Tara Murray: an expert in making resources available online

Tara Murray is the Librarian and Director of Information Services for the American Philatelic Research Library. She manages the library’s operations and collections and leads digitization projects.

Jane King Fohn was interested in making her gold and grand award-winning exhibit, The 9-cent Alamo Stamp and its First Day Covers, available to a wider audience. A display in the American Philatelic Center would only reach the limited audience of those who can make the trip to Bellefonte and wouldn’t be permanent, so I suggested that Jane lend us her exhibit for scanning. When she agreed and sent us the exhibit, we scanned it and added the digital copy to the library collection. It is now accessible through the library catalog and the APS online exhibit collection.

 

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Fred Baumann: an expert in finding just the right publication for our stamp-collecting patrons

Fred Baumann is a Library Assistant three days each week at the APRL. He helps patrons select materials, checks material in and out at the circulation desk, keeps a close eye on overdue books, processes payments for library services, shelves and locates books and periodicals, and prices donated books for resale.

When I moved to Bellefonte as an active collector a decade ago, I found the APRL both enchanting and intimidating. With hundreds of books and journals about the things I collected, the chief challenge was discovering what was indispensable and what was not. That task is even more difficult for patrons searching an unfamiliar online catalog from afar.

While I’m not a professional librarian, I do bring to the library an intimate familiarity with the stamp hobby both as a collector and as a writer for the last 33 years. My experience sometimes enables me to find precisely what a patron needs.

A collector requested literature about stamps of Bosnia & Herzegovina from the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The best-known reference is an 87-year-old text, too rare and fragile to leave the library. What he didn’t know was that there’s a superb catalog in full color with current stamp values, robustly bound and in great shape, that we could lend him without a worry. He was delighted, replying that he “found some valuable info for just about every stamp in my collection.”

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Krystal Harter: an expert at turning donations into library resources

Krystal Harter is a Library Assistant at the APRL, and is responsible for responding to researcher requests, processing incoming donations, and checking in new journals.

Collectors, organizations, and non-collector families are very generous when it comes to donating their accumulations of books, journals, notes, and other philatelic material.  We actively receive current journals from approximately 525 organizations which are checked into our card catalog, online catalog, and then shelved for immediate use. Donated archival notes, clippings and research materials are catalogued and placed in our archival files and made available to collectors for their research. Philatelic reference books and stamp catalogs are processed by determining if we currently possess the 2-3 copies we keep in our collection and if not, they are cataloged, barcoded, and shelved for use.  If not needed, we add them to the online catalog for sale to collectors.

Many collectors are very excited to have the opportunity to purchase the publications, at a discounted price, to have as their own rather than borrowing them.  I remember receiving a call from a member with a limited income and living in an assisted home asking about borrowing a Scott Catalogue.  Not only was the fee to borrow the catalog an issue, so was the fact that he had no way to get the publication to the post office to be appropriately mailed back to us.  I mentioned that we had Scott Catalogues for sale, which were a few years old, and asked if he would be interested in purchasing one stating that he would just have the one-time fee and then the catalogue would be his to use from that point forward.  You would have thought we offered this member a million dollars as he graciously accepted the offer to purchase the Scott Specialized Catalogue.

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Betsy Gamble: an expert in putting things where people will look for them

Betsy Gamble is the Library Technical Services Coordinator for the APRL. In library terms, technical services can cover the process of acquiring and evaluating incoming material, adding anything that is within the scope of our library collections, making sure that people can find the material in our online systems and on our shelves, making sure that the collection is cared for physically, and dispersing excess material appropriately.

Our APS members and others have built the APRL in many different ways. Journal issues have appeared on the doorstep like foundlings, books are mailed in large boxes from estate lawyers, we receive journals electronically, or scan loaned exhibits and collections, we receive donations from specialty societies for material in their subject areas, and we receive large collections transferred from other institutions.

