Saturday, November 18, 2023

Bound Periodicals in Open Stacks

The Magazines and Newspapers Center has been working for the past three years on an expansive project involving bound periodicals stored outside of the 5th floor of the library. We have reached significant milestones in this project, including cleaning and organizing tens of thousands of bound periodicals into Dewey decimal call number order in preparation for their relocation to a new storage facility. 

An exciting component of this project is that the most recent bound volume of any magazine we own will now be stored in the open stacks on the 5th floor of the library. This is called Open Stacks in the Library catalog but behind the scenes we call this Tier 0. For some of these titles, like The Atlantic, the most recent bound volume is for 2022; when we get the 2023 loose issues bound, the 2023 volume will replace the 2022 volume on the shelf. 

The library catalog record for The Atlantic indicates the volume containing the 2022 issues is located in the Open Stacks of the 5th floor.

For other titlesthe historical ones—the most recent volume on the shelf will be from some point in the past, and it will stay that way. An example of this is The Sketch, which ceased being published in 1958, so that last fat volume will remain on the open shelf indefinitely.

The library catalog record for The Sketch indicates the volume containing the 1958 issues is located in the Open Stacks of the 5th floor.

In this way, the shelving area where these bound volumes reside acts as an archive of magazine printing history, very visually indicating the life cycle of a print periodical's publication. In one glance it is possible to see the depth and breadth of SFPL's historical and current periodical holdings, and this expansive glance increases the chances of any one of us getting pulled into an historical world view as communicated by a particular magazine.

Photograph of a portion of the 5th floor Open Stacks periodical titles, including Special Libraries (1996), The New York Review of Books (2022), American Mercury (1979-1980), The Atlantic (2022), Century Magazine (1930), and Coronet (1977).

The Sketch is a great example of this. Starting publication in the late 19th century, this illustrated British social magazine coming out of London ran through 1958, at which point it ceased publication. To immerse oneself in the volume of the bound 1958 issues is to immerse oneself in a worldview still in the grips of British colonialism and one that is actively coping with letting go of hierarchical social practices like the debutante royal season, which was extinguished in 1958. The only people of color you will see in its pages are those from commonwealth countries like India, Singapore, and Nigeria and they will either be pretty and young or cultured artists in their own right. Yet pet animals like dogs star in regular features with witty captions, and a humor cartoon featuring a Siamese cat named Hei-Yu appears in every issue. In fact, the magazine is known for launching the marketing blitz of Bonzo the Dog (why not trinkets fashioned after Hei-Yu the cat?) and for launching the career of young mystery writer Agatha Christie, running almost 50 of her short stories from 1923-1924. 

Four images of the illustrated Siamese cat humor column "Hei-Yu" by Geoffrey Salter

There are regular entertainment columns featured in the magazine, and in one such piece from the January 15, 1958 issue we meet a very young Maggie Smith, now of course known as Dame Maggie Smith and still rocking the world of film and theater. Everyone got their start at some point, right, even if at the time they could only offer their love for olives as the most interesting thing about themselves.

No comments: