Reading the Library, Part 0

Don HellerAs Bullwinkle so famously said, Greetings, Poetry Lovers!

Some introductions first. I’m Don Heller, and I live in State College, PA. The reason for that is simple – I like the place, and it makes getting to the APRL really easy.

I’m employed by Penn State, and I’m on the faculty of the Computer Science and Engineering Dept., teaching courses in Operating Systems, Systems Programming, Programming Languages, and Computer Architecture. The inside stuff – no Windows (except when necessary), and no Word.

Philatelically, I collect Romania (stamps, stationery, postal history, revenues, just about everything up to 1950, but not so much after that), worldwide postal stationery (unused, up to the end of 1873, more about that in a later episode), assorted odds and ends (like, forgeries of the bogus Azerbaijan issues), and books (lots of books!).

The Mount Nittany Philatelic Society is the local stamp club, and I’m the president and show chairman. Our annual big event is SCOPEX, held the weekend before the APS Summer Seminar. Lots of fun – stop by some time!

Since August 2012, I’ve been on the APRL Board of Trustees, in the position previously held by Roger Schnell. The question of the Library’s use and acquisition of digital resources is an important topic that we’ll need to discuss further.

But, I don’t want to neglect the actual physical original books and journals, and that’s the main topic of these blog entries. I’m going to read the library. Not just a book, or a journal, but the entire library.

Completely nuts and unrealistic, since I can only read English, French, German, Dutch, and Romanian. Turns out that Spanish, Italian, Danish and Swedish aren’t so hard to figure out after a while, but I’m not going to try Chinese or Japanese. There’s only so far a brain can stretch.

As an example, I’ve gone through the first 60 volumes of The American Philatelist, up to 1947, reading the New Members information, looking for anyone living in Centre County, PA, where State College and Bellefonte are located. This is good background information for a club history, and it turned into a biography of George T. Bush, the first APS member in Centre County. No one would have indexed that data, and most of those volumes are not available (yet) for digital search. You just have to read all the pages.

Old books can be a real adventure. New ones, too. Let’s go have some fun!

OK, I warned you. Here’s your homework assignment. The next installment will be a look at The American Journal of Philately. So, get on the Internet, and find out everything you can about the AJP, without getting up from your chair. Don’t try to get the library staff to do the work for you. There are some standard resources to look for – the Crawford Catalogue, the Philatelic Union Catalogue, the National Postal Museum’s catalogue, WorldCat, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, Google, and so on. You get the idea.

When was it published? How many volumes and pages are there to read? Is there anything in it worth reading today? (It’s an old journal, but there are indeed lots of things worth reading even now.) More importantly, is it indexed? Is there an online version that’s searchable?

And the big question, Can a digital version of an old journal substitute for an original version of an old journal? That’s a loaded question – both are useful, but only if you can find them.


3 thoughts on “Reading the Library, Part 0”

  1. Thank you Mr. Heller for your interesting article. I still hold true to the idea of keeping physical copies of books, journals, newspapers. My reasons are two-fold. First, having been a grade school student like we all have and then a university student there is nothing like perusing the stacks of a library to find a hidden gem. I find also the fact the tactile sensations of holding a book plus being able to easily see its content pleasurable.

    Nowadays, digitization is necessary when it is necessary to preserve old and rare books. But not to have physical books around, well I look at my own personal library and I wouldn’t part with my books.

    I like the homework assignment you gave us. Sounds like fun. Sounds like a grade school library assignment again!

  2. Congratulations Don on your first post to the Philatelic Literature & Research Blog, a nice one!

  3. Great column! I love the homework assignment. I look forward to the next one
    Congratulations on a job well done

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