24 Apr 2020

Ask the Archivist

My UCC Library colleague Emma Horgan did an Ask the Archive session for our Instagram account last week. The piece got was so engaging I thought it would be nice to capture the story in a more permanent way - hence this post... 

1- What is the difference between an Archivist and a Librarian?
Archivists primarily deal with unique unpublished material, while Librarians mainly deal with published material that exists in multiple copies.
Archivists and Librarians are both very concerned with preservation, but since Archivists often are keeping the ONLY original copy of something they are more focused on preservation. Preservation meaning long term access... both archivists and librarians are very much concerned about providing access and research assistance!
Because the material in archives is generally unique, archivists often have to spend a lot more time in processing / cataloguing material than librarians do. Librarians can rely more on shared cataloguing and standardised processing by vendors to get things ready for the shelf.
Again, because the material in archives is generally unique, archivists usually can't permit the public to browse their shelves in person, or to check out materials. This has led archivists to be more personally involved in mediating between users and materials than librarians generally are. Librarians (and this is generally speaking - not true in every situation of course) mainly try to teach users to help themselves to sources as much as possible.
Librarians tend to do a lot more instruction and outreach activities than archivists, teaching things like how to do specialised research, track citations, adhere to copyright and so on. Archivists are beginning to focus more on teaching and outreach than they used to. I personally teach undergrad and post grad classes in UCC Library Special Collections, using material from the archival collections.

One more note: many people do not realise how diverse both the librarian and archivist fields really are. There are MANY varieties of librarians who specialise in all sorts of things... there are librarians who organise outreach for public libraries: science librarians who run institutional repositories for electronic articles; rare book librarians who catalogue unique printed works; academic subject specialists who administer collection development budgets and teach research skills; and so on. Archivists likewise might be specialists in research methods, acquisitions, born digital records, exhibit curation, or arrangement/description of paper archives. So, all of my comments won't apply to every situation.

2- Why does society need Archivists?/ Why do you think the job of an archivist is an important one?
The most important aspect of an Archivist's job is that we identify what documents and information should be kept and preserved for future generations to study. Once we make the decision not archive an item, it's gone forever.  

3- What is my favourite archival collection i have worked on?
Definitely the Power's Distillery Collection i worked on in the Irish Distillers Archive. 

4- What is my dream archival collection to work on?
 I am a huge film buff, and fan of digital archiving, so my answer has to be the Walt Disney Archive.

5- Why/How did i become an Archivist?
I was persuaded by Emer Twomey, UCC Library's long standing Archivist. Her passion and enthusiasm sold me. I also love learning new things and researching- a vital aspect of an Archivist's job. 

6- Any advice for a budding archivist?
Try and get as much work experience in the field as you can. Not only does it give you an idea if this job is for you, but it also enable you to build up your contacts in the archival world. Networking is important in all fields. 

7- Are there any traits which i feel all Archivists have?
The one trait i would definitely say we all have is curiosity. 

8- What Collection do you wish more people knew about?
The Elizabeth Friedlander Collection. She was a german graphic designer, who fled Nazi Germany and was the first woman to ever design her own typeface- called "Elizabeth".

9- What's the strangest thing you've come across?
I was working on a collection in the Irish Distillers Archive. I was opening boxes for the first time since they'd been filled in the 1930s, and found a really nice pair of gentleman's horn rimmed glasses. Had been swept into the box from his desk accidentally. They're on display in the archive now as an artefact.  

10- Where's the mummy? What's the story with it?
He's stored securely in the basement of the Kane building. Very difficult to organise passport for long dead Egyptians, especially in this climate, but he's in the queue!

11- What is the most mysterious piece in your archive?
We have quite a range of things, including a death mask! But for actual mystery, it's a vellum document from Elizabeth I, containing, we think, royal orders. But the document is entirely in Latin and we haven't been able to have it translated. Could be a shopping list! 

12- Coolest item you've ever gotten to handle?
An actual bottle of whiskey from 1782.

13- How do people go about compiling an archive?
if you are interested in compiling a family archive, get in contact and i can give you specific advice. If you want to preserve an item of national/historical significance, i would advise you get in contact with your nearest Archive, or the National Archive of Ireland. 

