The Research Library in Progress – Please Excuse Our Confusion

This blog is written by Tara Backhouse, Registrar

So, have you ever been confused in a library?  You know, you want a specific book and all you have is a string of numbers and letters that don’t make sense, and that’s supposed to help you find the book?  Instead, it makes you wander around and randomly scan the shelves in the vain hope of just coming across the book you seek?  Well, that’s the kind of confusion I plan on bringing to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Research Library!  Seriously, those confusing call numbers are actually tried-and-true descriptive systems that make logical sense if you get to know them, and they do make locating a book much easier than other forms of library organization.  For instance, the Research Library at the Museum has over 5000 books, magazines, journals, and newspapers.  Currently, these materials are organized in a mixture of ways.  Some are organized by type:  newspapers and magazines are together, journals are together.  Some are organized by subject matter:  reference books are together, books on the museum profession are together.  However, most of the books are organized alphabetically, by author.  This means you have to know the author in order to find a book.  If you only know the title, then you have to look up the title in our database in order to find the author.  If you want to browse a particular subject, you are generally out of luck.  In a library organized by traditional call numbers, books are generally grouped by subject matter.  This makes browsing much easier!

We welcome all kinds of patrons to the Research Library! Even these mannequins from the gallery got in on the action, although we sense they are experience some confusion about the organization of the library…..

My name is Tara Backhouse, and I’m the Registrar at the Museum.  Part of my job is to spearhead the re-organization of the Research Library in order to make it more accessible to our patrons.  This is a multi-year process that was begun in early 2010.  First, we are covering the books with polyethylene covers, in order to protect the books during use, and to provide a surface for affixing spine labels to the books.  Next we assign Library of Congress call numbers to every book in the collection.  This is the number that will be on the spine label of each book.  After that, the books will be re-organized according to Library of Congress shelving standards.  Then the library will be browse-able, and more accessible to the researchers and staff members who use it.  Finally, the library database will be made accessible through our website. 

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Research Library collection contains material on Seminole history, but also on Native American history in general, Florida history and archaeology, and Museum Studies.  The Library is open to the public, but it is open by appointment only.  Only one appointment for research can be made at a time.  In this way, every researcher gets the personal service of a library staff member.  Having the library database online should make it easier for researchers to investigate our collection before they get here.  It should also show researchers that making a trip to the Big Cypress Reservation is worth their time.  If you would like to make an appointment to do research in our library, just email me at, in order to set up an appointment.  We will remain open during the re-organization process!


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