Learning from readers

Sometimes the beauty of our blog is that we can share with you items in our collections: new acquisitions, recently restored works, or long-held pieces worth a closer look. Sometimes its beauty is that it makes it easy to share information with you: details of a new finding aid, tips on using on of our digital resources, or insight into the workings of the Library. And sometimes, when we’re lucky, its beauty is that you, our readers, tell us things we don’t know. 

Thanks to some recent readers, the Folger has been able to update its records to include identification of the owners of two different armorial bindings. You’ll know from last week’s post that John Overholt successfully identified the owner of the arms I’d posted as the July crocodile. The images in Luna have now been updated to include George Granville Leveson-Gower as a former owner, and the Hamnet record is in the process of being updated to reflect that information as well. And another reader emailed to share that he linked an unidentified armorial binding in our digital image database to an owner, thanks to the British Armorial Database. And now, thanks to his work, that image specifies that the arms belong to William Prest, as does the corresponding record in Hamnet.

These are but the most recent examples of what is a growing way for information to be shared between librarians and readers. The Folger has long benefitted from the expertise of its readers, whose intensive and wide-ranging interactions with our collections have revealed new insights into individual items and approaches to studying them. This blog, like other rare book blogs, offers a way for a relatively small community of interested parties to find and learn from each other. There’s a lot of interest these days in crowd sourcing, in harnessing the energies of crowds to do work or create insights into a problem. The interactions I described above can hardly be construed as crowd sourcing in terms of numbers of participants–how many rare books catalogers make a crowd?–but it does suggest that the benefits of such conversations come from the richness of community rather than the numbers of speakers.

I speak on behalf of our catalogers, curators, and many other Folger staff when I say that I am looking forward to more conversations and more opportunities to learn from you. Please, if you have any observations or questions you want to share about our collections, leave a comment on our posts or drop me an email (collation@folger.edu), and I’ll make sure it gets to the appropriate parties.