Letter to Mrs. Hooker from Navy Department Library Staff - 1954
Navy Department Library
Remember the Navy Department Library when you came about four years ago?
When everytime Mrs. Rittenour put a book on top of the catalog for another library she stopped each member of the staff and explained? How we interrupted our work every time a messenger came in to hand him the books for the other libraries? Now we have labeled bins: no more explanations, no more labeling the recipiant of each book, no more interrupting our work twenty times a day to hand books to regular messengers.
When everytime a patron or staff member consulted the catalog he hemmed Mrs. Schad in at her desk so that she could not get to the telephone, other patrons, stacks?
When there was no Ready Reference shelf, and we had to run all the way to W in the periodicals to get the latest World Almanac?
When the Engineering Index was back in the E's in the periodicals?
When Mrs. Rittenour had to trail Mr. Meigs every day for his signature on the Library of Congress request letter? Now her name, as well as her substitute's, is on record at L.C. as representative of the Navy Libraries.
When there was no desk for addressing guard mail and a rack of stamps to save writing Navy library addresses all day long? Before this, all this addressing had to be done at our individual desk, already banked with references, cataloging, bindery, overdues, order work, book selection, interlibrary loan, and correspondence.
When the supposedly alphabetically arranged serials got to the point that even Gardiner admitted that he could no longer find anything? The unbounds were separate from the bounds though there was no way to know which was bound. The newer periodicals, and those which were designated to be bound later were in still another place (but in no order). Will we ever forget how you put on a dirty dress and personally pitched in with Mr. Meigs, Gardiner, and Jimmy, Saturday after Saturday, afternoon after afternoon, to remedy the horror of it all?
When all unbound magazines lay flat and you had to pick up pile after pile of them to reach a certain one ... and how you stood them on end so that we can pluck them off like books?
When the storeroom was banked with out odds and ends and the bound New York Times? You worked day after day (many, many of them Saturdays), clearing it for office space ... got the New York Times replaced with microfilm so that any page or column of it can be inserted on a reader and the patron given immediate service ... and with no weight lifting.
When you were told that a sign to identify the library was against the rules and out of the question?
The thousands of useless books you have managed to transfer to the Library of Congress and the U. S. Book Exchange in order to make room for the materials we need?
The telephones? When we had two lines, three phones, and no inter-connections? We had to yell over the heads of all the readers every time Mrs. Rittenour was called, and then she had to cross the room, stumbling over readers, lean over the fence, and talk over the instrument on Mr. Meigs' desk.
When 62066 could be answered or used only from Mr. Meigs' desk? Mrs. Schad and Mrs. Gates had to rise and lean over him to receive or make any calls on that number.
When Mrs. Schad and Mrs. Gates had to share 64367 even though it involved standing up and walking to pass the phone back and forth?
When there was no buzzer system and we had to yell through the wall to Mrs. Hooker and Grace, run all the way to the back of the room, yelling at the top of our voices, as well as wailing "Mrs. Rittenour" all day?
When there was no telephone in the back of the room? If you were working in the back you came up front to answer; if you ran to the back to find a question or a periodical and discovered that you needed to ask for more particulars you had to come all the way back to ask; and if you needed to make 50 phone calls about overdue books, the poor readers and the rest of the staff had to hear those monotonous calls over and over.
When there were no coiled telephone cords? Every call meant a swirling of catalog cards and papers. The cord entwined the big "L.C. Subject Headings" book on the catalogers' desk like a vine around a stump.
When all our current periodicals were squeezed into two racks.. and how you got us two more?
How you made room for more readers and made the room less cluttered by obtaining the handsome long reading table?
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When you started the wheels rolling to get a grill built to protect the rare books? The rare books used most often for reference, that is, since you had already entrusted the others to the Library of Congress' superior quarters.
Your arrangements for a master switch for lights rather than pulling scores of cords? This was both time-consuming and maddening, because the cords cut our hands, often broke, sometimes looped over the fixtures.
When you improved the quality of our mimeograph work by making a check on which type paper makes for easier reading, better appearance?
When we revised the yellow charging slips to allow room for a call number and the accession number? How we eliminated the printing on the book cards to make them easier to type, more flexible?