14- What would be your dream find in an archive?
The secret to eating my bodyweight in chocolate and not gaining weight, ideally! But realistically i love finding items that change our perception of history, i discovered a long lost distillery!

15- How do you become an archivist? 🙂
To achieve your qualification you can either do the MA in Archives in UCD, or the part time MAs available from UK universities. The UCD course is one year, and intensive, but it is an internationally recognised qualification, so i can work in Canada or New Zealand if i decided to.

16- What's your fave colour?
Purple- colour of royalty 😁

17- Which do you prefer? Books or movies?
Movies, I'm a huge horror fan. Love Spanish, Korean and Scandinavian horror.

18-What is your biggest fear?
The unknown. I liken it to being in the ocean, and having no idea what could come up from the depths! 

19-What's the farthest you've ever been from home? 
Recently i went a whole 500 metres, but the furthest ever was Malta, a fascinating melting pot of cultures. Looking forward to making that Australia for my honeymoon.

20- What are you looking forward to in the coming months? 
ACTUAL HUMAN CONTACT!!! *clears throat* Seeing my colleagues and friends again.

20 Apr 2020

Reflecting on my Career as I approach retirement

Guest post by Linda O'Connell, Maynooth University Library

Photo courtesy of author

I started my working life at 16. I’m now 66. During the intervening fifty years I have been, at various stages in formal employment, a stay at home mum, a student and am now finishing my career in formal employment again.

Early Career
I was born in London to Irish emigrants. My first job, in 1969, was in the London Bridge branch of the Midland Bank. I worked there as a copy typist/administrator for two years. Next I joined IPC (International Publishing Corporation) where I carried out general administration duties. This was a great experience because of the social scene associated with the role. I got the opportunity to attend functions where Rod Stewart, Slade and Roxy Music were present. These were organised by magazines that IPC published such as Melody Maker. 

In 1973, due to the tragic death of my younger brother, my family moved back to Kerry and I relocated to Dublin in search of a job. I signed on with an employment agency and I was lucky enough to be offered a job in the library of the IMI (Irish Management Institute). The IMI run training courses in all aspects of management. It was then located in what is now the Russian embassy in Orwell Road, a short time later they moved to a state of the art building in Sandyford.
Photo courtesy of author       
At that time The IMI held the largest collection of management literature in Ireland.  There was no computerised system in operation. The books were catalogued manually and catalogue cards filed in a wooden card catalogue. My role entailed typing the card for each book onto a stencil and printing out the number of cards needed for each book i.e. one for the subject heading entry, one for the classification number entry and one for each separate author entry. Some books had up to six cards depending on the number of authors. I also put classification numbers on the spine of books.  The Browne issue system was in use. Inside each book there was a pocket with two cards. These cards were retained by the Library, when a book was borrowed. One was filed under the name of the author of the book, the other under the name of the borrower.  I also carried out desk duties, primarily issuing and returning books to IMI members. We had a diary at the desk and we would write in the date the book was due back and two days before the book was due we would post out reminders to the borrowers. This was the pre-Internet age and we searched the card catalogue to find books.

Photo courtesy of author
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the IMI, it was very much a customer focussed library and was ahead of its time. In 1983 I left the organisation to raise a family, however I kept in touch with the library and worked on projects on an ad hoc basis, for example the annual salary surveys.
Back to Education
In 1999, when my children were older, I enrolled on a Community Employment Scheme in Celbridge. This lasted for two years and it introduce me to the idea of going back to education.  I subsequently enrolled in a FETAC (Further Education and Training Awards Council) course. This three-year programme included computer skills, English, Business Studies and other subjects. There were annual exams in each subject. During this time I also completed the Leaving Certificate English exam. At the end of the course, I was encouraged by the course co-ordinator to apply for a degree programme in Maynooth University as a mature student. I was successful in the three panel interview and was accepted in the Arts degree programme. I chose Sociology, Celtic studies and Anthropology as my three subjects. This degree programme was a big step up from my previous education experience. I really enjoyed my time as an undergraduate in Maynooth University. I met wonderful people and I was supported and encouraged by the University to succeed. After three years I was awarded a second class honours degree, an achievement I am still very proud of today.

