Monday, September 26, 2011

Initial processing and labeling

Very quickly after you send your first batch of requests you will begin getting mail. You need a system for processing materials when they arrive. It may seem like a lot of steps at first, but it will soon become routine. You may find that it is helpful to have a checklist processed to ensure that everything gets done (see figure 5.1). The general routine is initial processing, assignment of a subject heading or classification, and then labeling. Occasionally notes are added during the labeling process.

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.
Summary recommendations
  • 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.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Whether to circulate supplementary materials or keep them for library use only will depend on your own situation. Some libraries circulate materials, some restrict materials, and some libraries have even established two files: one for circulation and one for reference. You will likely reach a compromise, circulating most items but restricting certain items.

For those items that seem invaluable for reference use, you may want to consider ordering a duplicate copy or making a copy (with copyright clearance). Mark the original “Reference” or “Library Use Only” and allow the second copy to circulate. Or, you could provide a copy machine near the vertical files so that patrons can copy the parts of the materials that they need rather than checking them out.

There are a variety of ways in which you can manage the circulation of supplementary materials. There is not one best solution. You should choose your system carefully, keeping in mind your patrons, your collection, and your own staff time.

Manual circulation Transaction form. Use a separate form for each item circulated. Items can be listed or you can simply indicate the total number. Forms can be duplicated on NCR (no carbon required) paper so that there is a duplicate copy for the transaction. One copy can be stapled to a manila envelope in which the items from the vertical file have been placed for circulation. The slip is removed from the envelope when items are returned, and envelopes can be reused. Slips for returned items are matched with checkout slips in the circulation file. Slips can be filed under the borrower’s name, under the subject, or under the due date. See figure 10.1.

Sign-out sheets. Libraries that allow patrons to check out materials themselves may simply use a dated sheet of paper fastened to a clipboard near the files or at the circulation desk. This honor system of borrowing simplifies checkout. If the patrons check things out themselves, make the system simple or it may defeat itself by encouraging users to bypass it entirely.

Ledger book. Maintain a ledger book in which circulation is recorded with items crossed off when they are returned. This is a variation of the sign-out sheet.

Master card. The master-card system is another option in which the librarian maintains a master card for each subject in the file. The cards are kept at the circulation desk and circulation is recorded on line after line of the card. One advantage in this system is that it gives a very clear picture of circulation, which is helpful in weeding and developing the collection.

Check-out card. Attach a card and pocket to each piece for circulation. This would work best for collections such as annual reports, college catalogs, scripts, or reports. The process increases your investment in time and materials but it allows greater control. Libraries that use this system argue that the time invested in providing cards and pockets is balanced by time saved when pamphlets are circulated. This system also lets your patrons know that you value the material enough to spend the time processing it. If labels for cards and pockets can be created by computer, this is a more appealing system than hand-typing cards and pockets. Color-coding of book cards can indicate special collections. Even with the use of volunteers, preparing check-out cards is a very labor-intensive job if you have a collection of a substantial size. Another option is to attach a check-out card to each folder or envelope of material. This means that you would circulate the entire folder to one user. This is not a popular approach.

Automated circulation Anything that has a bar code on it can be run through your automation system; however, a bar code number will be of little use unless it is attached to an item record. You can bar code a set of envelopes for circulation and indicate by the range of numbers that they are for vertical-file items (see figure 10.2). When an envelope is lost, you will not have specific identification, but you will know that one vertical-file item was lost. Many libraries do not replace vertical-file materials, so the only information needed is the charge for lost materials. That can be facilitated by setting a flat rate for vertical-file items.

Bar-code numbers can serve as accession numbers when you have an automated system. If you are using sequence (or accession numbers) as a system for arranging materials, then you can easily assign a range of bar-code numbers to your vertical file and attach the bar-code number to your individual record. The sequence system requires an index with individual record information since it is arranged in the order of acquisition and not by subject. This system works well for special libraries or for special collections of materials.

Circulation procedures You can provide some protection and security for items by using a “carrier envelope” for circulation. The use of a carrier is to isolate each loan group, protect the materials, and perhaps offer a place for recording pertinent circulation information. The most popular type of carrier is a large paper envelope. You can use old mailing envelopes or buy envelopes especially constructed for circulation, which are made of sturdy kraft paper with reinforced edges. Office suppliers also offer envelopes with string ties.

