Sonoma County Wine Library

It has been quite a long time since I posted anything, but I have a very good excuse (I think).  I finished my MLIS!  It’s hard to believe that I finally finished my three years and a few months journey through grad school.  It was an exhausting fall and holiday season and I needed some time away from the computer to recuperate and relax!

One thing I did to celebrate was to go wine tasting for the day with the bf.  Coincidentally, BayNet was hosting a tour of the Sonoma County Wine Library that same day.  Even luckier for me, the bf was into supporting my nerdiness and happily went on the tour with me.

The tour was back in October, so forgive the lateness of this post.  Like I said, I’ve been avoiding the computer for a couple of months.  Anyway, it was a good turnout and the Wine Librarian (how do I get that title?!?), Jon Haupt, pulled out some fun items to share with the group.

The library is located inside the Healdsburg branch of the Sonoma County Library system.


They have about 6,000 items in the collection, including 1,000 rare books, ephemera, periodicals, and wine-related clippings.  Topics include agriculture, cooking, viticulture, food, cheese, beer and liquor, regions, the wine business, and winemaking.


They use the Koha catalog system for their OPAC.  The collection is cataloged using the Dewey Decimal System.


The periodicals area, with approximately 60 different magazine subscriptions



The oldest book in the collection, published 1518 (but much older than that), the Libri de re rustica by Marcus Porcius Cato.  (See the digitized version at the Internet Archive!)


This was a beautiful and enormous book from 1900 containing illustrations of French grapes.  (I didn’t catch the name of it, sorry, so please let me know if you know the title.)


This is a fun pop up book – Hugh Johnson’s Pop Up Wine BookPublished in 1989.


Another rare book was one published in Spain in 1584 the Libro de agricultura: que tracta de la labranca y crianca, y de muchas otras particularidades y prouechos del campo, by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera.  The book is on winemaking, which he said they might have used for reference in the California missions.  See the digitized version at the Internet Archive.)


This is the rare books and clippings area.


More rare books


Subject files.  The clippings are in a database, but new items are not currently being added to the existing database.

Like many other special libraries, the Wine Library did not have a collection development policy when the librarian began, and they are out of space for the physical collection. He has not had time to do any deaccessioning. The library also does not have a strategic plan, although he would like to create one.

I thought these were fun..

And then there is the ephemera!  I totally want this game.



And a scrapbook on the region


An interesting special collection at the library is of wine labels.


Some of the food and cooking titles


Finally, I passed by the famous seed library inside the main Healdsburg branch


It is a great special library and I’m so glad I had the chance to see it.  It’s open to the public, and I recommend you visit if you can!


Sutro Library tour

A little while back, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Sutro Library in San Francisco.  This is one of my most favoritest libraries evah, so I jumped at the chance to get a behind the scenes look.  The library is part of the California State Library system and has one of the largest genealogy collections west of Salt Lake City, which is how I discovered it.  However, it wasn’t until more recently that I learned of all the amazing other things hidden away in their collection.  I thought they had a lot of goodies in the stacks, but there were even more in the archives.

sutro library sign

I began visiting the library somewhere around 10 years ago to try to find the birth family of my grandfather, who gave him up for adoption with no info other than his parents’ names.  Lo and behold, I broke the “brick wall” of this part of the family tree in a dark room of the library filled with microfilm machines and drawers full of census records.  Ever since then, I’ve loved this place.  Their resources are amazing.  I’ve even found my mother in a Honolulu telephone book.

sutro library books

The library moved in 2012 to a new space on the San Francisco State University campus.  Since that was the year I also began the MLIS program, I never had the chance to visit.  I was happy to discover it was worth the wait.  The space is of course much larger, but also brighter (no windows in the last place that I can remember) and felt more welcoming.

