“I did my own research!,” or, Lead rot by any other name

In an online forum*, there was some discussion of the best storage methods for older metal figures. They’re usually made of a mix of an alloy of lead, tin, and various other metals such as antimony, bismuth, zinc, and so on. Many collectors have noted that some figures begin to show signs of corrosion where the metal begins to “rot” away turning into a powdery, greyish dust. Hobbyists have long called this “lead rot” and discussed the best ways to prevent it and whether it is possible to salvage miniatures with signs of lead rot. The consensus has been that lead reacts, particularly in the presence of moisture and/or extreme temperature, with acid vapors to start a self-sustaining** process of corrosion. That is, the products of the corrosion include more acid vapor that in turn corrodes more of the lead. The main culprits most often cited are wood and wood products like carboard “outgassing” acetic acid and tannins. PVA (“white”) glue, certain other materials possibly including the foam used in miniatures packaging, and so on are also implicated. The most frequent advice is to discard affected miniatures, although some will describe a process of neutralizing the acids and scrubbing away the corroded lead as a fix, with a more involved process using mineral spirits and other chemicals described by some toy soldier enthusiasts. Prevention measures are priming and/or sealing the miniatures, storage in plastic or metal containers, and good ventilation and/or desiccants in the cases.

 

Indeed there is a pretty well-established folklore about these topics, so I was surprised to see one commenter argue pretty strenuously that “lead rot” is not a real thing. The commenter has a history of working with various manufacturers. I can’t tell if they were ever an employee of them or more on the periphery as a consultant, freelance, etc. — they do however seem to have real contacts going way back and some insider knowledge. I am not naming them because some of their comments seem to have been deleted and their profile  seems to indicate a preference for privacy.

But the gist of their comments were that:

  1. the scientific literature does not describe “lead rot” or use the term, and even Wikipedia has no article on “lead rot
  2. zinc pest” and “tin pest” on the other hand are well-known in the literature (and on Wikipedia) and have similar presentations (metal corroding into a white powder/dust in a self-sustaining and irreversible process)
  3. in fact all cases described as lead rot are really zinc pest or tin pest, due to poorly made alloys and bad advice on cost-savings in the mixture of metals
  4. the original source for all the folklore on lead rot was a retracted article that is no longer published on the site it first appeared on

I am not a chemist and don’t pretend to be one. I am however a librarian and take an interest in rooting out disinformation and finding sources. So while I am not really competent to evaluate the chemistry involved, I am able to examine the four claims. I went with the easiest first: 4, the retracted article.

 

A search of the Retraction Watch Database (admittedly not comprehensive, but a good start) didn’t turn up any retracted scientific articles on lead corrosion. I was pretty sure I knew the article the commenter was talking about: a museum conservator’s report on the corrosion of lead components of ship models. It was formerly hosted here: http://www.dt.navy.mil/cnsm/lead_01.html but is now here: https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NSWC-Carderock/Resources/Curator-of-Navy-Ship-Models/Lead-Corrosion-in-Exhibition-Ship-Models/. That the old link is broken is no surprise to librarians, we’ve been discussing “link rot” since the world wide web debuted. I could find no evidence that there was any effort to “retract” this article, and suppose that the fact that the original link is most commonly given on web pages discussing lead rot, the commenter simply misunderstood the situation.

 

Point 1, that “lead rot” is not part of the scientific lexicon, is technically true. A federated search of many databases available through my university library*** turned up no articles using the phrase “lead rot”. However it should be noted that it’s often the case that popular usage and technical jargon is not always the same. Searching instead for articles about lead corrosion in the presence of acetic acid led me to a host of articles discussing the phenomenon, how to measure it by various methods, and most address conservation issues specifically. To be fair, the focus for these articles tend to be organ pipes and museum artifacts like lead seals. However, the articles do tend to confirm that that acetic acid (and other organic acids such as formic acid, a product of formaldehyde reacting with other chemicals in the air) catalyze lead corrosion. At least one paper does describes the reaction: Misallamova et al. (2019):

Lead and acetic acid, in the presence of oxygen, produce lead acetate and water; lead acetate reacts with carbon dioxide and water to produce another lead compound (some kind of lead carbonate — presumably known as the lead rot) and acetic acid. However this only described as “active corrosion,” and a chemist friend points out that this doesn’t qualify as autocatalytic, just catalysis, as the first equation produces one molecule of the lead compound and the second requires three molecules. I think that since the second shows three acetic acids, in the real world we could expect the reactions to be self-sustaining provided there is enough humidity and carbon dioxide present, and no ventilation, but again, I’m not a chemist.

