Library at Fort Union Trading Post

During my time at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site I have been working in the Fort Union Trading Post library.  Most National Park sites have a library full of books about the park or related subjects.  Tom and I usually spend a lot of time in a park’s library.

The door to the Fort Union Trading Post Library. With beaver and spider.

Fort Union has a small room packed with books, all carefully arranged.  About ten years ago, the National Park Service developed an online national library system.  Their goal is to have every book in every National Park site entered into the online national system.  In this way people could borrow books from one library or another or you could see where a resource is available.  Some parks have jumped at the opportunity and gotten all their books listed online.  Other parks have ignored the program.

The library at Fort Union Trading Post is a mix of the two.  When the program first started, the staff at Fort Union tried to get their books listed, but they had more books than they had time.  And, since then, new acquisitions have sometimes been entered and sometimes not.  I thought this could be an area where I could be helpful and learn a new skill that I can use at other National Park sites.

Card catalogue sits in the middle of the shelves

Ranger Lisa, our boss here at Fort Union Trading Post, requested that I get training as one of the Fort Union librarians.  That made me Librarian 3 at Fort Union.  Ranger Lisa is Librarian 1 and Librarian 2 is some other staff member who is no longer at Fort Union.  I had to take two training courses.  The first training course covered the basics of the system and how to find and enter books that have already been listed by other park sites.  The second training course taught me how to find books that aren’t in the NPS system but are in other federal library systems, such as the Library of Congress or the Smithsonian Library.

After passing the training and doing some trial runs under a supervisor, I was good to go.  I started at one corner of the library, looking for books that had not been previously entered.  When I found those books, I entered them into the NPS LIBRIS, as long as I could find some other place that had them.  I had to make sure I matched editions, years of publication, and cover types.  It is one of those jobs where you have to pay attention to the details.  Fortunately I am good with details.

Working in this area right now

About halfway through the library, I accidentally tried to enter a book that said it had been previously listed.  But it wasn’t listed under Fort Union Trading Post and it should have been.  I asked Lisa about it, and she said they had taken pictures of about 300 books and had someone outside Fort Union Trading Post enter them.  I picked out a couple of other books that said they had already been listed.  Turns out that none of them from the 300 had been listed.  Suddenly well over 2/3 of the books I had already been through needed to be entered.

I will not get all the books in the Fort Union Trading Post Library listed before Tom and I are done here.  In fact, now that we know so many of them that we thought were listed are not listed, I won’t even get through half of the books.  But I’ve done my best and moved the park ahead of where they were before.  Ranger Lisa says she is going to work on recruiting a local volunteer who can come in an work once a week or so to get the library listed.

Working with the NPS LIBRIS system has been interesting and gave me a chance to look at a lot of books that I would otherwise not have noticed.  Entering the books is a little like doing a jigsaw puzzle or solving a mystery.  Finding some of the titles has been quite a challenge.  For instance, we have several books by Owen Wister that weren’t listed in the NPS system and were too old for the Library of Congress System.  I did some research on Owen Wister and found out his most famous book was “The Virginian.”  I searched the University of Virginia system and found all the books I was looking for.

Books for Ranger Lisa to enter

There is a big stack of books that I have not been able to find in any system.  Most of them are specific to Fort Union Trading Post.  For example, we have several doctoral dissertations and masters theses on some aspect of Fort Union.  I was able to find the ones that were done at the University of Nebraska because the University of Nebraska is in the system.  The ones done at the University of Iowa, however, were a miss because the University of Iowa is not in the system.  When I can’t find the books at all, I stack them up and leave them for Librarian 1, Ranger Lisa.  Putting in books without a record anyplace requires Level 3 training, so it is beyond my pay grade.

Working with the Fort Union Trading Post Library has been an enjoyable thing to do one day a week.  I know I can use these skills at other parks where I work.  Fort Frederica doesn’t have any books entered in the system!