Quick & Clean Cataloging Project

With generous support from the Mellon Foundation, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has undertook a significant retrospective conversion and cataloging project that dramatically improved access to our extraordinary collections. At the beginning of the project in the summer of 2006, we had 70,000 uncataloged rare—and in some cases unique items—in our collections. We cataloged them all in just four years, and since then we have moved forward, with funding from the Frederick and Margaret L. Worden Endowment, and are continuing the important work of cataloging hitherto undercataloged rare books, and cataloging rare materials that are transferred to the RBML from other areas of the Library.

We are quite pleased to have brought the "hidden collections" at the University of Illinois Rare Book & Manuscript Library to light, making detailed bibliographic information about many previously inaccessible books available to students and scholars, not only at our own institution, but around the world.

Best of all, we have found a way to provide excellent bibliographic records for rare books, doing the work in-house and at reasonable cost. Our project catalogers come mainly from the UIUC Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and they receive careful training and valuable experience as part of the Quick & Clean Cataloging Project. We adhere to very high standards, yet also process the books expeditiously, making the project an incredibly economical one. Based on our statistics, we have determined that the cost of making these previously “hidden” items accessible through the project is less than $12.00 per title. Few libraries can claim to catalog even new acquisitions–much less rare books–at such low overhead.

With this website, we hope to share the knowledge and expertise we have gained through the course of this project so that other institutions might also begin to uncover and make accessible their own hidden treasures.