Well, the Eskimos live in the Arctic… but how do you find books and films about them in your library and online? Some librarian has to put the word in the right place for you so that it pops up when you look for it! This is the job of a cataloguer, and it is more difficult when the resources are older, perhaps obscure, not available online, or not even mentioned online.
The interdisciplinary course ‘Man: A Course of Study’ from the 60’s and 70’s is such material, exciting but laborious to file. If we wanted lots of people to give this programme, which once was all the rage in American schools, renewed attention, we had to develop an online presence for it: for the whole course and for every single item. (By the way, the creator, Professor Jerome S. Bruner, continues teaching at the age of 99.)
So my colleague, Nazlin Bhimani, designed a LibGuide – and I listed booklets and worksheets, photographs and film cartridges there as well as on the Library Catalogue. But how to describe them in detail?
First of all, we needed a reference to the whole scheme in each catalogue entry, so that you find it under ‘MACOS’ as well as ‘Man: A Course of Study’. Next, we inserted one for ‘Jerome S. Bruner’ (and ‘Bruner, Jerome S.’), the man who came up with the concept, although he did not produce all these things himself. Naturally, we also honoured our donor, ‘Mr. Barry D. Varley-Tipton’.
Then the contents of the teaching resources… The quest, to which Bruner invited even young children, is: What is human about human beings? The main method is observation and comparison of people and animals in various parts of the world. Well, some items are about ‘Eskimos’ and ‘Tools’ and others about ‘Africa’ and ‘Animals’, but what about ‘Social anthropology’ or ‘Animal behaviour’? Does a certain book focus on science or on social science or both, like this one called, in fact, Salmon? We also decided to allocate ‘Spiral curriculum’ and ‘Interdisciplinary curriculum’ to everything.
But how do you get to our information in the first place? Through the Catalogue of the Newsam Library? Through the LibGuides? Through a search engine? (A Google search for ‘macos, bruner’ leads you directly to our Library guides and our Library blog!) And how do we lead you from one point to another efficiently? We have to put the time in so that you can save time later!
Nazlin Bhimani, our Special Collections Librarian, who dealt with the bequest of materials, had established links from the LibGuide to more information on Bruner’s work and to the MACOS Online Archive, where you can find digitised copy to download. I added links from each item on Nazlin’s list to our catalogue entry… and links from there to the digitised version of the book or film, if there is one… and also back to the LibGuide. Now you can click round… and read on the family life of the African elephant from Shanghai… or watch the Eskimos building an igloo from Dubai! (Yes, I even mentioned the ‘igloo’ so that it comes up in a catalogue search.)
Finally, we are posting requests for missing items on the LibGuides. For example, we have got a fold-out leaflet for the classroom on Making a bow, and the MACOS Online Archive has digitised a matching one on Building a skin sled: we should swap them and extend our collections online and in the original print!