Just for Fun: Finding Love in the A.L.A. Archives and Conceptual Keyword Research Strategies

Although a significant amount of an archivist’s work is spent communicating with donors and researchers, in addition to arranging and conserving or preserving a continuous influx of documents, there is always time for a little fun too.

Archives are not exclusively repositories for records of historic value; but, they are also home to a great variety of documented human experience! Don’t believe us? Then read on about finding love in the A.L.A. Archives!

Using a Database Record Search Query

As we already know from early Research Strategies blog posts, initial archival inquiries can begin with navigating record series structures to identify record series. However, when searching for ideas, not people, places, or objects, it might not be helpful to search record series structures. So where else do we look?

In the same location where we have typed a record series number before, we can also perform a keyword search. The keyword search will scan the record series titles and the control card summaries for the search string entered.

When we type “Love”, while noticing that capitalization does not matter for now, we find that a few potential matches exist. Let’s take an admiring look at that line up.

At the top of the search results page, under the heading “Records and Manuscripts”, we see four record series:

Reviewing Database Record Search Query Results

Now we know that some readers are wondering what love might have to do with those record series rather than others. The answer is in the record series descriptions. Let’s take a quick survey of those findings.

In the control card summary of the Patricia G. Schuman Papers (Record Series 2/1/32), we see reference to a media campaign “Writers Who Love Libraries”. After clicking the “Download Box / Folder List” below the summary, we can view the a PDF of a typed list of document folders from the record series. After searching the folder titles, we find two potential matches: a Box 2 folder called “Writers Who Love Libraries,” 1991-93″ and a Box 6 folder called “Working @ Your Library: For Love or Money?, 2004”.

After retrieving Boxes 2 and 6 from our vault, we open the first box to see what we have. At the end of the box, we identify the folder from the list “Writers Who Love Libraries, 1991-1993”. From the title, we know that the documents should be dated from the years 1991 through 1993. What are those documents? In this case, there are a few letters of correspondence between Patricia Schuman and other A.L.A. colleagues about writers who might have expressed interested in joining the Writers Who Love Libraries program of the A.L.A. (Yes, just between friends here, we can have a laugh and consider these “love” letters too.)

In Box 6, we follow the same process to notice that the entire box is not folders of paper but it is audiovisual materials. Surprise! We re-check the box label, which reads “Audiovisual”. Then we check the folder list again, we scroll up, and we notice that the folder title list already read to us that this box was full of VHS tapes, DVDs, and audio cassettes too.

After returning to the box, we locate the VHS tape and we have another answer: there was a joint A.L.A. and Allied Professional Association program and we have a ten-minute video recording about it at the A.L.A. Archives too.

Could this be the “Love” which we were searching for? If not, then we can return to the database and we can see which other record series to meet up with.

Reviewing Database Search Query Results Again

In the Coordinating Committee on the Revision of Public Library Standards Correspondence (Record Series 29/38/5), we see the search string “Love” was found in the surname of Pauline J. Love who once directed the Publishing Department.

In the ARLIS Standards Committee File (1975, 1985) and Standards Committee II File (1987-95) (Record Series 85/51/4), we see the search string “Love” was found in the name of Susan Glover Godlewski who was a Standards Committee II co-chair.

Finally, in the Daniel W. Lester Library Postcard Collection (Record Series 97/1/72), we see the search string “Love” was found in the name of the nation of Slovenia.

Using a Database Record Search Query

When searching by record series and searching by keyword in database records fail us, then we can do a “deep search” which searches not database record titles and control card summaries but all of the folder title lists. First, let’s return to the database record keyword search box where we can repeat our query.

This time, instead of pressing the “Enter” key or pressing the “Search” button on the screen, we can submit our query after pressing the “Search PDF lists” link below the text box.

After entering our search keyword, “love” (which we stopped capitalizing the “l” because it did not matter anyway), we are presented with a long list of A.L.A. Archives record series PDF links with the search string “love” highlighted for our convenience.

As our search results inform us, in no less than 0.47 seconds, one can find at least twenty-eight instances of “love” in the folder titles of the A.L.A. Archives alone. Pretty impressive, right? But rather than pursue each encounter publicly like we did above, we leave the remainder of the search up to you.

Got Something to Donate to the Story So Far?

Surely, there is much more love to find in archives like ours. Have you found love in an archives yet? How about ours? Let us know about your loves. We and our readers would like to hear from you.