Two such large acquisitions in recent years are a portion of the stock of George Atkins’ Edenbridge Philatelic Literature business, and many volumes recently de-accessioned from Library and Archives Canada. With the help of volunteers and member societies, the library staff is working to make those materials available to our members.

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Scott Tiffney: an expert in finding obscure philatelic facts

Scott Tiffney is the Reference Assistant for the American Philatelic Research Library. He researches and answers reference requests as they are received in the library.

Peter Kühlhorn of Wuppertal, Germany emailed a question regarding philatelic covers (i.e. mailed envelopes) he collected from Hawaii during the Second World War that were sealed with an obscure red censor tape with the initials “THMA,” followed by a censor number.  During the war when U.S. mail was routinely viewed by censors, the tape was applied to all mail from Hawaii to identify that it had been cleared for delivery. Mr. Kühlhorn’s question was a simple one: “What was the meaning of the initials THMA?”

After finding many examples of the censor tape in question but no explanation of the acronym’s meaning, I finally found the answer in a specialized catalog of civil censorship postal markings. The letters stood for “Territory of Hawaii Military Administration,” keeping in mind that this mail was dated when Hawaii was still a territory of the U.S., before becoming a state in 1959. The catalog also included a complete listing of the Hawaiian censor numbers.

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Celebrate National Library Week with the APRL

Happy National Library Week!

National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.

The theme for the week is Libraries Transform, and libraries all around the country are sharing how they transform their communities.

Help us celebrate by leaving a comment and telling us how the APRL has made a positive impact and helped you enjoy stamp collecting more.

Throughout the week, we’ll share some of the work we do and how we enjoy connecting with you.

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National Library Week: The new library

This is the last in a series of daily posts about how the American Philatelic Research Library serves the philatelic community as we celebrate National Library Week.

The new APRL
Architect’s rendering of the new library space

I thought it would be appropriate to end the week with a look at the future of the APRL.

I was reminded by my co-blogger Larry Nix that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the APRL. While we do not have any anniversary celebrations planned, we are embarking on a very exciting project – the renovation of new library space.

The new library space will be located in the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, PA, where the APS and APRL are currently located. It will provide:

  • Space for collections with room to grow, consolidating collections from the current public library and library annex into one contiguous space.
  • Second floor of the new library
    Second floor of the new library showing the closed stacks area currently under construction

    Secure, climate-controlled areas for rare books and special collections, using space-saving compact shelving.

  • Additional work space for staff and our growing number of volunteers.
  • Accessible, comfortable places for researchers, including reading lounges, carrels with lockable storage, group study space, a youth area, and tables with task lighting and electrical outlets.

We have just started construction on the first phase of the project, which will include the closed stacks, rare book room, and large document and map room.

The benefits of the new library to researchers who are able to visit are obvious, but these benefits extend well beyond the walls of the APRL.

compact shelving
Compact shelving will provide economical and efficient storage for less frequently used material

Better work spaces for staff and volunteers means more capability to sort donations and get books on the shelves and ready to circulate, and room for more volunteers to work on digitization, preservation, indexing, archival processing, and more.

Secure, climate-controlled areas for special collections means these unique materials will be available for many years to come.

Increased space for collections means the APRL can continue to grow.

To learn more about the project and find out how you can contribute, visit the Strategic Priorities section of the APS website.

National Library Week: Digital resources

This is the sixth in a series of daily posts about how the American Philatelic Research Library serves the philatelic community as we celebrate National Library Week.

book cover
The APRL digitized The United States Issues of 1918-1920, which has entered the public domain

The library provides access to a growing collection of digital resources. Compared to print resources, these can provide increased access as well as increased functionality like search and zoom.

Some of these are print resources digitized by the APRL. There are currently three books digitized by the APRL available for sale on CD or DVD in the APS Digital Publications Shop, and more available for download through our online catalog. For an example, look up Donald Lybarger’s The United States Issues of 1918-1920.

Elmo loves stamp collecting
An exhibit available online from the APS and APRL

Others have been donated by members, including many scans of exhibits as well as government documents scanned at other libraries and from personal collections. Gary Loew and Chet Smith have made large contributions of U.S. Post Office Department publications and we are working on getting all of these online.

