To “Kill” A Sample Back…

Friday, March 23, 2012
Portrait of card catalog containing sample backs

In the Preservation task of preparing journals for commercial binding, the work has always revolved around the “Sample Back.” Sample Backs are index cards that contain all pertinent information needed to bind a serial publication and keep track of its history. Sample Backs tell us the library in which the volume will be housed, the cover color the bindery should use, how often the journal is published, how often we bind it, and any changes in title. For years, Sample Backs were the best and only way to keep accurate records of the binding histories of journals, some of which have been continuously published for a century or more!
Then came the online library catalogs (cue scary music).

The University of Iowa Libraries have been using online catalogs for years, but in the case of serial publications have been reluctant to rely on them completely (one hiccup and you lose decades of materials!?!). Even in this digital age, Sample Backs remained the preferred option for keeping up with a title’s history…until now. In a combined effort with Selina Lin in the Cataloging-Metadata Department, Preservation’s Deb Miller has begun the task of entering all information not currently available in the online catalog into each serial title’s record. This makes all information needed to bind a title visible online. Once the record updating is complete, the sample back gets a purple marker across the front and a one way ticket to the recycle bin (after binding staff compares the catalog record to our commercial bindery’s database to verify that the information is complete). This process will be long, as there are thousands and thousands of titles and only so many hours in a work day.
Portrait of a sample back that has been retired

Transferring information from the Sample Back to the online record? Tedious. Easier access and freedom from those little index cards? Priceless.