Stamp or print the name and address of the library on the envelope to ensure returns. This will help the patron identify the envelope as library materials and will also encourage return if the materials are lost by the patron.

When old envelopes are used, circulation data can be put directly on the envelope. Libraries that use special envelopes they have purchased often attach a date-due slip or printed form to the front of the envelope. Often a copy of the transaction slip is attached. In any case the date due should be clear to the patron. Information is to remind the patron of the number of items should also be included so that it is easy to see that all checkout materials are returned.

Some libraries do not use carriers. In that case the date due may be stamped on the back cover or on the inside of the back cover of the work. Although this can be quite messy, it does give an indication of the number of times an item has circulated.

In some libraries the entire file or box of materials may be checked out. Often there will be a card and pocket on which the number of items is noted. Patrons can then check out the entire collection of materials. Closed boxes or envelopes with flaps, ties, or rubber bands should be considered for situations with this type of circulation.

Regardless of your policies, your system, and your process for circulation, it is important to make it easy for your patrons to use the materials from your supplementary files.

Summary recommendations
• Establish circulation policies regarding: loan period and late or lost materials.
• Choose a simple circulation system which will be easy for the user and will provide you with the information you need.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Under ordering, several issues are discussed including means of placing the order, the message, mailing, payment, record-keeping, and alternatives. Ordering principles, policies, and procedures will be similar for all types of supplementary materials. Unique ordering problems for specific types of supplementary materials are addressed in the section dealing with that particular type of material.

How to place an order
There are several means of placing orders: postcards, computer-generated letters, photocopied form letters, individually written letters and cards, or telephone calls.

Postcards. These are appropriate for most routine request for free materials.

Form postcards. These are even better time-savers and can be tailored to special needs. For instance, if you are requesting college catalogs or information from local chambers of commerce, art galleries, or some other group of sources, you can tailor your requests to the group. See figure 4.1 for an example.


Supplementary Materials Coordinator
University of Alaska Anchorage Library
3211 Providence Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 99508
Please send one copy each of the following free materials for use in our library.
If there is a charge, please advise us before sending the material.

We appreciate your help in assisting us to build a collection of supplementary
materials to enrich our library collection.
Requested by Clara L. Sitter, Supplementary Materials Coordinator.

Fig. 4.1 Sample form postcard.

Form letters. These offer little advantage over form postcards and require more postage unless you are ordering a number of titles from that source. Figure 4.2 provides a sample form letter for occasions when they are appropriate.

3211 Providence Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 99508
SAN 300-2497

Dear Sponsor:
Please send one copy each of the following free materials for use in our library. If there is a charge, please advise us before sending the materials.