Still others, including exhibits, e-books, digitized journals, indexes, and more, are available for loan on CD- or DVD-ROM. These can be searched and requested from the library just like books.

Hathi Trust
Many non-philatelic sites contain a wealth of philatelic literature, especially books published before 1923 (in the public domain)

And many more publications of philatelic interest are available online from other sources. Whenever we find these, we add links to our catalog records. You can also search for publications on Google Books, the Internet Archive, and the Hathi Trust. The Hathi Trust site allows users to register and create a list of publications. My co-blogger Larry Nix and I have been adding publications to a list called Philatelic Literature.

We continue to build our digital collections through scanning, donation, and searching other libraries and archives for relevant content. You can browse our catalog records with digital content using the link in the right sidebar of the Philatelic Union Catalog.

If you are an author, publisher, or exhibitor and would like to help us by contributing content you own the copyright to, please contact me.

National Library Week: Meet the library staff

APRL staff
The APRL staff. From left to right: Krystal Harter, library assistant; Deb Placky, library assistant; Betsy Gamble, technical services coordinator; Tara Murray, director of information services/librarian; Scott Tiffney, reference assistant.

This is the fifth in a series of daily posts about how the American Philatelic Research Library serves the philatelic community as we celebrate National Library Week.

The APRL makes as much material as possible available online so researchers can identify and request research material any time. This includes our online catalog and article index, digital publications, the Philatelic Literature Review, subject guides and finding aids, and this blog. Our staff works hard behind the scenes to make all of this possible, but we are also available to assist you personally in finding the information you seek.

We receive phone calls, emails, and letters daily from members looking for anything from a page in a catalog to a literature search. While we do not have the time to do extensive research for you, we are always happy to look something up in a book or journal, to help you search the catalog, to give advice on the best way to proceed, and to copy or scan indexes, tables of contents, and other references that may assist you in requesting material from the library.

Whether you are just curious about something in your collection or embarking on a serious research project, we welcome the challenge of answering your questions.

You can reach us at aprl@stamps.org, 814-933-3803 (select option 3 for the library), or APRL, 100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16823.

 

National Library Week: Society libraries

This is the fourth in a series of daily posts about how the American Philatelic Research Library serves the philatelic community as we celebrate National Library Week.

American Helvetia Philatelic Society
Rudy Keller, Bruce Marsden, and Ernie Bergman of the American Helvetia Philatelic Society visit the APRL

In Monday’s post, I talked about how the APRL facilitates cooperation among philatelic libraries. The APRL has also developed mutually beneficial relationships over the years with many specialty societies. These relationships often include an exchange with our journal, the Philatelic Literature Review, donations of publications, and sometimes even the donation of an entire library or society archives.

These relationships helps us build our collection in specialized areas and promote specialty societies. When a collector begins to specialize and needs a more specific reference than the Scott Catalogue, they often turn to the APRL for specialized catalogs or articles from society journals. This may be their first introduction to a society.

The societies that have donated their libraries, or portions thereof, to the APRL include: American Air Mail Society, American Helvetia Philatelic Society, American Revenue Association, British North America Philatelic Society, Columbia-Panama Philatelic Study Group, New York Estonian Philatelic Society, Polonus Philatelic Society (coming soon), Postal History Society, and War Cover Club. The APRL also houses the archives of a number of societies, including the American First Day Cover Society, Confederate Stamp Alliance,  State Revenue Society, and U.S. Philatelic Classics Society. These donations come at a time when the society has determined it is no longer able or willing to maintain an independent library or archives. Depositing material at the APRL ensures long-term preservation of and access to the material.

For societies wishing to continue to operate an independent library, joining the Philatelic Union Catalog can be a way to help more researchers discover their library. The Scandinavian Collectors Club library, housed at the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library in Denver, has already begun contributing records to the union catalog, and we are working with other societies.