Wednesday, January 16, 2008

cataloging altered books

I'm getting ready to do a patron-test of Baby Proof, here at my library branch. We're going to re-catalog it, put it back on the shelf, and see if the public notices it. And if they do, hopefully they'll let us know what they think. So I've been doing a lot of thinking:

1. I'm going to have to call my books Altered instead of Transformed, because there is no Library of Congress subject heading for Transformed Books. Whereas Altered Books is already an established subject heading, as well as being a concept that the public is vaguely familiar with, and I'm going to want people who search the catalog for altered books to find my stuff. I wonder if there is a subject heading for Intervention? Probably not.

2. As far as I can tell, the only other public library to re-catalog items from its own collection as Altered Books is Portland Public Library. I've been using them as a jumping off place, for figuring out how I want to catalog mine - I want my cataloging to make it clear to patrons that the altered item is different – not just to excuse the fact that it is different if patrons look closely enough, but hopefully to also draw patrons in to the item, if they look closely enough. So I plan to use the original bib record as a jumping off place, but will also add fields and notes specific to the altered book, regarding the materials and processes used, as well as artist-name-author information. For instance, Baby Proof will be searchable by all its original subject headings (Couples Fiction/Domestic Fiction), as well as Altered Book and Artists Book, and anything else that I want to add. I'll also include note fields detailing the physical alterations - basically, the 'medium'.

3. Regarding copyright: I attended a talk over the weekend by a copyright lawyer named Joy Butler, who just wrote a book called The Permission Seeker’s Guide through the Legal Jungle. That was very helpful - I’m not worried about copyright issues anymore, because the books I’m working on fall under the First Sale Doctrine, which means that since the Library bought them, the library can now do whatever it wants with them as objects, including sell them in the Friends of the Library sale, or give them to me to cut up. On the flip side, if I was creating Derivative Works (such as recordings of the content, or abridgments, or adaptations), I would be in violation of copyright laws. But since the objects I’m creating are a "unique way of expressing an idea", I’m fine.

So, obviously this is a lot of library-speak, and probably not very interesting to my art-critiquers. But it is a really important part of the project. The aesthetic aspect is crucial, of course, because without it the whole project fails - who cares how interesting the cataloging is if the books are boring?. But the nature of cataloging and the ways in which the object and its description work together are the lynch-pin of this whole project-experience. So that's what I've been obsessing about this week.


Christy said...

I'm very intrigued by this. What's Baby Proof?

- Christy

Look, I'm reading your blog! :)

Alexandra Zealand said...

Baby Proof is a book by Emily Giffin, who also wrote Something Borrowed and Something Blue. It's also the first, test book for my Transformed/Altered Book Library Sculpture Cataloging Project - haven't I talked to you about this?!?

Click on the tags at the bottom of the post to see more about it, and I'll show you the book itself, next time I see you.

Scenic Artisan said...

fun stuff you've got going on.

alex said...

Hey, thanks :] I'm looking forward to seeing all the sculptors tomorrow night.