Philatelic libraries embrace technology

The Januanry/February 2015 issue of Book Reports, the newsletter of the Northwest Philatelic Library, contains an excellent article by Greg Alexander on the many ways philatelic libraries are embracing technology, including indexing journals, union catalogs of library holdings, digitizing books and journals, and even building or renovating libraries.

StampShow attendees tour Watkinson Library

Curator Richard Ring gives an introduction to the Watkinson Library
Curator Richard Ring gives an introduction to the Watkinson Library

About a dozen APS StampShow attendees got a peek at the collections of the Watkinson Library at Trinity College while they were in Hartford, Conn.

The Watkinson Library is a public research library and also houses the rare books and special collections of the Trinity College Library. Its holdings date from the 15th century to the present.

Tour attendees admire a rare book from the Watkinson collection
Tour attendees admire a rare book from the Watkinson collection

Curator Richard Ring gave us a tour of the library, including an exhibition of artists’ books and the library’s copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. He then took the group into the library’s Audubon Room, where we got to see items from the collection, including a cuneiform tablet, an illuminated manuscript, and leaves from a Gutenberg Bible, among other treasures.

Ring also explained to the group how he uses rare books in teaching Trinity College undergraduates and how he sparks interest in the collections through special events at the library. We bibliophiles enjoyed a little diversion from all things philatelic—and then it was back to the stamp show!

Meter Stamp Society library added to Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library in Arizona

Thanks to Paul Nelson of the Postal History Foundation for this update.

The Meter Stamp Society’s library has been added to the Postal History Foundation’s Peggy Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library in Tucson, Arizona.

Rick Stambaugh, current president, and Joel Hawkins, immediate past president, of the Meter Stamp Society recently placed over one hundred books, catalogs, machine handbooks, and over ten postage meter machines with the Slusser Library. These are from their own libraries, as well as from the MSS library itself.

The recent generous donation to the Slusser contains some duplicate items, and it will take some time for Valerie Kittell, Slusser’s librarian, and her staff of volunteers to catalog everything. After the cataloging is complete, the holdings will be included in the Philatelic Union Catalog hosted by the APRL as well as in the Global Philatelic Library hosted by the Royal Philatelic Society London. Duplicate material will be offered for exchange or sale.

Rick and Joel have exhibited meter material, with award winning results, at many APS exhibitions. These markings are certainly examples of modern postal history, and the machines that create them are complex devices from a wide range of manufacturers.  Many philatelic groups from many countries have published comprehensive information about their country’s meters; many of these publications are represented in this donation.

Rick and Joel have used this research material, as well as their own collections, to create and publish a catalog of U.S. meter marks, which is available from the MSS website. Furthermore, they recently released an electronic catalog of international meter stamps. This publication, which is free to download, is a wiki catalog, and subject to frequent additions and updates.


Archival material in philatelic libraries

This post was written by Paul Albright, Scandinavian Collectors Club Library and Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library

Organizing Archival RecordsIt is not unusual for archival material to find its way to philatelic libraries over time. These libraries are natural—and understandable—repositories for research and reference material once a collector has closed his or her albums for any number of reasons. Often this information is available from no other source, partly because it may deal with specific and intricate details of philatelic topics. Far better that this material is offered to libraries rather than tossed into recycle bins.

I can cite several recent examples. Two boxes of published writings of longtime philatelic writer Charles A. Fricke recently were donated to the APRL. Tara Murray of APRL advised me that Fricke’s journal articles “will be kept together and a bibliography/finding guide prepared as time (and volunteers) permit.”

Continue reading “Archival material in philatelic libraries”

The future of libraries

book scanner
A book scanner is one of the APRL’s most frequently-used resources, and a second scanner will soon be available for patrons, staff, and volunteers to use.

In an age when libraries are often considered dinosaurs – rendered obsolete by the rise of digital information – it might seem incongruous to build a new library. Yet, in many communities, libraries are busier than ever and library building and renovation projects are going full steam ahead.