Later Career
During my time as a student I availed of the University Library facilities on a regular basis. I applied for an advertised contract role in 2005 and was fortunate enough to be offered a job as part of what is now the Engagement & Information Services (EIS) team. I’ve been in that post for the past 15 years. I am part of a team of nine who work on desk services at the ‘coalface’ dealing with students, faculty and external members. Our team deals with a huge volume of queries, from circulation enquires, helping sourcing material and general assistance. The library is a very busy environment and no two days are the same. I have witnessed many changes in the Library.  The biggest change has been the use of technology, which has replaced many time consuming manual processes.

As detailed above, one of my earliest jobs was in a library and I am finishing my career in a library. To have a successful career you need to be versatile, adaptable and willing to learn the new skills required as the role changes. Some aspects of the role have not changed since I first started my career, being customer focused, dedicated, hardworking and an ability to get on with your colleagues, are as important today and they were back fifty years ago.
As I near my retirement, I hope that I can bring the skills I have learned to the next phase of my life by actively participating in local clubs, volunteering for charities and joining the Retired staff Association in Maynooth University.

2 Apr 2020

Cataloguing older Irish language material: some brief notes on the Cló Gaelach.

Guest post by Patricia Moloney, Librarian, Cataloguer of Dónal Ó Súilleabháin Library University of Limerick

Following a transcription query on library twitter last week, these brief notes on the Cló Gaelach/Gaelic typeface may be of interest to cataloguers with limited previous exposure to the Irish language.

Almost all texts published in the Irish language up to the mid-20th century, were printed using the Cló Gaelach, a family of Gaelic typefaces (also known as Irish type and Irish character). The Cló Gaelach is modelled on an angular form of calligraphy (the insular minuscule script) based on the Latin alphabet, which developed in the Irish medieval monastic scriptoria. (For more on the history of Irish scribal tradition see The Irish Hand by Timothy O’Neill). Traditionally the letters j, k, q, v, w, x, y and z were not used in the Irish language, but in later centuries they began to appear in loanwords e.g. júdó (Judo); x-gha (x-ray); zú (zoo).

Irish Type Design
The subject matter of the first Irish language books to appear in print was religious. By royal order, the first fount of Irish type (known as Queen Elizabeth’s Irish type) was cast in London before 1571 and was sent to Dublin where immediately an Irish printing press was set up in order to facilitate the production of religious texts. Regarding printing terminology, in traditional printing where metal moveable type is used, the term ‘fount’ (later ‘font’) refers to the physical metal letters which were created/cast in the form of a design of typeface. Stylistic variants create a typeface family, in this instance, the Cló Gaelach or Gaelic typeface/Irish type.

The circulation of Irish language translations of the New Testament on the part of the Reformed Church in Ireland, which were printed using this Queen Elizabeth’s Irish type, (a hybrid fount of Irish and Roman letters), dismayed the Irish Franciscans in Louvain. In response, the monastic college arranged for the design of what later came to be regarded as the first authentic Irish typeface, (Louvain Irish type), and this was used for the printing of the catechism of Friar Bonventura O’Hussey (Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa), in 1611.  Later typeface designs which form part of the Gaelic typeface family include: Parker Irish type (1787); Petrie A (1835); B (1850); C (1856) and more recently, Colum Cille (1936) which was designed by Colm O’Lochlainn of Three Candles Press. (For more on the history of Irish typefaces see Irish Type Design by Dermot McGuinne).

Síneadh fada
In addition to the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, the Cló Gaelach/Gaelic typeface must include all five vowels with the síneadh fada (a “long sign” which lengthens the sound of a vowel).  To put an acute accent/síneadh fada on a vowel, (rather than inserting a special character from the symbols menu which is time-consuming), for a quick method in Windows, hold down the Alt Gr key, then press the key for the vowel to produce á, é, í, ó or ú.  Again, in Windows, for capital letters, hold down the Alt Gr and the Shift key together, and then press the key for the vowel to produce Á, É, Í Ó or Ú.

On the Apple Mac, holding down the option key at the same time as the key for e and pressing the key for the vowel that needs the accent/fada will produce á, é, í, ó or ú.  For capitals, hold down the option key, the key for e, the Shift key and the vowel that needs the accent/fada added to produce Á, É, Í Ó or Ú. It should be emphasised that the inclusion of the síneadh fada is very important for meaning e.g. the word fear = man, but féar = grass.

