I was thinking about The Color Purple this week when I began my research at the Dauphin County Library System and found a certain item sent by Alice R. Eaton to the Board of Trustees. Within a stack of century-old documents that DCLS Director Richard Bowra fished from his office files, there is one with the date -- "12 May 1913" -- written in ink at the top. It stands out because it is handwritten, while from June 1913 onward, nearly all Eaton's communications were meticulously typed. I was delighted to realize that I was holding perhaps the very first artifact of what would be a 40-year career in Harrisburg. The fact that it is penned lends to the presumption that she was in the thick of hard, new work -- maybe no typewriter available, or perhaps she hadn't had time to get comfortable with Harrisburg's yet.
|First page of Alice R. Eaton's first report to the Harrisburg |
Public Library Board of Trustees, May 2013.
"1. Books in good condition ready for cataloguing and use.
2. Book recommended for binding.
3. Books reserved for use if needed but not of sufficient value to catalogue.
4. Books soiled and worn out which should be discarded."
Within her first 2 weeks on the job, she had sorted about 2,000 items.
It is clear that Eaton was highly capable of what we would today call "project management." Weeding the collection was prerequisite to cataloging and packing, since the fewer items that needed to be handled, the less expensive the entire process would be. Within her first days at work, Eaton also investigated haulers, the best option apparently the Harrisburg Transfer Company, which offered a 1-horse/1-man wagon at 50 cents an hour, or a 2-horse/1-man wagon at 60 cents an hour. In addition, Eaton arranged to borrow boxes from the State Printing Office, and requested bids from several local "junk dealers" to remove unwanted books and paper.
Given that Eaton was reporting on only 2 weeks of activity, her accomplishments seem astounding. In addition to breaking down the Locust Street location, she was also responsible for outfitting the new library on Front and Walnut with all the necessary equipment and supplies. She communicated with the Library Bureau, compiled an order list, and received an estimate. She also obtained information about the Library of Congress's card distribution program and recommended that her library receive LC's pre-printed cards as a way of sparing the catalogers' efforts. Eaton carefully considered the human resource needs as well. She asked the board to fund 2 "trained and expert" catalogers immediately. However, before additional assistants were hired, she advised them to determine policies for scheduling, vacations, illness, and "attendance at library institutes" (i.e., professional development).
|Alice R. Eaton, n.d., published in Anthony Arms, |
The Years Speak Volumes. Location of original unknown.