National Stamp Collecting Month and the APRL
“Stamp collecting dispels boredom, enlarges our vision, broadens our knowledge, makes us better citizens and in innumerable ways, enriches our lives.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
At the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) during National Stamp Collecting Month I’m often reminded of an anonymous quote that a member once sent me: “Collecting is only the start, philately begins where the catalogue ends.” This sentiment is a reminder of the role that information and resources, such as those of the APRL, play in “broadening our knowledge” and enhancing our collecting.
Young Philatelic Leadership Fellow Ruhit Sinha studies with Richard Judge.
Those sources of information and resources can take on many different forms. Each year the library is fortunate to welcome visitors to explore our vast collection of books, stamp and auction catalogues, name sales, journals, government documents and archival material. While these materials are the more common resources that library patrons can access, there are others that are just as beneficial.
Teaching, Learning and Mentoring
Back in June, the 40th annual Summer Seminar took place here at the American Philatelic Center, bringing us a record number of students and instructors, over 120 in all. Many participants spent the week in classes either teaching or learning about a wide variety of philatelic topics such as Stamp Technology, French cancellations, Prexie postal history, British Machin definitives, Picture Postcards and Worldwide Fakes and Forgeries to name just a few.
During the week the library was a natural hub for students and teachers before, between and after classes, keeping the library staff busy with both class-related and personal research requests. But resource-sharing didn’t end there. In their free time, students and teachers congregated in the library and took advantage of yet another resource - each other’s knowledge. We saw many attendees informally sharing their knowledge and mentoring each other.
Philately is a hobby filled with many great resources, but what we know and freely share about our collecting is one of the most significant of these.
The Library’s Other Resource
Another resource is the library staff itself. In the course of their duties they assist in answering library requests for both members and non-members. The Library Staff — Library Assistants Krystal Harter and Sarah Berezenko, Reference Assistant Marian Mills and Technical Services Coordinator Betsy Gamble - provide “access to the resources of the APRL to APS members and the philatelic community” by assisting them with their philatelic research.
Whether it is a simple search for a stamp number or value in one of the more popular stamp catalogues or a complex research inquiry regarding postal history, the APRL staff provides a further benefit and resource for the beginner or experienced philatelist.
The Resource of Tomorrow: APRL Digital
A resource that looks to the future of the hobby and philatelic research is now at hand: APRL Digital, the digital collections of the APRL, which is accessible to all members on the Society’s webpage.
Since the project's beginning in the fall of 2017, the database has steadily grown, and now includes well over 500,000 pages of scanned and accessible material. Members can now remotely search in full-text, download, or print full issues or select pages via their computers or other devices. The goal of the project is to populate APRL Digital further with journals, exhibits, books, photographs and other archival material.
Currently available in the database are the following journals:
American Philatelist (1887–2018; 1,435 issues)
Across the Fence/Across the Fence Post (1979–2000; 270 issues)
Postal History Journal (1957–2009; 141 issues)
American Philatelic Congress Book (1935–2004; 70 issues)
Esprit Sports et Olympisme (1994–2009; 52 issues)
Collectors Club Philatelist (1922–2018; 550 issues)
Journal of Sports Philately (1962–2001 & 2008; 244 issues)
Philatelic Literature Review (1982–2018; 116 issues)
P.S. (1977–1993; 58 issues)
University of Pennsylvania Philatelic Society Philatelist (1954–1957; 6 issues)
In the near future the possibility also exists to add Flagstaff, the journal of the King George V Silver Jubilee Study Circle, Posthorn, the organ of the Scandinavian Collectors Club, and La Posta, the renowned journal of American postal history. Besides these aforementioned journals there are also a smaller number of other materials in the database, such as exhibits (30 items), books (6 items), maps (1 item) and American Bank Note Company files (33 items). These collections will continue to grow as time goes on.
Extending an Invitation
While looking to the future, the APRL would also like to extend an offer and invitation to other societies, clubs and philatelic organizations that would be interested in having their publications made more widely available on the APRL Digital site.
Patrons use the library during a break between classes at Summer Seminar.
Currently, many clubs send their recent publications in print and/or digitally. When we receive an issue in digital form only, we print a copy and shelve it in our onsite journal collection. We also save the digital version on our local server for staff-only in-house use. Currently we have digital copies for over 240 journal titles.
We invite societies to consider having their journals and newsletters added to the APRL Digital database. The goal of the APRL Digital project, and ultimately the mission of the APRL, is to provide access to as many philatelic resources as can reasonably be made available. Since the APRL already receives the aforementioned publications in digital form, the process of uploading these files to the APRL Digital platform becomes far less time-consuming.
Some may worry about making their publications freely available, since newsletters and journals are a benefit of membership. We propose that the greater exposure of many of these publications through the APRL Digital site will assist with member recruitment for all participating philatelic organizations. If there is still concern over the free availability of these publications we can offer what is known as a “moving wall” in which the most recent issues of the journal are available exclusively to members of the club.
Another incentive is that we can provide links, contact information, and membership information to the participating club on the APRL Digital website or the APRL webpage.
If your club or society is interested in having your publication as part of the APRL Digital collection, please contact the APRL at firstname.lastname@example.org. National Stamp Collecting Month is a great time to consider the potential for experiencing and sharing all the resources available at the APRL, and for thinking about contributing to the future of philatelic research and resources here at the APRL.
Editor's Note: The column was published in the October 2019 issue of the American Philatelist, available for members to read digitally. We will be posting the columns of APS executives on this website to provide updates about American Philatelic Society. Membership information is available through this link.
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