Swimming with the fiches: A “lost” collection rediscovered


Photo by Engineering Librarian Angela Davis.

A dark corner of the Engineering Library houses four unmarked
cabinets of microfiche. For more than forty years, the only access provided to the collection was via a single collection-level record in the catalog for the “IAA Papers”—a
cryptic title that barely hinted at the extent (nearly 60,000 unique titles)
and richness (highly specialized aeronautics texts in more than 20 languages) of the collection.

Thanks to Engineering Librarian
Angela Davis and her colleagues, working in collaboration with the Bibload Working Group, the IAA Papers have now been cataloged. A “Begins With/Title” search in The CAT of “IAA Papers” will retrieve the 59,973 records.

The MARC records were created based on spreadsheets containing metadata gathered by Angela and then transformed into MARC by the Bibload Working Group.

The IAA Papers are a collection of full-text journal articles, conference papers, monographs and theses from mostly Soviet Bloc scientists and engineers originally published between 1966 and 1973. A majority of the papers are in English or Russian, but nearly two dozen other languages are also represented. The Libraries acquired the fiche in the late 1960s and early 1970s at considerable cost: adjusting for inflation, the fiche cost somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 in 2016 dollars!

One programmatic area of the Libraries’ current strategic plan, Discovery, Access, and Preservation, includes the goal to “describe and digitize unique collections.” The IAA Papers are almost certainly unique: no other library is known to hold this collection. The project to catalog them thus serves the second goal of the same programmatic area, to “improve access for future generations through stewardship of collections and resources.”

– submitted by Jeff Edmunds, Cataloging and Metadata Services Digital Access Team