As an aside, I’d also note that the existence or lack of a Wikipedia page is doesn’t carry a lot of weight in this controversy. I suppose this was just a simple way to show that there is not much use of the term “lead rot” outside the hobby.

 

Point 2 seems correct. Cornelius et al. (2017) notes that lead-tin alloys are resistant to tin pest, and indeed lead-tin solders are used in electronics for this reason (they are no longer allowed in plumbing due to toxicity). However tin pest can still occur in lead-tin alloys, so extremes of cold should be avoided. However as tin pest is supposed to occur at very low subfreezing temperatures, I find it hard to believe it’s an issue outside the arctic and antarctic. Moreover tin pest is more of a crumbling as the tin molecules form a fragile crystalline structure, so it would not look much like lead rot.

I didn’t find much about zinc pest, but it does occur here and there in the literature.  Zinc pest hand just needs water so that could certainly form in damp places which would also be prone to lead rot.

 

Point 3 seems partly true. Plumbridge (2008) notes that lead-tin alloys were especially resistant to tin pest (no pest after 4 years at -18 Celsius, but another sample at -40 Celsius did show changes). Moreover the tin pest shown in his alloy tests are more of a disintegration into pieces rather than dust. But it seems likely that various alloy mixes will show different kinds of corrosion. Anecdotally, however, lead rot is not claimed to occur in lead-free alloys, but I’d expect that if folks really didn’t know the difference we’d be hearing about lead rot in them.  Interestingly, Gibson and Watt (2010) report that even a small tin content (1.2% or more) increases the resistance to lead corrosion by acetic acid, so lead/tin miniatures which may have 30% or more tin seem to be poor candidates for lead rot. Anecdotally, early miniature manufacturers were using anything they could find cheaply — a newspaper article on Ral Partha quotes the owner saying they used an alloy consisting of 80% lead before switching to the almost pure tin Ralidium.

 

Lastly, another commenter on the thread pointed out that the phenomenon of lead rot is remarkably similar to the manufacture of “white lead.” This is well-known process of exposing lead to vinegar fumes in order to produce a white compound for use as a pigment in paint. Vinegar after all is mostly water and acetic acid.

 

My hunch is that the original commenter was trying to point out that zinc pest and tin pest are problem that can present as something a lot like lead rot, and that it is the cheapest metals (high lead alloys or even pure lead) that are prone to lead rot. Moreover, tin pest is considered autocatalytic in the sense that the reaction will continue using only its own products, while lead rot is more dependent on the continuation of favorable conditions. (Good news! Ish.)

 

I’ll write up something a bit more thorough at some point in the future, but my references below should be a good starting point for anyone else interested in “lead rot.”

=======

*more specifically, a Facebook group; yes I know I should probably get off Facebook and social media generally

**Apparently the correct term is “autocatalytic” — the reaction products include a catalyst for the same or a related reaction

***My university is pretty strong on chemical engineering, and even has a corrosion engineering program, which the library supports as best it can by buying access to relevant resources

=========

Selected References

 

Cornelius, B., Treivish, S., Rosenthal, Y., and Pecht, M. (2017). The phenomenon of tin pest: A review. Microelectronics Reliability 79: 175–192.

 

Deflorian, F., and Fedel, M. (2013) Electrochemical analysis of the degradation of lead alloy organ-pipes due to acetic acid. Journal of Cultural Heritage 14: 254–260.