We appreciate your help in assisting us to build a collection of supplementary materials to enrich our library.
Clara L. Sitter
Supplementary Materials Coordinator
Personalized individual letters. These are generally not worth the extra time involved unless they can be computer generated. They are recommended in the following situations, however:
  • when special explanations are necessary or personalized attention is being requested,
  • if the source is an unusual one that is unaccustomed to handling requests for materials, or
  • if the supply of the item is limited, in which case a personal letter may have a slight advantage.
Telephone orders. These are an option since many sources have toll-free 800 telephone numbers. It will take much more time to locate the right person for the order, place the order, and provide mailing information than it will to address a card or an envelope. This is recommended only when you need something in a rush.
How to prepare a request
  1. Use your institution’s logo or letterhead.
  2. Keep it brief. Most requests will be handled by clerks who do not want to read a long letter.
  3. Designate a particular person, position, or collection to receive materials. If you do not want to use personal names, use File Librarian or Career Collection, which facilitates the sorting of mail.
  4. Include a mailing label for faster returns. (You can get peelable mailing labels for postcards, but be sure to include a notation that it is to be used for the return mailing.)
  5. Ask to be put on mailing lists for free materials if you are interested in other materials they publish.
  6. Use the readers’ service postcards in magazines.
  7. If materials are marked with restrictions such as “for teachers only,” be sure to explain that your library serves teachers.
  8. Ask for specific titles if there are particular ones you want. Word your request to include new titles on the same subject.
  9. Be clear about the topics you are interested in if you are making a subject request.
  10. Avoid vague requests such as “Send all of your publications.” Ask for a catalog or list of publications if you need more information.
How to facilitate mailing
  1. Check old addresses if you have not used them for some time. Organizations and businesses move frequently and the Postal Service will forward mail for only one year.
  2. Consider a bulk-mailing permit. Check with the Postal Service for details, because there are specific requirements. Your institution may have a permit that you could use for certain groups of requests, for example, to embassies.
  3. Use peelable return mailing labels on your postcards.
  4. Have envelopes printed with your address if you have many requests for self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASE).
How to simplify payment
Set up a deposit account for federal documents available from the U.S. Superintendent of Documents. Note that some government documents are available for sale only by the issuing agency.
Ask the publishers about blanket orders, annual subscriptions, or any other means of simplified billing. Remember that the cost of processing a purchase order increases the cost of the materials, especially in a large institution, where it can be as high as $75.
How to keep track of orders
Record-keeping for purchased materials will conform to the requirements dictated by the institution. In any case there should be some type of order card or form for each item ordered. Record-keeping for requests for free materials can vary widely. Actual practice ranges from keeping no records of requests to elaborate indexes by source and title. (Geraldine H. Gould and Ithmer Wolfe, How to Organize and Maintain the Library Picture/Pamphlet File (New York: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1968 out of print). The authors recommend a system of controlling requests based on a three-section file for (1) sources requested, (2) sources received, and (3) subject cards listing sources. Common sense will probably be your best guide. The following options may give you some ideas.
  1. Mark the entries when ordering from a list of free materials (for example, write on your list or photocopy pages you order from. This is an easy way to keep a record of requests).
  2. Record important requests (for example, for local history files).
  3. Use a tickler file if you request certain publications on a regular basis (for example, annual reports).
  4. Use a check-in card for regularly issued items (for example, college catalogs). You can easily record an order notation.
  5. Keep a source file if you order frequently from a source (for example, combine requests and order every two months).
  6. Use your computer if it simplifies record-keeping for you (for example, record the date of request, source, address, items, cost, date of receipt, and comments). Set up your computer file so you can sort by title (item), source, subject, or anything else that is important to you.
Remember that the more time you spend on each item, the more expensive it becomes.
Your ordering alternatives
An option in the ordering process is to use a pamphlet jobber, service, or agent (Library Reference Service, though not a pamphlet jobber in the true sense of the word, offers some shortcuts in making available sets of pamphlets and articles by compiling sets of files on various topics. Social Issues Resources Series (SIRS) offers similar packages in loose-leaf notebooks. The Gold Files is a series of education topics offered by Arizona Educational Information System on the campus of Arizona State University. Addresses, telephone numbers, and related information about these and other vendors are listed in the vendors section.) The advantages are simplified bookkeeping, reduction of correspondence, and a higher percentage of filled orders. Disadvantages are slower service and added expense. One example is Accents Publications Service, Inc., a distributor of U.S. government publications and association publications for trade and professional associations; scientific, technical, and scholarly societies; and public policy and intergovernmental organizations. They also provide document retrieval service for reports and journal articles and supply scientific, technical, and scholarly books – all this for a fee, of course.
Supplementary materials are not ordered in the same way that book and periodical orders are handled. There are a number of options related to ordering supplementary materials. Each librarian will choose the means that works best for the situation.
Summary recommendations
  • Keep the ordering process simple.
  • Order groups of materials when appropriate.
Sitter, Clara L. The vertical file and its alternative: a handbook. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1992.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Introduction to supplementary materials

Vertical files and supplementary collections vary a great deal from library to library. Some libraries give full processing and integrated shelving to everything in their collection while others may have the same kinds of materials in cabinet after cabinet of vertical files. There are few rules for vertical files, so there is a lot of room to “do it your way.” Individual libraries determine what kinds of materials go into their supplementary collections and how the materials will be organized and managed.
The description above leads us to assume that it is the way we handle supplementary materials that determines whether a particular item is destined for the vertical file or “vertical-file treatment”. If you treat a resource like vertical-file material, it will become vertical-file material. This book describes vertical files and supplementary materials and suggests some of the alternatives for their acquisition, organization, and management.

