I’m currently working on a project with a retired librarian and the Edna St. Vincent Millay society to catalog Millay’s books, which have been in her library at her home Steepletop in Austerlitz, NY since her death in 1950. You can see a description of the project on Digital Humanities Commons at dhcommons.org/projects/edna-st-vincent-millay-personal-library-catalog, and you can see the preliminary result of our data entry from an existing inventory on Zotero at zotero.org/groups/steepletop_library. (Note that this hasn’t yet been checked against the actual books.)
Specifically, what I’d like is some advice from librarians, archivists, and (if any are around) preservation specialists and/or rare books folks. Suggestions for systems, procedures, readings, experts? It’s unusual for a personal library of someone renowned to remain together in this way for so long, and to me the collection seems like half a library and half an archive: the books have marginalia, of course, but I’m told they also have inclusions such as letters and photographs. Therefore it’s a little hard even to know whom to consult. So far the most helpful publication I’ve found about how to deal with personal libraries is this one: Nicholson, J. R. “Making Personal Libraries More Public: A Study of the Technical Processing of Personal Libraries in ARL Institutions.” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Cultural Heritage 11.2 (2010) : 106. Would also love to brainstorm some research questions that could be asked of such a catalog: I’ve got some already (how many books by women? etc.) but would be happy to hear more, since that could affect the final form of the catalog.
More broadly, of course, we could talk about other ways digital tools have been used with respect to personal libraries — possibilities and pitfalls. The Library of Congress did some neat stuff with visualizations of Thomas Jefferson’s library, and LibraryThing has a lovely project called Legacy Libraries where volunteers do data entry, sometimes from several different sources, to recreate personal libraries. Anyone else think this is, well, neat?