“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” - David McCullough
As this issue concerns the time before the use of postage stamps as prepayment for mail delivery, so, too, in the library we have begun looking to the past, specifically the history of the American Philatelic Society and the American Philatelic Research Library.
Initiated by Technical Services Manager Marian Mills, we have begun to look through our vast archives to identify and cull together those documents, photographs and other materials that provide context and content regarding the history of the two organizations.
Figure 1. A bay of shelves in the archives with APS and APRL history materials.
Figure 2. Boxes denoting specific eras of APS and APRL history.
Currently we have a series of three shelves in the archives area of the library dedicated to a loose collection of materials that document the history of the two organizations, but other materials throughout our archival collections are still to be discovered that will supplement this existing collection. The project is still in its initial stages as we determine the size and scope of the undertaking, but as the project develops we will make people aware of our progress and our discoveries.
Digitization status update
The first quarter of 2023 has seen continued growth of the Robert A. Mason Digital Library (RMDL), specifically in the area of journal issues and titles now available in the database.
Currently, the number of digital journal issues added to the RMDL as of the start of the Phase I Digitization Plan (March 1, 2022) is 3,486, bringing the total number of journal issues in the database to 6,241. In terms of journal titles in the database, that number also grew from 12 journal titles at the start of Phase I plan, to 37 currently.
Some of the more notable journal additions to the database include the Bulletin of the Polonus Philatelic Society, the Airpost Journal, El Quetzal, Tell, the British Caribbean Philatelic Journal, Post Boy, Menelik’s Journal, Cameo, Penny Post, Philateli-Graphics, the UK Log, the British West Indies Study Circle Bulletin, the Bounty and the Pitcairn Log.
As the number of titles in the database grew, so too did the use of the RMDL by patrons conducting their own research remotely. Currently, the RMDL has seen an average of 1,321 access events a month, which include users searching, downloading or printing items from the RMDL, a 59 percent increase in activity from 2021. Currently, the number of unique users each month averages 789, a roughly 70 percent increase from 2021’s monthly average.
Figure 3. Sample materials from the “Pre-1900” archives box.
Figure 4. The member sign-in book from 1898 APA Convention.
The challenge moving forward is to continue to prudently grow the database while educating users and potential users through video sessions and tutorials. In the coming months we will make available such learning opportunities in order to make the database more intuitive for the new and experienced end user.
One of the truly unique and rewarding aspects of working at the APRL is the fact that roughly 90 percent of the collection comes to us via donations. Through the generosity of members, publishers, authors, auction houses, clubs and societies and other individuals we are able to grow and maintain the collection in order to meet the research needs of our patrons.
Figure 5. Donations in storage awaiting processing.
Like any collection that is built through donations, though, we also have to be mindful of the storage space available for materials that find their way onto the library’s shelves, as well as those materials that arrive and need to be stored elsewhere onsite while they await processing.
With that in mind, we are in the initial stages of creating a donation policy for the library that will cover the types of materials that fit within our collection policy with the goal of enabling donors to have a better understanding of the process of donating materials.
We never want to discourage those who wish to give materials to the library, but we do want to educate donors and to make the best use of the space we have available while continuing to grow the collection. We hope to present an initial version of the policy sometime in the next few months. Stay tuned.