What are vertical files and why have them?
For many years librarians thought of vertical files as collections of pamphlets, clippings, pictures, and maps. Early terms related to pamphlet and leaflet information include broadside, chapbook, festschrift, handbill, newsbook, and small press publication. Newer terms given to elements of this broad range of miscellaneous printing include underground publications, alternative publications, curiosa, and gray literature. The ALA (American Library Association) Glossary of Library and Information Science defines vertical file as:
vertical file 1. A collection of materials such as pamphlets, clippings, and pictures, which, because of their shape and often their ephemeral nature, are filed in drawers for easy reference.
2. A case of drawers in which materials may be filed vertically.
The collections of these materials in the past have been called ephemera and fugitive. Neither quite describes the subject of this book. Ephemera (materials of transitory interest) is not quite right because some items we discuss will be of lasting interest. Fugitive (hard to find) is another misnomer because most materials are very easy to locate. A more modern term, information files (files of data), is broader in scope but implies that the material is print or graphic suggests that the material will be in files. Our discussions include materials that are not limited to vertical file cabinets or limited by format. Supplementary materials (complementary to the main collection) is a term broad enough to include all kinds of materials and carries no implication of limits. Supplementary materials is the best term to describe the subject of the book.

Descriptive terms that indicate the subject or type of material in special collections of supplementary materials include clippings file, picture pamphlet file, or report file. You may call one group of materials your transcountry file if it is limited by geography. You may call another biographical about people; another might be career or vocational; another could be maps or simply pamphlet file. You will call your materials the name that describes them for your library. You may even call your general collection vertical file.

What are the characteristics of vertical-file materials or supplementary resources?
The characteristics we associate with vertical-file materials relate to the format, subject, purpose, approach, source, availability, cost, and shelves. Most supplementary materials will have one or more of the following characteristics:
  • fit in the vertical-file cabinet
  • offer unique information
  • focus on a small segment of knowledge
  • provide current information
  • have a short shelf life
  • are written in simple, concise language
  • are presented in an appealing format
  • are available from sources other than your usual vendor
  • are free or inexpensive.
Format. Certain formats are easily managed as vertical-file material leaflets, clippings, reprints, and pictures are examples of formats that are probably best handled in files. General policies about the disposition of certain formats can be established to simplify the decision-making when materials are received.

Size. Most materials for vertical files will be concise. A simplification of the issue of size is to think of items for the vertical file as those things that might get lost on the shelf if they were catalogued. Most pamphlets will be 50 pages or less, but you may want to include longer items in the file such as reports, catalogs, or directories, which may be 100 pages or more. Your file cabinets will fill quickly if you include many book-length items. Items such as maps, pictures, or posters should fit into the file flat or folded in a hanging folder, file, or envelope. Alternative housing should be considered for larger items.

Subject. Materials on specific or unusual topics are often easier to find in the vertical file than on the shelf if they are organized alphabetically by subject. The patron can often bypass the index and go directly to the files.

Shelf life. Many of the items in the vertical file are important for only a brief time. If the relevance for your collection is a year or less, then the vertical may be a good way to handle the information. Examples include current class schedules for your local university or college, election materials, and reviews of a traveling production coming to your community.

Source. Much of the vertical-file information will be acquired from sources other than standard publishers or book and periodicals jobbers. Examples include associations, commercial companies, special-interest groups, and governments or government agencies. A policy may be established to house all materials from special groups as vertical-file materials.

Purpose. Ask yourself why the author or publisher produced the material. Information received from associations, special-interest groups, businesses, and government agencies often reflects the perspective or bias of the group. Much of the material provides an excellent resource, but you may choose to keep it in a temporary status rather than adding it to your permanent collection.

Availability. Much of the free and inexpensive material available in the vertical file is also available to the public for the asking. Adding the source and cost to items in your files will be an aid to users who want to acquire materials for themshelves.