 

Gibson, L.T., and Watt, C.M. (2010). Acetic and formic acids emitted from wood samples and their effect on selected materials in museum environments. Corrosion Science 52:172–178.

 

Misallamova, S., Kouri, M., Strachotova, K.C., Stoulil, J., Popova, K., Dvorakova, P., and Lhotka, M. (2019) Protection of lead in an environment containing acetic acid vapour by using adsorbents and their characterization. Heritage Science 7(76). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40494-019-0317-3

 

Niklasson, A., Johannsson, L.-G., Svensson, J.-E. (2008) The influence of relative humidity and temperature on the acetic acid vapour-induced atmospheric corrosion of lead. Corrosion Science 50: 3031–3037.

 

Plumbridge, W. J. (2008) Recent Observations on Tin Pest Formation in Solder Alloys. Journal of Electronic Materials 37 (2): 218-223.

 

Plumbridge, W.J. (2010) Tin pest in lead-containing solders. Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 22 (1): 56–57.

 

Published in: on January 9, 2022 at 10:48 am  Comments (8)  
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Visit scenic Omegakron

Omegakron was published in 1984 as the third adventure module for Lords of Creation. The previous adventures were set in more contemporary milieus, but Omegakron is set hundreds of years in the future after a series of disasters leave Akron, Ohio (and presumably the entire Earth) a mutant-haunted ruin. Tom Moldvay lived in the Akron area for years, and the illustrator, Dave Billman, is a University of Akron alumnus. The module is packed with Akron in-jokes and references, and the illustrations feature many recognizable Akron landmarks.

The module’s player handouts are pretty cool, and include a detailed map of Glendale Cemetery and the pamphlet “A brief history of Akron, Ohio” by Tom Moldvay. The pamphlet is intended to give the players both an overview of Akron’s history and clues for the adventure. The history presented is mostly true, with perhaps some elaboration here and there. My favorite tidbits are a macabre incident in Akron’s history (the coffin of a member of an important family was moved, and witnesses reported that it had a window which showed the corpse to be remarkably well-preserved) and some trivia about local woodchucks. I was most delighted by the inclusion of my workplace in the adventure (the University of Akron’s Bierce Library) and that the library is still staffed by librarians despite the apocalypse.

I donated a copy of the module University Archives, because of the Akron connections, and even managed to secure some ephemera related to the module (a soundtrack CD and movie poster for an imagined film of Omegrakron called Novos Akros, 2012 project of a local record store and an bunch of local bands for “free record day”). I put them all in a display at the library, with blown-up images from the module next to photos of the real places as they appear today. You can take the tour here: https://tinyurl.com/TourOmegakron.

Novos Akros is another story. The poster incorporates the characters and monsters in the module, and looks pretty convincing. The CD includes liner notes with a fictitious history of the eccentric filmmaker and his uncompleted film. The CD tracks all evoke the module, with titles based on encounters and events in the adventure; the bands are mostly electronic dance or spacey rock music which would fit pretty well into a science fiction soundtrack. You can give it a listen, and buy the files, here: https://tinyurl.com/NovosAkros.

Published in: on November 6, 2021 at 8:00 am  Comments (5)  
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The RPG reference bookshelf

I’ve been doing some amateur research on role playing games and in the process have acquired a number of books on them. There’s been some serious scholarship on RPGs in recent years, but I’ll limit this to the early days — the twentieth century. Most of these books fall into one of three categories: introductory type “What is a role playing game?”, guides to improve your play, or studies of RPGs from some viewpoint — possibly academic, but most often religious, and almost all of those are part of the literature of the Satanic Panic. Each listing has a short annotation, but it’s been a long time since I read a few of these.

Albrect, Bob, and Greg Stafford. The Adventurer’s Handbook: A guide to role-playing games. Reston, Va. : Reston Publishing, 1984. An introduction to RPGs, with particular emphasis on Stafford’s “Basic Role Playing” system which forms the core mechanics of RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu, and other Chaosium games. The reader is walked through making several characters, and given some solo scenarios to play out with them. The book also includes some reviews of the major games available, suggestions for GMs, and a discussion of accessories like miniatures and magazines. The book as a whole is designed like a school workbook, with short quizzes at the end of each section and art that reminded me of my elementary school days in the 70s. Far out. Overall it’s an interesting artifact.