sutro library study area

The Sutro Library collections come from Adolph Sutro, a former San Francisco mayor and apparently an extremely avid book collector who had the largest private library in the world at the time.  Sutro felt that San Francisco was still pretty wild, as it wasn’t too long after the Gold Rush, and wanted to make the city more modern and cultured.  His philosophy was to buy in bulk, even purchasing books that had been thrown in the trash.  One such example is the library’s Mexicana collection, where Sutro bought the inventory of the largest book store in Mexico City, the Libreria Abadiano, yielding several thousand items pre-1900 and much more.

sutro library stacks

Unfortunately, Sutro died (1898) before the library he envisioned was built and the books were stored in two different locations.  Even more unfortunately, the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed an astounding two-thirds of the books, yet 70,000 managed to survive.  Sutro didn’t keep an inventory (!) so the library is not sure what did not survive the quake, but they do have some receipts and other things to help piece together the original collection.

sutro library surname catalog

The real excitement began when we went into the closed stacks, and a conference room where the librarian had already brought out special items for the tour.

sutro stacks

sutro stacks

I learned that these enormous books are called elephant folios

elephant folios

Bound issues of The Star

the star london

A mysterious miniature cuneiform tablet that they don’t know how got into the collection

cuneiform tablet

Tlatelolco library, part of the Mexicana collection, from 1500s to 1700s

mexicana collection

A Shakespeare first folio from 1623, one of only 233 in the world (all of the books from here down were already opened, so I couldn’t get any pics of the covers.)

shakespeare first folio

A first edition of the King James Bible, 1611

king james bible

“King Charles I, his speech made upon the scaffold”, 1649.  This is the speech made before his execution.

king charles I speech

This book from 1470 is the first printed book of music.  I didn’t catch the name of it while I was there, but after exploring the library’s catalog, I believe this is the Constitutis, cuattentione dicende by Johannes Gerson.

first printed music book

A Japanese print

japanese print

An illuminated book

illuminated book

The library is cataloged with both Library of Congress (LC) and Dewey Decimal, and they are slowly converting everything to LC.

Some of the other resources available are:

  • A surname catalog (a bunch of people on the tour started checking to see if their surnames were in it!)
  • A locality catalog
  • 10,000 British pamphlets
  • American pamphlets from the 1500s-1800s
  • Works Progress Administration records
  • Sutro Baths posters
  • About 50 incunabula (pre-1500)
  • 4,000 family histories
  • Daughters of the American Revolution publications
  • Italian manuscripts from the 15th to 17th centuries

The library is open Monday through Friday from 10 to 5.   The library also offers email and online reference support.  The staff has always been very helpful and friendly when I’ve asked questions.

OMG I just won an award

I’ve been so busy and exhausted this week doing my first ever oral history interview and other things for class that I’ve been dying for the weekend so I can just curl up with a glass of wine and read.

But I just got a phone call from the local SLA chapter president telling I won the student award for my work helping on the strategic planning committee!!!!!  I feel so surprised and so honored and it was just the boost I needed to get me through these last couple of weeks of the semester!

Thank you, SLA  SF Bay Area Chapter!!


Museum of Performance and Design

Through the Bay Area chapter of SLA, I had the chance to visit the Museum of Performance + Design for a tour of their library and archives.  The Museum recently moved to the SOMA district from the Civic Center.  It was founded in 1947 by Russell Hartley, a dancer and avid collector of items related to the performing arts.  Formerly known at the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, it is the only independent organization in the country dedicated to the history of the performing arts and theatrical design.


The Museum boasts a collection of over 3.5 million items related to performing arts in the Bay Area, going back to the Gold Rush era, including theater, opera, magic, puppetry, mime, and circus arts.  The library is non-circulating, but it lends out items to other museums.

loft mpd

The Museum is open Monday through Friday and is housed in a loft, with space for exhibits, events, and research.  Right now, the featured exhibit is Shaping Character: Hats From Our Collection, and has lovely hats from companies like The Ballets Russes.  With the reflection from the glass cases, I wasn’t able to get to get a lot of good pictures, but there were some really pretty bejeweled hats and tiara- and crown-like hats on display.

