Following is a step-by-step guide to initial processing:
- Check to be sure that the name and address of the issuing body on the mailing envelope is repeated on the publication. Add the information by hand before you discard the envelope or packaging. Names and addresses are important for several reasons: to determine whether the information is authoritative, to alert the user to any slant or bias, to provide full bibliographic information, to provide information for ordering new editions for the library, and to provide information to the patron who might want to write for a personal copy.
- Mark the cost or free status of material. This information is useful to the librarian deciding on replacement or to the patron who wants to order a personal copy. If you don’t keep acquisition records, this may be your only record of cost. Again, you should select a standard location. For pamphlets a recommended place is the top inner corner of the first inside page. You can use the same location for the source location when it needs to be recorded. (If you bar code vertical-file items, this may be the place to add it to your processing. Bar codes are labels containing machine-readable data (generally representing a number) in the form of vertical bars. Bar codes are used in automated circulation systems. The use of bar codes for vertical-file materials will be discussed in the section on organization by sequence/accession and also in the section on circulation.)
- Stamp each location with the following: date of receipt, library name and address, and name of the file or special collection. It is important to write or stamp the date of receipt on all items, particularly if there is no date on the publication. The date of receipt will give an indication of the period when the item was being distributed and will indicate that the publication was the newest available at the time of receipt. This practice will also aid patrons who are not skilled at hunting for the publisher’s date, which is often concealed in a code. In addition, stamping the date of receipt on items will speed the process of weeding. Use a date stamp on which the month, day, and year can be changed. Including the library name and address is important because people move frequently, and library materials may get returned if the patron has the address available. As indicated above, the ownership stamp and the dater can be combined into one stamp. Adding the name of the file or special collection as part of your stamp will facilitate refiling and avoid confusion. Date stamps, or “daters,” that incorporate all of these items are available. Rubber-stamp firms are located in most cities, or stamps can be ordered from library supply catalogs.
- Stamp each piece of material in the same location. Determine an alternate place to stamp if the cover is too dark or too glossy to accept stamping.
- Rough sort materials by setting up boxes according to eventual disposition. Examples include college catalogs, pamphlets, maps, or pictures.
- Decide where the material will be placed in the collection based on your policy decisions and according to your organization system. Once that is done you are ready to continue the processing with the labeling of the item.
Labeling is a very important step in the processing of supplementary materials. Labeling is the step in processing that marks the material with the identifying information for shelving and circulation. Labeling may or may not include the use of a separate label affixed to the item. The speed in finding and filing materials is directly related to the manner in which they are marked. The problems and opinions related to specific kinds of materials are discussed in later sections. The recommendations that follow are for the general vertical-file materials.
Make headings uniformly placed and instantly recognizable. Do not fall into the trap of underlining words in the cover titles of pamphlets or headlines of clippings. The time saved will be lost many times over in the filing process. If materials are to be filed upright in a box, the logical place for the heading is the upper left-hand corner. If the item is to be filed in a file folder, you can label it near the closed edge of the spine. Pamphlets should be filed so that the spine or closed edge is at the top. This practice of filing keeps small items from being slipped between the pages and makes it easier to distinguish where one pamphlet ends and the next one begins.
Hand print headings or use labels that are hand printed, typewritten, or computer printed. Many libraries print headings directly on the item. If you are hand printing, use a marking pen that is bold but fine enough to form clear letters in the space available (see figure 5.2). Try different points until you find one that pleases you. Some libraries use red ink for more permanent items and green ink for those with a shorter shelf life.
Typewritten or computer-printed labels are always uniform and look very nice, but the extra time required to make labels and match them with material is something you will want to consider carefully.
Use a pen if you hand print labels. The argument for using a pencil is that headings for supplementary resources change. The need for occasional does not justify a pencil. Penciled headings are difficult to read, they fade and smudge, and they are messy looking.
Consider color-coding. You can facilitate access to certain resources and prevent mistakes in filing by color-coding. The use of colored labels is the most effective way to color-code items. Labels are available in solid colors or with colored bands. Colored ink can be used for coding but it is not as obvious as the color used in labels. Colored dots are another option for coding but are more likely to peel off. One problem with color-coding is that the system breaks down if you run out of the right color label or pen and begin to substitute.
Use a stamp to differentiate groups. An example would be “TR AVE L” stamped just above the heading.
Consider the adhesive for your label. You have many choices of adhesives for temporary or permanent labels. Labels are available in gummed, pressure sensitive, and now in Post-it materials. They can be found in a variety of sizes and shapes and in a rainbow of colors.
Supply information for the circulation of materials. For example, if there are multiple copies of a publication, there should be a notation of the copy number. If an accession number or bar code is used, it becomes a part of the labeling process if it was not applied before. If the material is for reference only, the reference sticker or stamp Not for Circulation or For Use in the Library Only should be used.
Notes to files
Another issue that comes up in the discussion of labeling is adding notes. One note you may want to consider is for older materials that you have determined are important to keep in your file: NOTE: This item is more than five years old, but it is still useful. It is better to avoid labeling materials if possible, but there may be cases where you feel that an explanation is needed regarding particular points of view. You can make a note in your signage or in your handouts reminding users that you have attempted to include different points of view, but you may also want to add a note to a particular file folder or envelope: NOTE: There are differing points of view about this subject. The library has attempted to represent some of them in the material in this folder. Computer labels can be generated for the two notes above. If a computer is not available, you can also use a copy machine to photocopy labels. Print enough to have on hand when they are needed.
Once a routine is established, the processing of materials can be done quickly. Students and volunteers can easily handle the initial processing and labeling. Ideally, the person who works with the files should be the one to assign subject headings or classification numbers to the items.
- Put name and address of the source and the cost of each item.
- Stamp each item with the name and address of the library, date received, and name of the file or special collection.
Sitter, Clara L. The Vertical file and its alternative: a handbook. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1992. Chapter 5, pp. 32-36.