Cost. Many of the items in the vertical file are available free or at very little cost. Unless otherwise noted, inexpensive will refer to items that are $10 or less. Discussions about audiovisual items such as computer programs, audiotapes, films, slides, and videotapes for supplementary collections will be limited to include only materials that are free or inexpensive. Current prices are given in this work so that the reader will have a general idea of the cost, but most items are subject to price increases. (Nothing is really free. Although many supplementary materials are free or inexpensive, you will invest time, supplies, and space. It is important to keep in mind these hidden costs when you select materials.)

Treatment. The quick-and-easy treatment and the temporary status of materials are probably the most distinguishing characteristics of items for the vertical file. Almost any kind of material in your library can be given the vertical-file treatment. Vertical-file and supplementary materials will have several of these characteristics but not necessarily all of them. The characteristics discussed relate to vertical-file materials in general, but other characteristics may be present in special kinds of supplementary materials.

What kinds of things go in a vertical file?
Vertical files contain many of the supplementary materials found in libraries. In the broadest sense these supplementary resources include everything that is not in the regular collection. Materials such as maps, government documents, and reports that are supplementary in one library may be in the main collection of another library. Historically, supplementary materials were either print or graphic, but there are now a growing number of miscellaneous items that are neither. People learn in many different ways, so librarians should be open minded in their consideration of the kinds of items they consider for addition to the collection.

Print. Pamphlets and clippings are the most frequently collected print materials, but vertical files may also include such things as annual reports, association flyers, bibliographies, biographical sketches, bookmarks, bulletins, career guides, college catalogs, comic books, court decisions, curriculum guides, election materials, exercises, exhibit catalogs, flyers, forms, government documents, guides, handouts, how-to guides, instructions, interviews, lesson plans, librettos, local history, magazine samples, mail-order catalogs, manuals, newsletters, notebook insert guides, photocopies, playbills, programs, publisher catalogs, recipes, reports, reprints, reviews, schedules, scripts, sheet music, speeches, study guides, telephone books, tests, trade catalogs, transcripts, translations, and travel brochures.

Graphics. Maps and pictures top the list of graphic materials, but other graphic materials for consideration include art reproductions, book jackets, calendars, cards, cartoons, drawings, charts, clip art, greeting cards, patterns, photographs, placemats, portraits, postcards, posters, reproductions, and time lines.

Miscellaneous. Some miscellaneous supplementary materials (audio, visual, or realia) you may find in your library include audiotapes, records and discs, book-talks, bulletin-board materials, busts, buttons, computer programs, conversion wheels, cut-outs, decorations, films, flags, flash cards, games, holiday items, interviews, lettering guides, masks, microfiche, miniature books, models, money, music, oral history, pins, puzzles, puppets, sculpture, projection slides, transparencies, and videotapes. Some of these will be a part of the regular collection in many libraries, but all of them can be considered for a vertical file or supplementary collection in other libraries.

When do you have a special library?
Decisions to create special collections are very individual. Most libraries have a few special collections. Various parts of the supplementary materials of a library can be pulled together (apart from the rest of the collection) to form a special collection. What qualifies for a special collection? Decisions are often based on format or subject, with consideration for the size of the special collection.

Format. Special collections based on format will include materials of the same format but on a variety of subjects. For example, a picture file would probably have pictures on all subjects. Traditionally, special collections of supplementary materials have included clippings, maps, pamphlets, and pictures along with perhaps government documents and audiovisual materials. All of these are “special” because of their format. Some special formats may be a part of the regular collection in some libraries and supplementary in others.

The combination of format and quantity will often determine whether you establish a special collection of materials. Large collections of materials such as maps, catalogs, newsletters. scripts, sheet music, or reports may be easier to find or for staff to manage if they are separated from the rest of the supplementary materials.

Subject. Special collections may also be special because of the topic. Special collections based on subject will likely include a variety of formats. For example, a music collection might contain biographical information about musicians, portraits, interviews, lesson plans, librettos, posters, sheet music, scripts, timelines, and study guides.

There is, of course, a very wide range of subjects that could be collected. Teachers will have special collections of materials based on the subjects they teach, associations or clubs may have special collections based on the interests of the members, academic libraries may have special collections based on curriculum emphasis, and public libraries will have special collections based on the needs of their users. Topics for general subject collections include art, geography, business, college, career, drama, education, holiday, health, language, literature, music, science, social studies, travel/countries.