ship hat mpd

pink hat mpd



hat 2

The head librarian shared just how avid the founder was in his collecting of performing arts materials.  In one example, she described how he would buy entire pallets of old San Francisco newspapers and cut out the articles he was interested in.  The Museum has clippings from newspapers going back to 1848 – and still have pallets of papers left to clip.  The clippings are filed chronologically, but aren’t indexed.  She also mentioned that he collected for 40 years without cataloging.

newspapers mpd

Newspapers from the 1800s waiting to be clipped

The Museum has an oral history project, with 70 histories recorded so far.  The Legacy Oral History Program originally started to chronicle the performances of those at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, and eventually expanded.  The Museum also received the papers of the oral history narrators.

In addition to the oral histories, the Museum has a lot of intriguing special collections, including the Anna Halprin collection, a pioneer in modern dance.  It’s the most researched collection they  have, and people inquire from all over the world to access it.  At 60 linear feet, it’s already large, and Ms. Halprin continues to add to it!  The Museum is also the official archives for both the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet.

mtt mpd

The Museum also holds a 60,000+ item collection of sheet music; 1,300 reels of the KSAN radio station archives from 1967 to 1981, which are being digitized; a collection of autographed cabinet cards from performers; over 3,000 opera libretti; broadsides from San Francisco theaters from 1851 to 1882; the archives of the Pickle Family Circus; Stern Grove Festival concert recordings, a free local summer concert series; and the papers of Michael Smuin, award-winning dancer and choreographer.

storage mpd

As part of an NEA grant, they are digitizing dance videos, which are being shared with other grantee organizations.  Over 200 videos have been completed and are accessible at the institutions.

aisles 2

They have two online image collections – Collection of Chinese Theater Images in California and Collection of San Francisco Bay Area Theater Images and Memorabilia – and are digitizing 500 other images now.

digitization mpd

Digitization equipment

Other fun items include a life mask of ballerina Anna Pavlova and love letters from Marcel Marceau to a local woman with whom he had a 40-year relationship.  I really wanted to see their Lotta Crabtree collection, which their catalog says has four folders of clippings, pictures, and programs.  Lotta was a former child star, performing for Gold Rush miners, and went on to become the highest paid actress in the country.  Bay Area residents may have heard of “Lotta’s Fountain”, at the intersection of Market and Kearny Streets, where after the 1906 earthquake, people gathered to share news.  (Every year on the earthquake anniversary, survivors still meet here.)  Lotta donated the fountain to the city in 1875.

costume books mpd

Le costume historique -1888

Like many other libraries and archives, the Museum of Performance and Design has its challenges.  In recent years, they have been downsized from 11 staff to 3 – an Executive Director, a Head Librarian/Archivist, and a grant-funded Project Archivist.

Lots and lots of records

Lots and lots of records

Also, perhaps due to the collecting habits of its founder, or because it was housed in many different locations over many years, there is no provenance on many of the items in its archives.

maquette mpd

A maquette for The Nutcracker, 1967

All three staff were at the tour, which was led by the Head Librarian/Archivist, and all were very friendly and generous with their time.  If you are interested in any aspect of the performing arts, it is well worth a visit!

A costume design for Candide

A costume design for Candide

  • Number of staff – Three
  • Number of books – ?  Over 3.5 million items
  • Number of databases – ?
  • Number of computers for patron use – It looked like two
  • Favorite items/collections – Love letters from Marcel Marceau (Executive Director Muriel Maffre)
  • Target users – Anyone interested in the history of Bay Area performing arts
  • Circulation – Non-circulating
  • Special collections – San Francisco newspapers, audio collection, 60,000 item sheet music collection, Anna Halprin collection, KSAN radio broadcast archive from 1967 to 1981, Lotta Crabtree collection, Oral Histories from Bay Area performers, Stern Grove Festival concert recordings, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet
  • Notable items –  A life mask of ballerina Anna Pavlova, autographed cabinet cards of performers
  • Other services – Exhibits, events

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The appeal of special libraries

Ever since I started to think about pursuing library science as a career, I knew that I was really interested in working in a special library.  I had been visiting some for years, like the one at the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Sutro Library (California State Library for genealogy) and was fascinated by their specific focuses.  Of course, I had no idea at the time that there was actually a name for this type of library!