A study of public library engagement in America conducted by Pew Research found that technology users are also library users (Turns out most engaged library users are also biggest tech users, PBS NEWSHOUR). The full report is available from the Pew Research Internet Project.

Meanwhile, the Boston Public Library, the “oldest public urban library in the country,” is undertaking a massive renovation project to make its main library more inviting (Breaking Out of the Library Mold, in Boston and Beyond, New York Times). The renovation will preserve access to traditional library resources while providing space for new technologies and activities.

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

Philatelic libraries are increasingly using print and digital resources side by side to get the best information possible. Recently the Smithsonian Libraries digitized a John Tiffany manuscript, and have made it available for anyone to help with the transcription that will eventually make the 19th-century document fully searchable online. The Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library in Denver is producing a series of online videos. The Postal History Foundation has indexed its journal, The Heliograph, using the online Philatelic Union Catalog. The APRL has many digital projects in the works, including a growing collection of online exhibits, digital finding aids helping researchers discover and navigate unique archival collections, and an upcoming map digitization project. The new APRL space currently in progress will provide space for protecting and accessing our valuable print collections as well as space for digitization projects and for library users to scan a variety of formats and plug in their own devices.

Exhibit explores personal libraries

An exhibit on personal libraries will open Nov. 15 and run through Jan. 6, 2014 at Penn State’s Pattee Library. I get many questions from readers of this blog and the Philatelic Literature Review about personal libraries and archives, so if you are planning to visit the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte in the coming months, you might consider a side trip to look at this exhibit. Penn State’s University Park campus is just over 10 miles from Bellefonte.

A visit to the Collectors Club

Collectors ClugAt the end of September, I had the pleasure of visiting the Collectors Club in New York. It was a beautiful autumn day as I approached the Club’s five-story brownstone in midtown Manhattan. The building was beautifully redesigned by architect Stanford White in 1902 and has been the Club’s home since the 1930s. It was renovated in 2000 and provides an elegant setting for the Club’s extensive library.

The library is open to the public five days a week and is easily accessible, located within walking distance of both Grand Central and Penn Station. It is a member of the Philatelic Union Catalog, and you can search its holdings by selecting CCNY from the list of libraries.

Library Chair (and APRL Trustee) Bruce Marsden started our tour on the fifth floor, which houses catalogs, including extensive runs of Scott and Stanley Gibbons.

UPU documents

We continued to the fourth floor, where treasures of the collection are housed. These include rare books, an extensive collection of Universal Postal Union documents, and photographs of the Knapp collection. This area is also used to process incoming material.

The third floor houses auction catalogs. Many philatelic libraries struggle to find enough space for their continually growing, yet infrequently used, collections of these catalogs. The Collectors Club Library, with finite space and no way to expand, has made the decision to downsize its collection. After consulting with specialist societies, they selected auction houses to keep and offered the remainder to the APRL. While I was at the Collectors Club, my husband and I sorted through the German auction catalog collection and boxed up the catalogs the APRL needed. We ended up with 10 boxes of catalogs!

Bruce Marsden and me in the library

The Club’s meeting and reception space is on the second floor, separate from library collections. The front room has a table with comfortable chairs and a fireplace, all framed by the large window. The back room provides space for presentations and exhibits.

The main library collection of books, pamphlets, and current periodicals is in the first floor reading room. Like most philatelic libraries, the primary organization is geographical.

The rest of the periodical collection is housed in compact shelving in the basement.

Irene Bromberger and meWhile I was at the Collectors Club, I also met with executive secretary Irene Bromberger. Irene assists visitors ranging from philatelic researchers to people who are curious about the building’s architecture.



Spellman Museum celebrates 50 years, hosts symposium

Earlier this month, the Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History celebrated its 50th anniversary and hosted a symposium, “From Indian Trails to the Birth of a Nation.” The Spellman, located at Regis College in Massachusetts, also includes a library and participates in the Philatelic Librarians Roundtable.

APS Executive Director Ken Martin attended the symposium and shared some photos – check them out on our Flickr page!

Spellman library