Butterfield, John, Philip Parker, and David Honigmann. What is Dungeons & Dragons? Warner Books, 1982. A guidebook introducing role-playing and D&D to a general audience. The authors were college students, apparently commissioned to write this book to fill a gap in the mass market. The US paperback has a label clarifying “DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a federally registered trademark of TSR, Inc. Use of TSR’s trademarks and the contents of this book have not been approved by TSR.” The book outlines the basics of D&D with a glossary of terms, a sample dungeon, an extensive recommended reading list, and some discussion of other the other games then available, including some board games which might inspire D&D settings.

Craun, Joan, and Ludwick, Rick. (Eds.) GamesMaster Catalog: A comprehensive illustrated guide to games. Clifton, Virginia : Boynton & Associates, 1980. Perhaps intended to be an annual, this was the first attempt to be a comprehensive listing of RPGs, wargames, board games, miniatures, and accessories. The board games covered are specialist/hobby games: no Parker Bros. or Milton Bradley. Each company provided samples and information about their games, which were photographed for this catalog. This is far from comprehensive, but covers a lot of smaller companies, and is a glimpse into the market at the time.

Fannon, Sean Patrick. The Fantasy Role-Playing Gamer’s Bible. Prima Publishing, 1996. A reference book that attempts to be an overview of RPGs for novices as well as a source book for experienced gamers. Of note are the extensive glossary, timeline, and extensive notes on gamer culture. The informal writing style may be charming or grating.

Fine, Gary Alan. Shared Fantasy: Role-playing games as social worlds. University of Chicago Press, 1983. A landmark study of D&D and Empire of the Petal Throne gamers from a sociologist’s perspective. At one time this was the ONLY academic treatise on the game and likely to be found in every university library in the 1980s and 1990s. It has garnered some controversy as some of Fine’s subjects say that did not agree to be identified in the book, and felt that their academic reputations and careers were damaged by the quotes.

Galloway, Bruce, et al. Fantasy Wargaming. Cambridge : Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1981. Technically both a game in itself and a treatise, it was noted by Butterfield, Parker, and Hongimann (1982) as one of the only nonfiction works on D&D (alongside Holmes (1981). The book includes both a running critique of D&D and some anecdotes of actual play, along with extensive GM suggestions more appropriate to D&D or T&T than the included game.

Gygax, Gary. Master of the Game. New York : Perigree Books, 1989. Gygax’s book on becoming a better game master, along with suggestions for getting more involved in the industry through conventions, publishing, etc.

Gygax, Gary. Role-Playing Mastery. New York : Perigree Books, 1987. Gygax’s book on becoming a better player and game master.

Hackett, Martin. Fantasy wargaming: games with magic & monsters. Wellingborough : Patrick Stephens Limited, 1990. While the focus is much more on wargames than role-playing, there is some background on RPGs and some of the wargame scenarios presented are really skirmish-level engagements in a dungeon. I’ve always suspect that this was the book Patrick Stephens Ltd. expected Galloway’s book to be.

Holmes, John Eric. Fantasy Roleplaying Games. New York : Hippocrene Books, 1981. Groundbreaking as the first popular work about RPGs, and notable for being written by the editor of the first “basic” D&D boxed set. D&D is not the only game covered, and the extensive photographs of contemporary games, miniatures, and set-ups is a plus.

Larson, Bob. Satanism: the seduction of America’s youth. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1989. Bob Larson was a radio evangelist and now grifts as an exorcist. I remember when this book was new, as I was working my first library job in high school, and we had a sadly large collection of stuff like this. There were chapters on Satanism in pop culture, and the threat of cults, and some hilarious appendices: “A parent’s guide to occult games, ” “A supplemental guide to Dungeons & dragons,” and “A parent’s guide to black metal music.” I don’t remember too much about it after 30 years, so I recently ordered a copy via interlibrary loan. 

Leithart, Peter, and George Grant. A Christian Response to Dungeons and Dragons: The cathechism of the New Age. Fort Worth, Texas : Dominion Press, 1987. An 18 page pamphlet which is a pretty good representative of the Satanic Panic literature. “FRP activity” is linked to “more than a hundred suicide and murder cases” and similar claims are made without citation, although the suggested reading, to be fair, does include two pamphlets published by TSR. 

Livingstone, Ian. Dicing with Dragons: an introduction to role-playing games. Revised American Edition. New York : New American Library, 1983. A sort of popular guide to RPGs, notable for the choose-you-own-adventure type game that fills the first third of the book, with nice illustrations by Russ Nicholson. There are fairly in-depth explanations of D&D, RuneQuest, Tunnels & Trolls, and Traveller, followed by very brief entries on other games available at the time, as well as a listing of accessories like modules for the games. A brief chapter on miniatures has an interesting approach to painting I haven’t seen before. 

Plamondon, Robert. Through Dungeons Deep: A fantasy gamer’s handbook. Reston, Va. : Reston Publishing, 1982. A guide for role-playing and game mastering, it also includes a selection of reviews of games. I don’t own this one, but leafed through a copy. It was republished in 2008.

Porter, David. Children at Risk. Kingsway Publications, 1998. Devotes several chapters to role-playing games and their offshoots like Magic: the Gathering and their potential for harm to children. Porter is more “moral concern” than full Satanic Panic, and even recommends games based on Tolkien’s works as appropriate for Christians.

Robie, Joan Hake. The Truth about Dungeons & Dragons. Lancaster, Pa. : Timelee Books, 1991. Another full-throated Satanic Panic screechfest. The cover has a neat looking monster though.

Schick, Lawrence. Heroic worlds: a history and guide to role-playing games. Buffalo : Prometheus Books, 1991. The most ambitious RPG book, period. Schick catalogs every game and accessory that had been produced up until 1990, and gives each a short description. In my other life as a librarian I recognize what he’s doing as an attempt at a comprehensive bibliography, and he even assigns a code to each product. The entries are broken up by occasional quotes from important game designers, ranging from a single line to most of a page on various topics.

Swan, Rick. The complete guide to role-playing games. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1990. It’s fortunate this follows alphabetically after Schick, as it is sort of the corollary to Schick’s book. Not as comprehensive, but much more detailed; no pretense of neutrality, and much more detailed in its assessments, although Swan tends to assess each game without regard to historical context as the ratings are meant to be practical guides rather than an historical review. 

Weldon, John, and James Bjornstad. Playing with Fire: Dungeons and Dragons, Tunnels and Trolls, Chivalry and Sorcery, and other fantasy games. Moody Press, 1984. A brief book on the occult dangers of playing D&D, and somewhat unusual in that it discusses some of the less well-known games of the time. It at least attempts to cite sources other than the KJ Bible and B.A.D.D. press releases, but is mostly hysterical nonsense fueled by out-of-context quotations.

 

Published in: on August 29, 2020 at 9:03 pm  Comments (4)  
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Fantasy Wargaming : the audiobook

This is some very old news, but I’ve just noticed a DAISY version of the venerable early roleplaying game Fantasy Wargaming available for borrowing from the Internet Archive! DAISY, for those unfamiliar with it, is a “talking book” format developed for people with disabilities that prevent them from using printed books, such as blindness, dyslexia, and so forth. So really a DAISY book is much more than an audiobook (which would be a recording reading of a book). The DAISY format allows much more sophisticated manipulation of the text, both as audio (changing reading speeds, using searches or indexes, and so forth) as well as including image files for low-vision users needing larger displays. you will need to create an account to “borrow” it from the Internet Archive. I have not actually tested the DAISY file, and it is certainly easier for someone who can read a standard format book to obtain a copy (going for as little $5 on Amazon last I checked). But it’s pretty cool that someone took the time to make this book accessible to folks with disabilities.

Published in: on January 16, 2019 at 3:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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May Amazon suggest some medical books for your edification?

I occasionally use Amazon at work to confirm bibliographic info like ISBNs, and I also use it occasionally for personal stuff. Either because Google/Chrome is tracking everything I type across platforms or because I’ve signed in to Amazon on my personal account at work, I get some interesting recommendations. But I was especially happy to see Amazon getting all medieval on its ideas about medicine: (Click to embiggen)

So maybe Amazon’s AI isn’t a threat, yet, to readers’ advisory and reference librarians.

Published in: on May 31, 2017 at 7:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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Charmed, I’m sure

Everybody steals everything online, it seems. I never mind when someone legitimately swipes pictures or quotes from my blog when they’re writing about swords, dorkery, or swords and dorkery, but occasionally weird content farmers steal entire posts just populate their awful little adfarms. Most recently “Cellulite Planet” started swiping my posts, in their entirety, though I have jack-all to say about cellulite. Must be hard to sell cellulite on its own merits or something.

They even took the trouble to put the text through some kind of paraphrasing script, too.

I don’t mind admitting I’m kind of psyched that my book is now available on DriveThru RPG. The Lost Pages store is the place to get the hard copy, shipped from Scotland (I also hear some copies may be showing up at the better conventions too). But obviously Drive Thru RPG is an important distributor, and I’m glad people might be able to stumble upon my book even if they’ve never heard of it. 

becomes

I don’t thoughts admitting I’m sort of psyched that my schedule is now readily available on the subject of DriveThru RPG. The Shed Pages keep is the put to grab the tough copy, shipped from Scotland (I likewise hear some copies could be showing up at the much better conventions too). Yet obviously Drive Thru RPG is an crucial distributor, and I’m pleased individuals could be able to stumble upon my schedule also if they’ve never ever heard of it.

They paraphrased my title as “The Unsatisfactory Pilgrim’s Almanack” too. That’s pretty harsh for a robotThey didn’t even have the decency to include a link to buy my damn book. But they are like #5 or 6 on the Google hit list if you search “Poor pilgrim’s almanack” (as I might do occasionally to see if anyone has taken notice of it).

As a librarian, I’ve run into some really shady operations that publish books this way swiping Wikipedia entries, which they’d be allowed to do if they gave proper attribution, but then no-one would buy their crap books, so they leave out the attribution. When people started catching on to this, the next evasive action was to paraphrase the articles, much like my post was paraphrased above. It gets dangerous though with some of these — I’ve seen books like this on various medical and legal topics, which could probably get someone killed or in jail.

Published in: on March 9, 2017 at 4:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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Happy Holidays!

+
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"XXX"
"XXXXX"
"GOD JUL"
"BUON ANNO"
"FELIZ NATAL"
"JOYEUX NOEL"
"VESELE VANOCE"
"MELE KALIKIMAKA"
"NODLAG SONA DHUIT"
"BLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDA"
"""""""BOAS FESTAS"""""""
"FELIZ NAVIDAD"
"MERRY CHRISTMAS"
"KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
"VROLIJK KERSTFEEST"
"FROHES WEIHNACHTSFEST"
"BUON NATALE-GODT NYTAR"
"HUAN YING SHENG TAN CHIEH"
"WESOLYCH SWIAT-SRETAN BOZIC"
"MOADIM LESIMHA-LINKSMU KALEDU"
"HAUSKAA JOULUA-AID SAID MOUBARK"
"""""""'N PRETTIG KERSTMIS"""""""
"GESE A BMDE KERSGEES"
"ONNZLLISTA UUTTA VUOTTA"
"Z ROZHDESTYOM KHRYSTOVYM"
"NADOLIG LLAWEN-GOTT NYTTSAR"
"FELIC NADAL-GOJAN KRISTNASKON"
"S NOVYM GODOM-FELIZ ANO NUEVO"
"GLEDILEG JOL-NOELINIZ KUTLU OLSUM"
"EEN GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR-SRETAN BOSIC"
"KRIHSTLINDJA GEZUAR-KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
"SELAMAT HARI NATAL - LAHNINGU NAJU METU"
"""""""SARBATORI FERICITE-BUON ANNO"""""""
"ZORIONEKO GABON-HRISTOS SE RODI"
"BOLDOG KARACSONNY-VESELE VIANOCE "
"MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR"
"ROOMSAID JOULU PUHI -KUNG HO SHENG TEN"
"FELICES PASUAS - GLUECKLICHES NEUES JAHR"
"PRIECIGUS ZIEMAN SVETKUS SARBATORI VESLLE"
"BONNE ANNEBLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDADRFELIZ NATAL"
"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
XXXXX
XXXXX
XXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXX

This is a polyglot Yuletide greeting formerly posted annually to library forums by the late J. McRee (Mac) Elrod of Special Libraries Cataloguing. Whatever you celebrate or don’t, however you do it, I hope you have the company of friends and family in these dark times.

Published in: on December 22, 2016 at 8:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Orc ID

So blogging has mostly ground to a halt since I’ve taken a new job at an academic library; maybe it will resume some time. But today a publisher got in touch to get a license to publish a short article I wrote and they recommended I get an Orc ID. O_o

Orc ID

No, not like that. But that is definitely what I imagine.

An ORCID is actually an identifier used to disambiguate people. Libraries have been doing this for centuries, but in the past couple of decades there’s been a push to use numerical identifiers rather than textual ones. Libraries have long kluged the problem of many people with the same name by adding qualifiers to names, such as middle names, years of birth/death, or other titles or even activities. So because there are many “Michael Monaco”s in the world,  I might be established as “Monaco, Michael Joseph” or “Monaco, Michael Joseph, 1972-” or something like that. But a simple number would make the identifier more useful worldwide. Consider Tolstoy — written in Cyrillic his name is be Алексей Константинович Толстой; “Толстой” is variously Romanized as “Tolstoi,” “Tolstoy,” or “Tolstoĭ”. Likewise Korean, Japanese, and Chinese names may vary a lot depending on the language they are publishing in. There is an effort to bring all the forms together in individual countries’ authority files (for example the US has the Library of Congress’ National Authority File or NAF) and the NAF-equivalents of many countries are brought together in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF.org — where Tolstoy is VIAF # 96987389). But these are focused mostly on people publishing books, albums, films, and so forth. More minor works like journal articles don’t get cataloged individually in library catalogs and there is no need to disambiguate the millions of academics who publish worldwide for library catalogs since their articles are not individually described in a library catalog. Journal articles and such are usually in databases, institutional repositories, and other kinds of bibliographic utilities. So the ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor Id.) is meant to work a bit like the VIAF but for researchers and academics (as well as journalists, etc., in principle) in databases etc. In my case I have stuff mainly in journals, and so that my publications as “Michael Monaco” (or “Mike Monaco”) are not confused with other “Michael Monaco”s, and use a string of numbers (in my case, 0000-0001-7244-5154).

So anyway it’s nice work and hobbies encounter each other like that.

Published in: on September 16, 2016 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Good news!

Congress has been so effective at getting things done and solving problems that they can focus on telling librarians how to do their jobs!

So when the Library of Congress Policy & Standards Division decided that “Illegal aliens” was not a useful and objective term for use in subject headings (with good reason), Repugnant congressmen raced to compose a bill that would undo their deliberations. For some reason every other PSD decision made that week was fine, but this one change demands action from our normally sessile representatives.

What next, a Senate hearing to investigate subversive call numbers? (“Why is Islam listed before Christianity? Why is the Bible filed under BS?“) A Supreme Court ruling on permissible story time books? Maybe we need a congressional oversight of reference librarians to make sure every question is screened by the Heritage Foundation.

FFS, man.