You may be asking, “What is a special library?”  Basically, it’s any library that is not a public, academic, or school library.  They are often found under a larger organization, such as museums, law offices, corporations, nonprofits, hospitals, zoos, and aquariums, and their collections are centered around whatever their parent organization’s mission is.  So, in a genealogy library, you’ll find all sorts of resources like censuses, phone directories, and military records, local histories, and church records.

uicc16The United Irish Cultural Center library (image is my own)

Although I love and value public libraries and am intrigued by academic libraries, there are many aspects of special librarianship that appeal to me.  First and foremost, I like the diversity of the special libraries field.  They are so diverse, in fact, that it is hard to even define them.  While a library with a specialized collection is the type that I’d most like to work in, a subject-specific department of a larger public or academic library would also be great.  I love the idea of being able to focus on one general subject area and (hopefully) gain an in-depth knowledge of it in order to better help people.

Since I began library school, I’ve come across special libraries that I never knew existed, which helps keep me motivated and inspired when I’m exhausted and burnt out (which is often!).  I’ve been uncovering more local special libraries, but there are many amazing ones all across the country.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened a library and archives in 2012, and has rare concert recordings; nearly 400 archival collections, including items from icons like Jimi Hendrix; and a large book and audio collection.  The National Park libraries, from the Statue of Library National Monument to Crater Lake National Park to the Grand Canyon National Park, each have a wide variety in their collections and services to the public.  The Gemological Institute of America, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and the San Diego Zoo all have libraries.  Until recently, I never realized that there was a maritime library or a performance library near me.  This is the magic of special libraries to me – there are many of these hidden treasures, each with its own personality and offerings.

Also interesting is helping a smaller customer base, yet providing a much deeper level of service.  Several librarians I’ve met have told me that these settings can offer the chance to select and synthesize information for people, not only help lead them to information for their review.  This appeals to my love of research, which is one of the reasons I decided to pursue library science as a career, and yet still gives the chance to teach information literacy.

sfbg 2The San Francisco Botanical Gardens library (image is my own)

Of course, as with any career, there are difficulties as well.  Of everything I’ve learned about special libraries, the main challenge that keeps emerging is mere survival.  A considerable con is the need to consistently communicate their worth to the parent organization.  Having to frequently show the leadership the value of the library and a return on their investment sounds a bit disheartening, and seems like it can distract from performing everyday duties and helping people.  It can also lead to decreased morale, especially when despite best efforts, special libraries can fall victim to downsizing – even with the already very small number of staff in these libraries – and outsourcing.  Although I only recently joined the Special Libraries Association (SLA), I have already met a fair number of librarians who were downsized and figuring out their next moves.

Another challenge of working in a special library is the likelihood of being a solo librarian.  This may force special librarians to become competent in areas that other librarians may not have to learn, such as maintaining websites, collection development, reference, cataloging, and database management.  However, I also see this is a positive.  Although special librarians may have to learn these skills out of necessity, it also offers professional development opportunities and the chance to learn transferable skills.  Being able to do a variety of things and not knowing what each day will bring sounds intriguing to me.  In my current day job, I pretty much do the same thing each day or week, and there are few new challenges or ways to grow.

In my classes, the need for networking has been emphasized many times, and it seems the need is even greater in special libraries.  I’ve been lucky to have connected with a lot of people already through SLA and just by taking some initiative.  Being a solo librarian, or working with a very small staff, is intimidating.  But, being able to reach out to peers for support or to bounce ideas off of can lead to inspiration and I feel that I am slowly building that support network for when I eventually do get a library job.

performance1Museum of Performance and Design library (image is my own)

While the thought of being a solo librarian and having to constantly communicate the library’s value is daunting, there are far more pros to working in a special library than cons.  Becoming a subject specialist, learning a wide range of skills, getting to know your patrons well, and being able to provide more in-depth services are all fascinating possibilities to me and contribute to my interest in special librarianship.  Am I being idealistic?  Maybe.  But I’ve met a lot of great librarians already who have made me feel that these things are possible.

Flagg, G. (2012). New library headlines rock hall.  merican Libraries, 43(5/6), 34.

Hight, M. (2012). Greetings from America’s national park libraries. American Libraries, 44(5), 24-27.

Murray, T. E. (2013). What’s so special about special libraries? Journal of Library Administration, 53(4), 274-282. doi:10.1080/01930826.2013.865395

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (2014). Retrieved from

Special Libraries Association. (2014). About information professionals. Retrieved from

California Academy of Sciences library

This semester, I had the chance to visit the California Academy of Sciences’ library and talk with one of the archivists about her work and the Academy’s collections.  I had been wanting to go to visit the Academy for my special libraries project, so combining it with a class assignment was a no brainer.  She was great to speak with and I learned a lot about the Academy’s library and archives, plus the archival field.  And even though she showed me the library and archives stacks, I also got to tag along on a tour, where she and the other archivists pulled out some fun highlights from the archives.  Most of the info I gathered for this post is about the archives.


The Academy is in Golden Gate Park and was founded in 1853.  The library has seven staff, two of whom are archivists.  The archives’ scope is on the records of the Academy, and the science of the American West and Pacific Rim.  The library and archives are open to staff and the public by appointment.  It’s mostly research materials, but also some personal items of those connected to the Academy.  They lost a lot of items in the 1906 earthquake, so the most of the collection starts around this time.  The majority of the records are manuscripts and photographs, along with paintings and illustrations and film reels.


The library and archives have closed stacks, and use a compact shelving system. The library’s collection comprises most of the stacks.  Rare books are under the library’s collections.

Glass lantern slides:


Most of the archival collection is unprocessed, but the archivists think of this as a fun challenge.  They’re slowly going through each box to see what it contains, what needs to be preserved, and what other steps may need to be taken.  In one box, the archivist found a box of pieces of metal and bullets.  Turns out they were a musketball and rifle shells and pieces of cable.

One critical area of items needing preservation is audiovisual materials.  These have nitrate, which is incendiary and causing the older materials to deteriorate.  You can smell the scent of vinegar when walking through the stacks.  On the day I visited, the archivist had found a box of film rolls that were decaying, several to the point of being unsalvageable.

academy 12

At the same time, the archives continues to receive new materials. Volunteers help with basic duties like rehousing items into archival storage materials.

This is the walking stick of one of the founders of the Academy. The archives also has some notebooks from the original meeting of the founding of the museum.  Sorry it’s slightly blurry.  I had a hard time getting pictures.

academy 6 stick

This is the field hat of a researcher and his wife from one of the first trips to the Galapagos Islands (sorry, didn’t get his name).  The Academy has some of the earliest film and photos ever taken in the Galapagos.

academy 4 hat

And I can’t be absolutely positive because I missed some info, but I think this object is somehow related to filming in the Galapagos Islands.

academy 5

This odd item is called White’s Physiological Manikin by Frank H. Hamilton, M.D. and James T. White & Co.  It is a life-sized “manikin” of a man, with flaps representing different organs and body parts that lift up.  It took two archivists to open it all up.

manikin 1

manikin 2

manikin 3

manikin 4

This crazy contraption is a gnathodynomometer, which measured the biting force of Galapagos finches.  By squeezing them.  Yes.

academy 11

The archives has a number of cool projects going on. One is called Connecting Content, and it’s basically a project where all of the Academy’s field notes and specimens are being digitized in collaboration with premier institutions like the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.  As they are digitized, they’re being entered into the library’s catalog and other resources so that the institutions can share information.                   

Another cool project is the development of a mobile app where users can geolocate where they are and the app will pull up botanical collections to tell you what grew there in the past, and you can report if the plants still exist in the area.

The archives are also digitizing the Academy’s tv show from the 1950s, called Science in Action.  The show was the first to be syndicated.  The reels were found in the basement!  Of the 630 episodes total, they have 360 episodes and 41 have been digitized.  Some are on YouTube and the Internet Archive.  Here’s a view of all of the film reels, plus other films.

academy 7 reels

Very fun collection.  I’ll have to go back to talk to one of the librarians as well.

• Number of staff – 7 total
• Number of visitors last year – The archives had 200 outside researchers last year
• Number of books – Couldn’t find this info
• Number of periodicals – Couldn’t find this info
• Number of databases – 6 subscription based databases
• Number of computers for patron use – 0
• Reference methods – In person, by phone, and email
• Number of reference questions last year – Wasn’t able to get this info, but there were 200 outside researchers last year
• Target users – Academy staff, volunteers, students, and the public
• Circulation – Non-circulating
• Special collections – Manzanita Image Project, a lot of resources on the Galapagos Islands, Science in Action tv show
• Public Wi-Fi – None, only open to the public by appointment

United Irish Cultural Center Library

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and Irish-American Heritage Month, I visited the United Irish Cultural Center’s Patrick J. Dowling Library for the next part of my Special Libraries Project.  The library opened in 1975 and was the first all-Irish library in the US.  It is open in the afternoon three days each week, dependent upon volunteer availability.



The library is run by a solo librarian with the support of a cadre of volunteers.  It’s housed in a small room connected to the main center.  There is no OPAC and the collection is accessed through a card catalog, although some serials, new titles, VHS tapes, microfilm/microfiche, and genealogy records have been indexed and are available as a listing on the library’s website.  They are in the process of digitizing the catalog, which uses the Dewey Decimal system.




The mission of the library is to “promote Irish/Irish American literature, history and culture by preserving and modernizing the collection of books, periodicals, and multimedia at the Patrick J. Dowling Library and by providing public access to the collection”.

A Garda uniform

A Garda uniform.  Yes, that’s a vacuum in front of it.

There is no collecting policy and no acquisition budget.  Rather, the library relies on donated items, which are processed by volunteers and the librarian.  Books are also purchased with revenue from used book sales.  Due to its small size, the library has a backlog of donated items to process.  Unfortunately, there is also a severe lack of storage space, forcing the library to keep overflow boxes spread throughout the room.




Special collections include rare books, a fun collection on Irish language titles, genealogy titles, sheet music, and Ireland maps.  There are also Irish music cassette tapes, records, and VHS tapes. The library also has an archive on the history of its parent organization, the United Irish Cultural Center.



A display case holds rare books and ephemera.  According to the website, the oldest book in the library is from 1763, Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem by James MacPherson.



The day I visited, a fellow library student was helping to inventory a large donation of old Sinn Fein publications.



The volunteers were all very friendly.  If you want help researching your Irish roots and need information on Irish-related topics, check them out.

• Number of staff – 1 very part-time librarian and many volunteers
• Number of visitors last year – Couldn’t obtain this, but their website says 1,000 visitors in 2009
• Number of books – Between 3,000 and 5,000
• Number of periodicals – Couldn’t get this info
• Number of databases – 0
• Number of computers for patron use – 0 (one for staff/volunteers)
• Reference methods – In person, by phone, and email
• Number of reference questions last year – Wasn’t able to get this info
• Target users – Wasn’t able to get this info
• Circulation – Non-circulating
• Special collections – Irish language titles, genealogy titles, sheet music, and maps
• Notable items – A signed copy of Borstal Boy, by Brendan Behan; My Kilkenny I.RA. Days 1916-1922 by James J. Comerford, one of only three US library copies; and Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook Easter, 1916.  Also, a Garda Siochana uniform, pictured above.
• Public Wi-Fi – None
• Other services – None