When we had no metal tabs to put on book cards to indicate "reserves"? There was no quick way to check on overdue reserved books. And Mr. Gardiner had to examine each book card carefully as the books came in - not an easy thing to do - and difficult to see and read the writing on cards for popular books which had had many "reserves" erased.
When the periodicals received by the library were entered in a journal ... not on the visible Kardex file which can be kept current?
How you found for us such miracle aids as the Delcote, and later found it even cheaper sold in bulk by GPO? ... as well as dug up an actual recipe worked out by the Library of Congress.
How you supplied us with pamphlet binders in all sizes, instead of several small ones, the good Scotch permanent mending tape, the mending fluid, the Spine Marker fountain pen, stools, a desk and chair for Mrs. Schad as a new-comer; a card catalog for the Union Catalog of Naval Libraries; steel files and safe for classified material, princeton files, tall book ends, a bulletin board, a board sideways across the fence to use as a desk; the flash box opener for heavy cartons ... and the card catalog of 120 drawers now on order? Riches indeed for an equipment-starved spot.
When the staff of the Navy Department Library could not tell a patron whether or not we had a certain periodical? Only bound periodicals were recorded in the serials drawer, and even that was not too helpful since some diligent house-cleaner in the past had discarded scores of the cards listing years and accession numbers. Too, this file has not been revised in decades. You have personally made these records meticulously accurate.
How we had no record of distribution policy, e.g., every time we started to discard the superceded H.W. Wilson indexes nobody could remember where they were supposed to be sent.
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When almost nothing was cataloged except commercially published, purchased books? Photstats, pamphlets (including most Navy publications), clippings, prints, microfilm, classified material, etc. might just as well not exist unless Mr. Meigs or Mr. Gardiner happened to recall their whereabouts.
When there was no Union Catalog of Naval libraries? No way to find out which holds a certain title except by 20 phone calls; no easy way to identify publications, even though this library does not own them.
How there was not even a list of other Navy libraries in this area? No list of phone numbers, librarians; no outline of holdings and publications of offices? A newcomer on a Navy library staff could work for years and never dig out half the aids in Naval Library Facilities in the Washington Area. There was no such publication to send to a bewildered non-naval librarian with no conception of Navy organization.
The effort you have made to build the basic reference tools, e.g., The LC Catalog of Printed Cards, the National Cyclopedia of American Biography?
How we worked up a flag system to halt the messenger without paralysing the staff to do so?
The staff's lot in life? How the average staff member was 4-5 grades lower than in other Navy libraries? How many of the positions you have managed to have up-graded; how much more trained and experienced the staff you have recruited for the vacancies? You got rid of a bum messenger and found a good one who has been given responsibilities outside of messenger work. Our being able to begin servicing the current congressional material is one of the direct benefits, and a very vital one to all Main Navy.
How you have encouraged the staff to participate in professional activities, societies, special library interest groups? You have been more than willing to allow us time to visit other libraries to enlarge our general background as well as arranging for us to make special visits to examine and compare equipment.
Remember the catalog when you came?
The Back guides to show where a word ended? Why? Nobody knows.
None of the subject cards gave the publisher.
The classed [to the hilt] arrangement of the subject cards with no cross reference from the direct heading, e.g.,
Engineering - Radio - Radar
Communication - Radar Bibliographies - Radar but nothing under Radar?
And that grand catch-all Literary Aids?
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No subject authority file ... the same subject worded 20 ways.
No author authority file ... the same government agency worded and filed in several places.
The catalog of our correspondence and attached bibliographies was separate from the main catalog. The subject headings were not consistent with those used in the catalog. On a typical search this source was not tapped since it was usually gotten by a hurried staff member, and, of course, unsuspected by the patron. By combining the two we now make constant use of our past research.
No manual of cataloging procedures ... had to think up a new way every time ... hit or miss ... piece-meal ...nothing consistent.
We did not use the Library of Congress printed cards, or own any of the printed L.C. catalog. The savings and advantages are well known to every professional librarian.
There was no index to the books awaiting cataloging, nor were the books in any arrangement.
The guide cards in the subject catalog gave only the last section of the classed heading. Great Britain might actually be in the W drawer, not the G, and actually mean: Wars - World War II - Great Britain.
And the position of the guide cards was supposed to be a clue to the subject's meaning and relative important. Only the cataloger, of course, could know what the position meant.
The improvements in the book ordering procedures?
