Behind the Scenes at the Archives: Processing a Poster Series

A.L.A President (2013-14) Barbara Stripling’s Presidential Initiative Libraries Change Lives produced a great amount of posters from libraries across the country that have recently arrived at the A.L.A. Archives.

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

Receiving the Posters

Different items arrive on different schedules from the American Library Association to the A.L.A. Archives. In the case of the LCL posters, the materials arrived in six boxes of different sizes. Each box contained a “transmittal” which both identified the A.L.A. department that donated materials and described the use of the materials. (In this case, “posters” is a quick and simple description. In other cases, longer descriptions like “operational budgets reviewed by administrative body during my predecessor’s tenure and includes administrative correspondence from my predecessor’s predecessor” can be just as common.)

The Libraries Change Lives Posters, Standing Tall on Their First Day at Their New Home at A.L.A. Archives.

The Libraries Change Lives Posters, Standing Tall on Their First Day Home at A.L.A. Archives.

Identifying the Posters

These posters arrived in six boxes of four different sizes! That means that the posters were packaged differently and the posters were probably printed in different sizes. In fact, they were! Indeed, some boxes contained even smaller boxes with smaller posters inside. By the end of the day, we had seen over a dozen different variants of the posters. Initially, a series of templates were available for libraries; however, some enthusiastic libraries  and their communities made their own posters too.

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

Processing the Posters

Another great surprise to us was the many different ways that people signed and expressed their feelings or thoughts for libraries. Some people wrote personal contact information like emails; some people wrote their school or job title; some people wrote in black ink; some people wrote in multiple colors; some people wrote messages; and some people drew pictures. The few images that we shared online feature only a handful of the hundreds of posters–it is worth checking this out, when you are in town for a visit.

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

Housing the Posters

The posters came in many sizes and storage is quite tricky. One of the challenges of archival work is to determine how to store items. Consider mailing a package across the country or world: it is difficult to imagine the climate or shipping conditions of materials over most distances. For us, we consider space and time: we need to carefully arrange and store materials, so that everything can be accessed for at least ten or a hundred years from now. For these reasons, archival storage space is limited and solely items of enduring value are kept in archives.

At two meters tall, this poster must be folded twice to fit into a map case. (Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.)

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

Promoting the Posters

After housing the large posters in large folders in a map case drawer and small posters in a traditional archival box on our shelves, we had to promote the items. Another archival challenge is to consider how to inform the public about donations or new accessions into our record series. So, we discussed the information value of the posters and one observation was that the posters were meant to be looked at. Ultimately, we decided that a week’s worth of Twitter photos could show the materials and a blog post could tell how such large oversize items can be filed–which would be helpful for our researchers to know.

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

Libraries Change Lives Posters, Record Series 19/3/13.

All posters (and more) can be viewed at the A.L.A. Archives in Record Series 19/3/13.

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