Quantity. A special collection will be less likely to be overlooked if it is of substantial size. There is no specific formula for a special collection based on numbers, but it you have a collection of several hundred items or the equivalent of several file cabinet drawers, you may want to consider a special collection. There is some risk of confusing your users by creating too many special collections, but advantages of special collections are that they can be placed near related materials and can be promoted separately.

Who should collect and use supplementary resources?
Almost all librarians and teachers benefit from collecting and using supplementary materials of one kind or another. Small school and public libraries collect supplementary materials to fill gaps when they cannot buy more expensive materials. Large libraries collect supplementary materials because they want to offer both breadth and depth in the subject areas they cover. Librarians and teachers develop personal and classroom collections to enhance their work with individuals and groups.

This book was written for the small public or school library with little or no budget for supplementary materials. Throughout are suggestions for larger public and academic libraries, which, it is assumed, have a budget for supplementary materials.

Small public libraries. Small public libraries or those with practically no budget for supplementary materials can develop a vertical-file collection. There is a great deal of free material available for the asking. Libraries who have no restraints except for postage and who have time or help can build sizeable collections on a shoestring. This book is for you.

Examples of some items for consideration include selected annual reports, art reproductions, bibliographies, biographical sketches, calendars, charts, clippings, court cases, documents, election materials, government documents, guides, handouts, instructions, interviews, mail-order catalogs, manuals, maps, newsletters, pamphlets, pictures, postcards, reports, reprints, speeches, time lines, and travel brochures.

School libraries. School libraries probably vary as much as public libraries in the range of support in staff and funding. Regardless of the size of the school or the size of the budget, there never seems to be enough time or money. With a budget of a few hundred dollars and volunteer help, many schools have put together fine vertical-file collections.

Examples of items for consideration by school libraries include art reproductions, bibliographies, calendars, cartoons, charts, clippings, college catalogs, court cases, documents, flash cards, games, guides, handouts, instructions, interviews, lettering guides, maps, pamphlets, photographs, pictures, portraits, postcards, posters, puzzles, reports, reprints, schedules, scripts, slides, speeches, study guides, tests, time lines, and travel or country brochures.

Larger public libraries. Larger public libraries will probably make use of a number of free resources along with some purchased items in developing collections for travel, local history, newsletters, and pamphlets. Friends of libraries groups and volunteers can be a great help in the acquisition, organization, and management of vertical files and special collections in their public libraries. Funding for vertical-file collections in public libraries varies. A vertical-file budget of, say, $500 to $1,000 could be used to purchase some individual items, and more expensive collections could be funded through the materials-collection budget.

College and university libraries. College and university libraries may focus more on purchased items and less on free materials. Examples of purchased collections would be annual reports, art reproduction, college catalogs, charts, pamphlet collection, PhoneFiche, and time lines. … Special collections in college and university libraries may include materials such as federal and state government documents, maps, and test files. University libraries that cover a broad range of subjects are more likely to need complete sets of materials than are school and public libraries that may have more narrowly defined collections. Academic libraries may budget $1,000 or more for materials. Materials purchased as expensive sets, such as college catalogs, annual reports, or PhoneFiche, are considered a part of the serial or book collection.

Special libraries. Special libraries vary so widely in purpose, scope, and funding that it is difficult to make any comments that will be helpful to special libraries as a group. It is expected that librarians working with vertical files in special libraries will benefit from the general suggestions in part 1 of this work. There are few references to specific materials for special libraries.

Teacher or classroom collection. Teacher or classroom collections are included because a number of specific kinds of supplementary materials discussed will be collected by the classroom teacher for personal or classroom files. It is assumed that in most cases budgeted funds for the development of collections will go to the school library for common collections that can be used by all teachers in the school and that most teachers will be interested in free and inexpensive materials or materials they can develop themselves. Teachers who spend their own time and resources to develop personal collections of materials to enhance their teaching will find suggestions in this book. Personal files can be managed differently than collections used by a number of people.

