— By Cassandra Harlan
As the cataloger for three years at the Shorefront Legacy Center, I cataloged over 300 Africana books. When I arrived at Shorefront, the library consisted of four bookshelves filled with children, art, and fiction titles in semi-disarray. Today, there are seven books shelves, neatly organized and accessible to readers. A number of the books were donated from community organizations in Evanston, such as the “Mighty Twig,” the former experimental lending library in Evanston. Others were books donated from the private libraries of esteemed local Evanston leaders, like Rose Jourdain. Several books were signed by their respective author.
The collection is divided into eight parts: the non-fiction titles detailing the history of Blacks along the Northshore; the Evanstonian periodicals; books written by local Black Evanstonian writers, a small, but significant rare books collection; a children’s book collection including several Coretta Scott King award-winning titles and prominent non-fiction books on the history of Black people throughout the African Diaspora; an extraordinary African Art collection; a fiction section, including poetry by Black authors; and a non-fiction section with topics ranging from political and socioeconomic issues impacting Black people throughout the world.
The process of cataloging the collection proved difficult at first. As a first year student at Dominican University, I had taken only one cataloging course when I began my tenure at Shorefront. I decided on the Dewey Decimal system due to the size of the collection and because many of the books were donated from Northwestern University Press. The Main library at Northwestern still uses the Dewey Decimal system, making it easier for me to copy catalog a great deal of bibliographic materials in a short amount of time. I spent numerous Saturdays going through the collection with great care. Occasionally, I did more reading than cataloging, captivated by the poems of Nikki Giovanni, or learning about the slave rebellion lead by John Brown. By the end of my stay, I was able to create a Google spreadsheet containing the titles, authors, and call numbers of the books in our collection. A database that is user-friendly and accessible to staff and visitors of Shorefront.
My time at Shorefront taught me a great deal about the history of Evanston and the art of cataloging. I greatly appreciate the opportunity I had cataloging Shorefront Legacy Center’s bibliographic collection.