LIFO: Retrospective Conversion, Books, and a Group of Rocks

Top Row: Crinoids Fossil Sphere, Brown Labradorite Sphere, Lapis Lazuli Elephant Carving. Row 2: Three Maligano Jasper Cabochons (Two Oblong, One Teardrop). Row 3: Green Fluorite, Light Blue Sapphire Rough, Bi-Colored Beryl Specimen. Row 4: Unakite Specimen. Row 5: Gray Leaverite, Unakite Pendant, White Leaverite.


Hang with me here. There is a connection between books and rocks.

Back in the 1980’s, when I worked as a Library Tech at a college, we embarked on a project called “Retrospective Conversion” – basically getting the card catalog online. It was a slow grueling process that never seemed to end. Even our small college library had a rather extensive card catalog that needed to be converted electronically – you’d be amazed at the intricacy of a card catalog and the specificity of each card.

It turned out that I was very bad at keypunching OCLC data for the old books, easily bored and distracted beyond belief. The new acquisitions came with OCLC info online, but it still had to be tweaked to our library specs, so my boss decided to change my job: shelving (not so great, but at least I could disappear into the stacks and…look at books and get my boss off my back. I don’t play well in the sandbox, I’m afraid).

My second responsibility: it also turned out I was pretty good at repairing old books and “tipping” in Xeroxed pages in books with missing pages – I even went to a conference that specialized in the repair of library books. Yay! Tape and glue! My inner child slaked!

My third responsibility: checking in the new acquisitions. Ah, yes, BRAND NEW BOOKS. While the other techs dutifully keypunched OCLC info, I got to check in the new library acquisitions – my job was to provide the new books with the appropriate security tags and cover their dust jackets with plastic library covers. Actually, that part of the job was fun – after all, I got to check in the new books. Who can argue with that? I also worked on the discards, which I both loved and hated. (“Why are we getting rid of this book?” “Because it’s Copy 3, and the Library Director says so.”)

Okay, then. You can still find some discards around my house. By the way, the process of discarding does terrible injury to books.

It’s mean.

Back to Retrospective Conversion. Although I was no longer allowed near the Retrospective Conversion project (boo, hoo, poor me, LOL), I observed how it was done.

You might think that the techs would have converted the old books first, but that’s not the way it worked. It was basically a LIFO system: Last in, First On the Online Catalog.

It made sense: it was the new books that needed to be catalogued right away online. For the fusty old books, the card catalog would, for years, still suffice.

Eventually, of course, all the back books got converted, and the card catalog was dismantled, and the cards got used for scrap – waste nothing. I was long gone, by that time, so I have no memory of that Last Day –

I wonder, did Tech Services have a blowout party when that last old book was finally converted online?

Sigh. Occasionally, I STILL find old catalog cards around the house with notes by me or my partner on their reverse sides.

I get a lump in my throat.

Sacred artifacts of a bygone era.

It broke my heart to see the card catalog dismantled. I loved it! Online is nice, but there was something about digging through the card catalog and serendipity, but life moves on, and nothing stays the same. When my generation dies off, no one will think twice about The Card Catalog, just like we don’t lose sleep over Papyrus Scrolls – except as ancient historical documents to be protected in museums.

Anyway, as I decided to post photos of my rocks on Facebook and this blog, I took a lesson from the vintage Retrospective Conversion project: in this case, Last In, First On Facebook and My Blog. It makes sense to post more recent stuff first: memory is better – for some of my postings of old acquisitions, I will note “source and date unknown.” It’s better to post when information is fresh and specific. Also, the new specimens are right there in the open, not buried on a shelf or in a box (I hope to get to those oldies soon, but I need to stop acquiring new specimens first – yeah, yeah, I know. Is there a Rocks Anonymous group?).

This is why (lately) I have been posting rocks that are out in the open: bedroom and living room – I see them all the time, and they remind me that I should keep an inventory.

Okay, here is my first LIFO post – specimens acquired on September 24, 2022. Over the next few days, I will be posting each acquisition.

Retrospective Conversion in action.



About the items pictured on this site...

Unless otherwise specified, the rocks, minerals, specimens, jewelry, and gems on this site are NOT for sale.

For information only.

Snowflake Obsidian

Popular posts from this blog

You Know You’re a Rockhound When…

Metal: Star of David Trinket

Privacy & Copyright Notice