Published in: on April 13, 2016 at 3:28 pm  Comments (8)  
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CIP for self-publishers

Did you ever open a book and notice that back of the title page has, probably beneath a copyright notice and a mailing address for the publisher*, a little block of text that says “Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data”? For those of us of a certain age the layout is familiar, as it is pretty much what you’d see on a catalog card from the pre-digital library catalog**. If fact it is there for exactly that reason: it give librarians a head up on how to classify the book, what the main subjects are, and it presents the author’s name in a form that will distinguish it from other similar names. So part of the function is that the cataloging in publication (CIP) provides an analog catalog record which can be copied into a library’s catalog. But CIP’s other function, when it come from the Library of Congress (of some other national library like Library & Archives Canada or the British National Library) is to tell librarians that this book is serious enough to have been submitted to the national library. (Actually they just submit a title page, table of contents and/or summary, and biographical info about the author, since the book may be unfinished. That’s why CIP doesn’t include the page count and other details you will find on an actual catalog record, and occasionally the title changes by the time of publication, and in some cases the subjects don’t really match the finished book.)  Getting CIP is a detail the big publishers bother themselves with because it makes sales to libraries that much easier, but it also demonstrates the publisher cares about details, and might have performed other traditional publishing roles like fact-checking, proofreading, and editorial review. Small presses and self-publishers might do all that too, but in my experience a lot of them don’t. Sadly getting CIP isn’t very easy for them either. The Library of Congress has some requirements about the number of books and authors published by a publisher before they will even be eligible for CIP, which effectively shut out self-publishers.

Naturally a number of companies are happy to fill this void, and they charge from $50-120 for the service. Of course most writers of fiction probably don’t need to bother with CIP, since the subject analysis and call number assignment of fiction is not a big issue for libraries. But nonfiction — especially nonfiction that the author thinks has some lasting value and would like to have preserved in a library — has a much better chance of getting into the libraries with CIP. I wouldn’t say it is as important as having an ISBN but it is on the same list of priorities. You can read more here, if you are interested in why CIP is important and how to get it. (The linked article mentions three companies that provide CIP for a fee. I’d also add Special Libraries Cataloging, Inc., to the list. The owner “Mac” Elrod has a fairly impeccable reputation.)

Anyway all this is a preamble to say that if you

  1. are self-publishing a book on RPGs, miniatures, or other topics likely relevant to this blog, and
  2. would like CIP as a small measure to help get your work into libraries

I’d be more than happy to provide CIP. I am professional cataloger, so I won’t screw it up too badly. And I’ll do it for free because I want to promote the hobby and the DIY community. Depending on response, I ought to be able to do this pretty quickly for you — quickly enough that it shouldn’t delay publication. All you need to do is send me

  • a mock up of what you title page will look like (front and back) — preferred title, author, and publisher place/name/date
  • a table of contents listing chapters or sections if that helps explain your content, and/or a summary, and
  • enough information about yourself that I can distinguish your name from others already in the national authority file (NAF)

See, I’m not asking for a free copy or anything like that — after all your book is presumably unpublished if you plan to add the CIP, right? I’d be doing this on my own time, not my library’s, so unless we do actually acquire a copy I can’t add your record online to WorldCat, nor can I actually add your name to the NAF if you don’t already have works in WorldCat or in my library like I do for books at my library; it will just be an email back with text to cut and paste onto your book’s title page verso (verso=back, recto=front, in bibspeak). Also I will be doing this from home, since it would not be kosher to use library resources for outside stuff. So it’s not exactly a guarantee of anything, you’re be getting what you pay for, etc., but it could help.

 

——–

*And perhaps a series of numbers like this: “15 14 13 12 11 10 09     10  9  8  7  6  5  4 3”, which printers use to note printing year and number; they just pull off the previous number, so in this case the first group of numbers might be the year and the second group the printing number, so here we see a 3rd printing made in 2009.  Other printers don’t bother with the year and list numbers out of order: “2 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 1”.  This is kind of dying out as printers no longer need to literally remove the numbers from the printing block, but for older books if you see a “1” in the sequence you know you have a first printing.

**Actually the CIP standard has recently been updated to match changes in cataloging rules and to be, theoretically, more web-friendly.

Published in: on November 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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