Correspondence Summer 2005

13 August 2005


To: Espy Library Committee

From: Deborah Bancroft


I base these comments on my personal observations (which were unfortunately limited to the holdings shelved in the “old” library) and on conversations with Lee Soper, Louise Espy, Ted Schuchat, and others over the weekend of July 29-31, 2005.


I had hoped to get a clear idea of who the users of the Espy Library would be, but I realize that that will depend ultimately on how the collection develops and how accessible it is. In the short term I think it can remain useful as a browsing library for writers and artists in residence and for friends of the foundation.


Thus the important work to be done now is to prepare for shelving all donated books that are inventoried. For example, the Dickson donation came with an inventory list, but I think Lee’s recent donation did not. I gather that some donors have their gifts appraised and that provides us with an inventory list. Ted mentioned that he did not need any acknowledgement for the 6 books he brought to the Annual Meeting and perhaps he had a similar attitude about the previous donations which I saw shelved for the most part in one location in the old library. Much of what Louise has donated is no doubt listed in the 1998 appraisal that Lee showed me and/or in the “Catalog” binder by the front door dated 2002. I don’t know if an inventory exists of the William Cole or Nancy Lloyd donations but I did find volumes in the old library with bookmarks indicating their origin. I propose we start with getting the Dickson books onto shelves in the new library and perhaps this is what has been undertaken already.  I regret that I did not examine what was already shelved there but I was engrossed in my conversation with Ted.


What is necessary before shelving any inventoried materials is to have Espy Foundation (or Espy Library) ownership indicated, by sticker or rubber stamp, and to have the donor acknowledged by bookplate or other notation. Books with paper covers should be jacketed and the necessary materials do come in various heights and widths. In my survey of the old library I didn’t get as far as the supply shelves so I don’t know if those jacketing materials have already been purchased, although I think it was a recommendation of the Library Committee according to a 2002 memo Lee showed me.  


I suggest we put off spine labels and the actual cataloging until January when I will have a better idea of what fits with the needs of the collection. There is, I understand, open source or low cost cataloging software available, and I am thinking we will choose this path. Toward that end, what are the capacities of the computer in the old library and of the internet connection?


I have spoken to a couple of librarians at Timberland about the rumored Library of Congress cataloging assistance, but not yet to the person who actually worked there for years, so the final answer is not yet in. I am not holding my breath however.


Aside from the question about users and the ultimate question about circulation versus library use only, I see the need for some guidelines about collection development: an acquisitions and deaccession policy, and a policy about what to archive. In the public library, there are often multiple copies of titles and unless there is high demand for a particular title, damaged copies are discarded without being replaced, up until the point of having only a single copy left. If the book is out of print, then the last copy, if deemed valuable to the collection, is placed in storage out of circulation. I saw that several titles in the old library were in poor condition and some were extremely fragile. Should we archive these along with some of the material from the Espy shelves? Preservation and archival technique is an area I am eager to explore, but the opportunity has not yet arisen at the Information School, at least not in distance mode. I’m thinking that it could be part of my learning experience next winter along with the actual cataloging.


In Anne’s email, she suggests the Library Committee might need address a range from “philosophical questions about the nature of our collections and how they will be used to very down-to-earth questions about fees and hours.” I concur! But it all starts with the users I think.  Currently, I gather, there are some reference calls that come in by phone, and some in-person users, mostly writers in residency. Is there online reference or inquiry now? If not, I would expect that to be a future component. In the short term there may be a need for staffing during the residencies, and otherwise, for hours by appointment. I don’t yet foresee a surge of researchers descending on Oysterville, but I am open to Polly’s vision of an international influx.


I sensed in my conversations with the trustees that there was a significant desire for order in the Espy Library, which is certainly a totally appropriate concern given the frustration of finding materials in the old library. Absent the choice of an actual classification system, i.e. Dewey or LOC or some other one perhaps better suited to a special collection, how exactly might the new materials be shelved prior to my wintertime adventure in cataloging? What determines the interim order? As I saw the more that I browsed the shelves of the old library, there was an underlying order, and I suspect it came from the sensibilities of the individual who did the actual work.  The only problem was that the system was not visible. So, whoever does the initial shelving in the new library should make his or her system apparent and post an obvious key to it. And, if the system involves subject analysis, it should best be one person’s decisions, not those of a crew.


I have the next 10 days off and am amenable to contracting a few days of work with the Foundation if that seems appropriate or necessary in order to unpack, label, jacket, and shelve books as I have above proposed, or other such work that you desire in the short term.  I am unlikely to have another window of availability until after fall quarter. I am scheduled to work in various departments at Timberland Regional Library’s Service Center from August 24th through September 12th, and soon afterwards, if not before, I’ll be needed there to sub for a 6 week maternity leave. My fall quarter at UW begins with a 3 day residency the end of September and I’m positive I won’t be able to get free after that.


I hope this information is helpful and I look forward to further discussions

Project Description

December 2005 Independent Study Contract

Nancy Gershenfeld, UW Faculty Sponsor


The Espy Library in Oysterville, Washington, is a project of the Espy Foundation. Its original mission was to house and preserve the library of writer and Oysterville native, Willard R. Espy. The Foundation grants writers’ and artists’ residencies four times a year and the Library has served primarily these residents. The collection has grown from an original endowment in 1999 of 700 volumes to several thousand. President of the Board of Trustees, Polly Friedlander, has requested my leadership in cataloging the expanded collection. I propose to spend 6-8 hours a week in winter quarter for 2 credits. I will get the project well underway this quarter with the expectation of completing the cataloging during a separate independent study in spring


Learning Objectives


  • Relate defined user needs to catalogue design for this special library
  • Make practical application of cataloging software
  • Investigate archival selection, description and preservation procedures

Books and Resources


Select articles and monographs from the Special Libraries Association member page “Starting and Managing an Information Center” as needed




  • Survey and examine items in collection
  • Study current user habits
  • In conjunction with Polly and others, develop shared understanding of the role of the Espy Library and the habits and needs of future users
  • Provide analysis of issues surrounding collection management, including archives, circulation, interlibrary loan, acquisitions, and deaccession

Outcomes and Deliverables


  • Initiate cataloging of collection using ResouceMate and/or other materials provided by Espy Foundation
  • Train volunteers as available


Evaluation/Assessment Method


  • Demonstration of concrete action through Report of Progress, Analyses and Recommendations for Espy Library
  • Evidence of research through annotated bibliography of works consulted