Meet Fred Baumann

Fred BaumannAs I’ve come to learn working here during the last two years, the American Philatelic Research Library is a remarkable resource masterfully marshaled by a small, highly talented team of professionals with remarkable skills. APRL Technical Services Coordinator Betsy Gamble has untangled the most complicated bibliographic questions for me. Reference Assistant Scott Tiffney tackles complex, esoteric queries each day with a confidence born of long experience and a familiarity with what’s available and how to seek it out. And Librarian Tara Murray, as Director of Information Services, brings special expertise to the task of overseeing and organizing the vast array of components to serve our many patrons across America and far beyond as efficiently and helpfully as possible, aided both by the staff and the volunteers who give generously of their time.

I have none of the talents of these fine people, but am best regarded as a lowly scrivener, with a knowledge of philately that is six inches deep and three miles wide. I have written for Linn’s Stamp News, Stamp Collector, Scott Stamp Monthly, and sundry other publications, and have both taken courses from and taught courses for the APS, which I joined 30 years ago. I have had a serious interest in philatelic literature since I worked for a Michigan stamp auction firm that specialized in selling and reprinting handbooks back in 1986.

What interests me are the aspects of the stamp hobby and its vast literature that aren’t readily covered elsewhere: the many nooks and crannies where history and philately overlap and connect, and those questions we receive from APS members and APRL patrons that don’t have obvious or ready-made answers. These fascinate me, and I hope to shine some light on them in a helpful way that you, too, will find interesting, here in the PLR blog.

Please feel free to get in touch with me. If you have questions or comments, you can post them here on the blog, or see the APRL website for contact information.

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.


Introducing Larry Nix

Larry NixI’m looking forward to being a regular contributor to the new blog of the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL).  The blog format for communicating information is well established in the virtual world of the Internet, and I’m confident that it will be an effective way for the APRL to assist philatelists in the study of a broad range of philatelic topics. I’m a current member of the APRL Board of Trustees, and I write the “Library News” column for the Philatelic Literature Review (PLR). Unfortunately, the news in the “Library News” column is often old news because of the quarterly format of PLR. Currency is one of the major advantages of the blog format.  Part of my enthusiasm for the blog format stems from my experience in maintaining the Library History Buff Blog and and the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center blog and website.  I have an interest in philatelic libraries and museums other than the APRL and this will be a focus of some of my future contributions to the blog.  My primary collecting interest is an area which I call postal librariana.  I have developed several philatelic exhibits featuring libraries and usually enter these exhibits in the Display Division. My interest in libraries stems from a career as a librarian (now retired) which started almost 48 years ago.  As the blog proceeds, I hope my interests in philately and libraries will result in some useful and interesting posts for the readers of this blog.

Introducing David Straight

David StraightGood Morning!

The sun is coming up in St. Louis – this is my time of day – the quiet, early morning before phones ring and e-mail announces new messages. Libby, our rescued poodle mix, is napping in front my armchair after a dawn walk.

Perhaps, you already know me through my Colophon column in the Philatelic Literature Review, or an article in one of the magazines where I share my stamps and covers. In any event, I would like to say a few words about my plans for this blog, my collecting interests, and my non-stamp background.

Writing a news column for a quarterly journal has always been frustrating because of the long gaps between issues. The plan is that my blog posts will complement, not replace, the Colophon. Blog posts will allow me to share news about book releases, literature awards, and research opportunities in a timely fashion as I discover them. In the Colophon, I will strive to provide information in greater depth and perhaps review some of the books announced. No doubt, it will take a little time to strike the proper balance between the two media; hopefully the relationship will evolve in response to readers’ comments.

Continue reading “Introducing David Straight”

Welcome to Philatelic Literature & Research

Tara MurrayWelcome to Philatelic Literature & Research, the blog of the American Philatelic Research Library. This blog supplements the library’s quarterly journal, the Philatelic Literature Review, bringing you the latest news about philatelic literature and research, as well as brief items of interest from the APRL.

I am the librarian at the American Philatelic Research Library, and I will keep you updated on the very latest happenings here at the library and offer tips for using our resources.

I’ve only been working at the APRL since July, so I am busy learning about philately and exploring the wonderful collection here in Bellefonte, PA. Follow along with me as I get to know the literature and uncover hidden treasures in our collection.

If you have questions or comments, you can post them here on the blog, or see the APRL website for contact information.

My co-bloggers, Larry Nix and David Straight, will introduce themselves soon.