The Asian Religions Collection

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In the past few months, the Cataloging and Description department work tirelessly to liberate a large collection of foreign print materials from Remote Storage to their proper library homes. The collection, known as the Asian Religions Collection, includes books and other print materials written in Tibetan, Sanskrit, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. While this collection has been in FSU’s possession since 2008, it was fully cataloged and made available to university patrons as of December 23, 2014.

Background

In order to settle part of a national debt, India paid the United States in books and other print materials. These items were then acquired by the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions. Eventually, the books found a new home at the University of Virginia. UV evaluated the collection and kept a portion of the materials. The remaining 25,000 items were purchased at $2 a piece by FSU in 2008.

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Unloading the ARC books into RS2.

After the collection was purchased by FSU, it was delivered to the Remote Storage 2 (RS2) facility. Together, led by Amy Weiss, Head of Cataloging and Description, and Roy Ziegler, Associate Dean for Collection Development, the staff unloaded two full semi-trucks of books. In order to fit the massive collection in RS2, the boxes of books were piled around the sides of RS2, waiting to be cataloged and shelved.

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Library of Congress catalog card.

Of the 25,000 books, nearly 13,000 books were labeled as English language materials. After being reviewed, more than 6,000 of these books were cataloged and shelved in the Strozier library.  Following the English books were the Sanskrit and Tibetan Petcha books. Since this part of the collection was considered to be a priority, the department decided to dedicate three months of cataloging to it. The entire staff work tirelessly on the Petcha until it was completed. With the priority materials cataloged, the remaining items remained in RS2.

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Some books were small… and others were huge!

Beginning the Collection

Due to the delicate condition and complex languages of the materials, the collection required a great deal of time and hard work. With all the other priority projects handled by Cataloging and Description, the Asian Religions Collection remained in Remote Storage 2, waiting to be assessed and cataloged. Once the department hired Complex Cataloging Specialist Dominique Bortmas, Cataloging Associate Elizabeth Richey, and ARC Cataloger Stephanie Truex, Cataloging and Description was finally prepared to focus on this massive collection. Once an inventory was taken, the books were transported from RS2 to their new temporary home at 711 Madison Street where they waited to be cataloged. The staff organized the books by language and began to devise a plan to make the collection available to the public as soon as possible.

Cataloging the Collection
As with any material, the cataloging process is very precise and detail oriented; this is particularly true for the complex materials in the Asian Religions Collection. Catalogers must personally analyze each item, then find or create a machine readable record. A call number, notes, and Library of Congress subject headings are just a few of the fields needing to be included in the records. This allows the material to appear in the library catalog where it can be discovered.
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In addition to these usual obstacles of cataloging, the staff also faced additional challenges. For Amy Weiss, Head of Cataloging and Description, the main obstacle was finding the time and resources to catalog the 25,000 items in the collection. Yearly, the department catalogs about 15,000 items. Finding the time to balance the usual cataloging with an additional collection of 25,000 was not easy. However, thanks to a dedicated staff equipped with catalog cards and a workflow guide, the department was able to finally tackle the collection. Refusing to sacrifice speed for quality, the department decided to dedicate 25% of each staff member’s time to cataloging the ARC books. Catalogers Stephanie Truex and Elizabeth Richey devoted most of their time to completing the collection, while the rest of the staff also significantly contributed.

Once the staff began cataloging the the collection, they discovered that the language barrier often made it difficult to locate and create catalog records. While many stackof the books had old Library of Congress catalog cards in them that made it easier to search for records, not all of the books included this extra bit of helpful information. Catalogers had to rely on their research skills and newly acquired transliteration skills just to locate a record. Even if a record was located, it had to be upgraded. The records were outdated, and needed to be edited in order to meet current cataloging standards.

The collection is now completed, with the exception of the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) languages materials. Nearly 200 items remain since they present additional language and translation issues. CJK librarian, Yue Li, is currently focusing on this fraction of the collection.

The ARC project is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the behind the scenes Cataloging department. Through their team work and efficient procedures, the collection, with the exception of the CJK materials, is now available to be checked-out by FSU students and faculty.

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