Reference Library

Dartmouth Heritage Museum Reference Library

By Elizabeth Carbonneau

Another DHM internship project I’ve been working on is the organization and cataloguing of the reference library. The DHM has been acquiring books and other reference materials for years and now possesses a thoroughly respectable research collection. Many volumes relate directly to the history of the immediate community, but there are a good deal of books that cover more broad local and heritage topics. The library has undergone several stages of organization, relocation, cataloguing, and revision; my job was to ensure the accessibility and usability of the current collection while maintaining thematic organization of the materials.

Previously, the reference library had been organized and the books labelled under the Dewey Decimal System. While sensible in a traditional library setting, this system simply did not make sense when considering how visitors and members of the public wished to use the DHM’s library. A simpler method of storage and organization would certainly be welcome. 

Before my arrival at the museum, the books had been re-evaluated for their relevance and those kept were sorted into new categories pertaining to the DHM’s mandate. These categories include such topics as Acadian history, Nova Scotian architecture, the Halifax Explosion, folklore, genealogy, Quakers, sports and leisure, and so on. I re-labeled the books according to their categories, then sorted them onto the newly-built library bookshelves.

The next step was revamping the old catalogue. The entire library was originally listed in a spreadsheet. This was fine for staff use, but meant there was basically no way for members of the public to look through our reference materials without physically being in the building. I needed to establish a new online catalogue that could be accessed remotely. I elected to use Libib, a free personal library management app. After much manual inputting of authors, titles, publishers, copyright dates, cover summaries, editors, page counts, ISBNs, and so on, I finally had a comprehensive and easy-to-use listing of the entire reference collection. Finally being able to publish it online was very satisfying.

The library is still reference only, meaning the books and materials cannot leave the museum; however, museum enthusiasts and researchers can now access and look through the entire searchable catalogue at HERE

Photos: Reference Library at Evergreen House