Possible materials include items such as book-talks, bulletin-board materials, buttons, cartoons, charts, clip art, clippings, computer programs, felt pictures, flash cards, games, guides, guides, handouts, holiday materials, lesson plans, magazine samples, maps, masks, music (recorded or sheet music), photographs, pictures, portraits, postcards, posters, puppets, puzzles, reprints, slides, study guides, tests, time lines, and transparencies. Other possibilities include relevant bibliographies, art reproduction, biographical sketches, career profiles, court cases, flags, foreign money, and wheels and other manipulatives.

Librarian’s files. The librarian’s files are included as a separate category because there are a number of materials the librarian may prefer to keep for personal use. Examples include bibliographies, book jackets, bookmarks, book-talks, bulletin-board materials, buttons, clip art, felt pictures, forms, greeting cards, guides, handouts, magazine samples, pathfinders, and puppets.

All collections will benefit from adding information that is not available from other sources or that offers a different approach. Each collection will reflect the individual needs of that particular library or classroom as well as the amount of time and money available to develop the collection.

What do you need to build a collection?
Building a collection of supplementary materials is an area of high payoff for the dollars invested, but there is more than money involved. Commitment is essential. If you are in a small library, a school library, or a classroom setting, you must be committed to the importance of supplementary materials. If you are in a large library system, it is also critical to have the support of the library administration for continuing development. In addition to commitment you need the following:
  • Budgeted funds for some purchases and a few supplies ($500 to $1,000 per year is a moderate allocation for a small collection). Additional money is required if you need to buy file cabinets or a large number of supplies. Many libraries get supplies from their general supplies, run the postage through the office expense, buy resources from petty cash, or order only “free” materials. Try to keep things simple and be aware of the costs.
  • Space to house the materials and to provide for library use. You need tables and chairs near your materials, and it is useful to patrons to have a photocopy machine located near the vertical file.
  • Time to supervise the acquisition, processing, and management of the materials. Ideally, coordination will be by one staff person, but volunteers or rotating help can be used for some tasks.
How do you get started?
If you are really “tuned in” to supplementary materials, you will find them everywhere. They will be in the doctor’s office, at the grocery store, the drug-store, the copy center, even as placemats in restaurants where you eat. They will come to you from organizations, periodicals, newspapers, and many other unexpected sources. Many of these finds will be excellent additions to your collection. There are several techniques and tools for actively building your supplementary collections. Save found items that you think will be useful to your users for later reference. Begin with the following:
  1. Clip the local newspaper.
  2. Order pamphlets out of magazines you read.
  3. Canvas your city for materials. Sources in many cities include banks, car dealers, the chamber of commerce, city hall, the local health department, credit unions, dentists and doctors, health associations (e.g. American Cancer Society), hospitals, organizations (e.g. American Red Cross), political party headquarters, travel agencies, visitor centers, fairs, and special shows.
  4. Begin an active, systematic approach to developing your collection by following the suggestions in this book.
Part 1, “The Acquisition, Processing, and Management of Materials,” discusses 10 steps in the life of supplementary materials. The topics addressed include acquisition – locating sources, selection, and ordering; processing – initial processing, organization, preservation and protection, and housing; and management – promotion, circulation, and weeding.

Part 2, “Supplementary Materials and Special Collections,” discusses the different types of supplementary materials and special collections. Most of the materials discussed are for information files, but also included is a section on other free and inexpensive materials and one for items for the personal files of librarians and teachers. Specific information about acquisition, processing, and management, indicating special problems and alternatives, is given for each type of material. Part 2 also discusses special collections (maps, career and local history materials, etc.) based on format and subject.

Additional information in the book includes an appendix of vendors, with addresses and resources for vertical-file projects; a glossary of terms related to working with supplementary materials; a bibliography with some annotations; and an index with subject, author, and title entries.

This book is a starting point if you are a volunteer or a library staff member just beginning a vertical file. For the experienced librarian working with an established collection, this book reviews basic principles, offers ideas for options in developing and managing collections, and makes suggestions for pursuing additional materials.

Your materials will be as valuable as you make them. Vertical-file and supplementary materials collections can be an excellent resource in even the smallest, most underfunded libraries. These materials have the potential to be the most unique and exciting feature distinguishing your collection from that of other libraries.

Sitter, Clara L. The vertical file and its alternative: a handbook. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1992.