The purchase record form, prepared simultaneously with requisitions, and filed by title to furnish the staff a title index to books on order, as well as an index to your orders and bookkeeping records.
The orange carbons of the purchase record form which are filed by author in the card catalog to furnish an author index to books ordered and/or received before catalog is complete.
The open purchase plan so that we can make immediate purchase from a local bookseller when we need an important book
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Periodicals put on calendar year basis instead of fiscal. Ordered for three years when possible. Result: no gaps in deliveries: missing periodicals claimed promptly, causing less trouble and delay in collecting for bindery.
New serial system set up whereby we know when the annuals are due and can order properly each month instead of hit and miss. The keysort stock cards make it possible for the secretary to sort by dates of expiration and to keep at her finger tips information on publisher, how often published, domestic or foreign, open market or schedule, etc.
How much of your work has gone far beyond the confines of our library? In addition to the Navy Library Facilities and the establishment of the Union Catalog already mentioned, remember:
When there was no way to know whether or not any other Navy library had a periodical except by making 20 phone calls? One library -one - has Econometrica. How would you guess which it is? The Union List of Serials in Naval Libraries in the Washington Area is a priceless boon - used nation-wide as well as by your own staff constantly every day.
How relatively few magazines were bound because GPO charged so much ... and how you finagled Navy libraries out from under so that we get five or six times as many for the same money? This not only preserves the periodicals but makes for swift and easy handling by the staff.
The June 1953 Naval Library Conference with its work on identifying, procuring, and servicing the elusive Defense Dept. publications; on purchasing, procedures; cataloging reports, etc. The published PROCEEDINGS of the Conference are of permanent value as a reference tool for librarians country-wide.
The Consolidated Accession List of the Navy Libraries serves as a guide to the holdings of each library, a book selection tool, an inter-library loan tool, a continuing bibliography in the various subject fields.
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In addition to the numerous services for our patrons already mentioned, remember these?
Encouraging us to have photostats made of valuable material which we could not obtain in the original.
Your successful efforts to obtain the annual reports of the Bureau chiefs and your perseverance in keeping these files up to date.
Getting permission to sign letters here if from children and/or on the subject of cruise books.
Making time for important services by discontinuing some of our unjustified burdens, e.g., purely personal requests such as those for consumer reports and guides.
Assuming the responsibility for keeping on file a copy of all the "cruise" books.
Your being court of last resort in getting back books from difficult borrowers.
Revisions and expansions of our periodical list ... unnecessary items dropped ... a policy of binding all useful periodicals instituted.
Starting the file of books published in each foreign language so that the reader who wants practice in reading them can have a list of what we have to offer.
Obtaining the foreign language records and manuals, as well as the special albums suitable for their circulation.
Starting a file of names of personnel in Navy libraries so that people calling from the outside are not told that there are twenty more Navy libraries and there's no way to identify and locate Navy Library personnel.
Establishing special shelves and ordering books for all the Navy training classes. Actually the work involved compares with that of many a college library. You were wise enough to insist that funds be approved through EXOS for these rather than allowing these classes to deplete our regular CNO allotment.
Establishing the filing and servicing of the reports, documents, etc. of the current Congress. Heretofore our patrons had to be turned away until the bound volumes made their belated appearance. A needed service, used heavily and genuinely appreciated by Main Navy personnel.
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This book-mark-date-due folder created to answer the multitude of inquiries as to "What sort of a library is this, and how do I go about using it?"
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A large percentage of these ideas have originated with the staff and have been carried out by us, but not one would have been possible without your consent and encouragement. These years have been an outstanding example of what can be accomplished by staff participation in library administration. There is not one member of the staff who has not felt free to make suggestions directly to you. No standing on ceremony ... no "channels" ... always a relaxed, easy atmosphere. You have never scoffed at any of our ideas; none has been too far-fetched or peculiar to be investigated.
The greatest compliment you have been paid has been the way we have felt free to express disapproval of projected ideas. In fact, you have gracefully accepted many a staff veto.
You have shown your belief in delegating authority and in backing up that authority.
You have gone far out of your way to show genuine concern for the personal welfare, health, and happiness of each of us. We have always been able to count on your being human.
Been four lively years, haven't they?
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Source: Letter from Navy Department Library staff to Mrs. Hooker dated December 1954. Located in "Navy Department Library" vertical file.