Cataloguing Rare Books in the Archdiocese of Seattle

Kenzie Brown and Eric Flores, who earned their Graduate Certificates in Textual and Digital Studies in spring 2023, worked on cataloging the Rare Books Collection in the Archdiocese of Seattle from January 2023 to May 2023 as part of their capstone project for their Master’s of Library and Information Science degree and the TDS capstone. The Seattle Archdiocese Archives holds a collection of about 300 rare books from as early as the 16th century. Prior to their project, these materials were unorganized and therefore inaccessible.

Kenzie and Eric’s first step when beginning this project was to physically organize the books. They initially tried to begin cataloging immediately, but quickly realized it was important to take inventory and prioritize their workflow. This involved them getting familiar with each book, documenting it briefly in a preliminary inventory sheet, and assigning a rarity ranking based on a number of criteria.

Liturgical Texts
Liturgical Texts

They then organized the books based on their ranking, putting the most important books at the top of the shelves to ensure they completed full records of these materials. Luckily, they were able to complete all 290 books in the collection.

Pocket Sized Books
Pocket Sized Books

The books are currently stored in a much more organized manner in the Archives basement for easier access and use. Then, Kenzie and Eric began cataloging the books. They primarily relied on the DCRM(b) standards, and devoted a lot time to understanding descriptive cataloging and making decisions based on the needs of their collection. They used an Access Database to store the created data. Part of this database included a form with standard DCRM(b) fields, including the expected ones such as author, title, and date, but also provenance, local notes specific to each volume, and illustrations. The goal was to be as descriptive as possible for potential researchers.

Seminary Texts

Kenzie’s and Eric’s process cataloging included pulling each book, creating descriptive metadata, taking pictures, and saving it to the database. During this process, Kenzie and Eric frequently met with each other to standardize the records and ensure continuity.

Interestingly, they found that taking the pictures and storing them in the database were the most time-consuming part of the process. At one point, they had to hold production due to limited storage space.

The cataloging process overall demanded a lot of time and attention, and resulted in a detailed account of the collection. As a form of community outreach and to display their knowledge of the collection, they also created a webpage hosted on the Archdiocese website.

“To Be Used and Enjoyed”: Unveiling the Seattle Archdiocese Archives; Featuring Kenzie Brown and Eric Flores