held black and white photocopies of plant samples that were collected in the 50s and again in the 70s, each one showing the scientific and common names, where and when collected, and who did the typing of the plant. The originals, it turned out, are in the archives on the south rim.

That work was just a warm up for the real job, which was to first do a quick and dirty inventory of 47 3-ring binders of 35mm slides. Most of them have a label on the spine that names the subject category, such as Flora or North Rim Scenics. Two binders were US history images collected for the bicentennial(!!!) and I don't have to worry about them. A couple more are black and white historical images, very, very interesting, but unfortunately most of them aren't labeled so I have no idea what they're from. Altogether there are eleven and a half thousand slides that need further work.

And what is that work, you ask? What is the work that gets me and the HH a free place to park our house, plug into electricity, all the water we need, and three days in a row off to explore God's little acres? That work is weeding the eleven and a half thousand slides of duplicates, copyrighted material, images from other parks or some other place, the bulk of what I call 'similars,' and others less kindly referred to as of 'dubious value.' Then I am digitizing what's left and cataloging it in Adobe Lightroom.

The first photo here shows my workspace in the conference room of the administration building. The banker's box holds archival slide pages. The slides have been stored in icky plastic pages in the blue binders, which in turn were stored since who knows when in a non-climate-controlled building, open to any kind of critter that wanted to go in. When I started pulling the binders off the shelf I wore a mask and gloves and sprayed everything with disinfectant. Hantavirus, you know. I had heart palpitations when I saw the binders, but the slides are in amazingly good condition. Maybe archivists have been wrong all along about optimal storage conditions. 

That's a light box on the table in front of the chair. This was during the first phase of work after the initial inventory. Take note of the pile of brownish things behind the light table, against the wall. Those are the old slide pages.

Here is what I was faced with, page after full page of slides. Someone went to a lot of trouble categorizing them, and his/her work gave me an excellent framework for a keyword hierarchy I'm building.
This is one of the original pages on the light table during the purging phase. As you can see, some have information written on the mounts, which helps me a lot when I'm cataloging.

Below is the setup for digitizing. The 'image guy' on the south rim scavenged equipment when it was heading to the dumpster and my HH, who knows everything there is to know about this kind of thing, cleaned it up and got it working. The darker box, called a ChromaPro, can be calibrated for different light temperatures but I leave the dials set to 0 and let the camera do the color adjustment. The ChromaPro sold for a couple of thousand dollars when it was new, but in the digital age you can get one on eBay for a couple of hundred. The wooden box does nothing but hold the camera mount. I slip a slide into little grooves over the bright light, take a photo, and then put the slide into an archival-quality sleeve.

See the pile of discarded slide pages growing at the back of the table? I can throw them away but want to see how many I can stack up before the whole pile collapses. I'm achievement oriented and it doesn't take much to count as an achievement. As of today, the stack was another couple of inches taller.

The camera is fixed to the copy stand and it and the box are fired up and ready to go. So far I've photographed and cataloged just over 1000 slides. I'm not doing any cropping or color correction; there just isn't the time. All of the binders you see piled everywhere except for four that I've finished are awaiting photographing. I made one pass at weeding the binders, but in the beginning I was far less discriminatory and kept stuff that should have been pulled. Now, when I'm doing the actual photographing and cataloging, I'm doing another quick and necessarily brutal purge. There's a box off to the right that holds the discards and that pile is also growing quickly. At first I thought I'd have to process about 8000 but now that I'm pickier about what to keep I know it will be less than that.

The photography is the easy part, and the quicker. The cataloging, though, (and I will say it's not assigning numbers like Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress numbers, but assigning keywords) is so brain-intensive, so detailed, that I'm worn out at the end of the day.

The good part about the work is it allows us to live very frugally, see the gorgeous country all around us, and eat Jacob Lake cookies. I switched my schedule around this week and am heading to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah for a couple nights' camping, assuming I don't get monsooned out, on a wildflower hunt. They should be at their peak this week. Yes, I count my blessings, all the time.

Thought of the day:

Be In love with your life. Every detail of it - Jack Kerouac