The Gaelic typeface includes a set of consonants with a dot above (known as a ponc séimhithe "dot of lenition", séimhiú "lenition" or buailte "struck"). Since the establishment of An Caighdeán Oifigiúil/the Official Standard of modern Irish in the mid-20th century, and the adoption of the roman typeface for printing in the Irish language, the letter h is inserted after the relevant consonant to indicate lenition instead of the overdot. Special codes exist which permit display of the overdot séimhiú but for the purposes of cataloguing, the letters Ḃḃ Ċċ Ḋḋ Ḟḟ Ġġ Ṁṁ Ṗṗ Ṡṡ Ṫṫ may be transcribed as Bhbh Chch Dhdh Fhfh Ghgh Mhmh Phph Shsh Thth.

Image: Wikipedia
Tironian symbol ⁊
The Tironian symbol ⟨⁊⟩, which signifies the word et in Latin; ocus/agus in Irish, (‘and’ in English), is a remnant of a shorthand system, the notae Tironianae or Tironian notes, believed to have been developed by Marcus Tullius Tiro (died c. 4 BC).  Tiro was the confidential secretary, literary adviser, and former slave of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), the Roman philosopher, lawyer, statesman who was renowned for his prose style. Tiro was freed by Cicero in 53 BC and following the philosopher’s death, Tiro published some of the Cicero’s speeches and letters, in addition to writing a biography. Medieval monastic scribes used many abbreviations, including Tironian notes. The Tironian symbol ⁊ survived in use in Latin and Irish language manuscripts to represent et and ocus/agus respectively and eventually became an essential element of the Gaelic typeface. The Tironian symbol ⁊ may be transcribed as ‘agus’ for the purposes of cataloguing.

Early logo of the Irish Department of Posts and Telegraphs/ An Roinn Puist agus Telegrafa,  Image: Wikipedia
Image by Richard Mcall from Pixabay
Adding scholarly notes – identification of stylistic variants etc.
Clóliosta, Printing in the Irish language, 1571–1871: An attempt at narrative bibliography, by Richard Sharpe and Mícheál Hoyne (soon to be published by the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies), is  a catalogue of printing in Irish from the beginning until 1871 which aims to document “the title and imprint of every item entered, a concise material description, identification of the Irish type used where relevant, the printer and place of printing, and references to appropriate bibliographical repertories”(dias.ie/cloliosta).

On  5 March 2019, Professor Richard Sharpe (Professor of Diplomatic at the University of Oxford), delivered the keynote address to  the Library Association of Ireland Cataloguing and Metadata Group Annual General Meeting during which he presented an overview of the Clóliosta catalogue project and where he requested the assistance of cataloguers and librarians in order to alert the editors to the existence of little-known or obscure copies and editions.

Professor Richard Sharpe addressing the LAICMG AGM in the National Library of Ireland, 5th March 2019. Photo: Yvette Campbell
Copies of the draft Clóliosta were made available to curators in libraries with relevant Irish holdings and the latest draft is now available as a PDF for download from the website of the DIAS here. The level of detail provided in the Clóliosta renders it an invaluable resource to cataloguers of Irish language publications who wish to add scholarly notes to records, including identification of typefaces and printing houses, and to those researchers interested in the book history and the history of print culture in the Irish language.

The sad news last week of the untimely death of Professor Richard Sharpe, renowned scholar, bibliographer, and supporter of libraries, came as a great shock to many in the library world. 

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Further reading
  • O'Neill, Timothy, The Irish hand : scribes and their manuscripts from the earliest times, Cork University Press in association with the Keough Naughton Notre Dame Centre, Dublin, 2014 (new edition). 
  • McGuinne, Dermot, Irish Type Design:  A History of Printing Types in the Irish Character, Irish Academic Press, 1992
  • Hoyne, Mícheál; Sharpe, Richard, (eds.), Clóliosta , https://www.dias.ie/celt/celt-publications-2/cloliosta/ [Accessed 31 March, 2020].
Patricia Moloney is a librarian in the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick, where she is cataloguer of the Dónal Ó Súilleabháin Collection in the Special Collections and Archives Department. She is the current Secretary of the Library Association of Ireland Cataloguing and Metadata Group.