UComm staff cataloguing 120 years of NMSU publications
Since it came into being in the late 1880s as the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, NMSU has been producing publications to help the people of New Mexico improve their lives. Whether the content was agriculture, home economics, youth activities, community development, health or livestock and range, university staff members have employed the print medium to help disseminate their knowledge.
Ana Henke is the current Extension/Experiment Station publications supervisor. She heads up a five-person publications team that also includes Phyllis Fleming, composing design specialist; Susan B. Portillo, graphic designer; and assistant editors Frank Sholedice and Amy Smith Muise.
The list of currently produced publications is lengthy, but it is dwarfed by the total number of publications produced over the past 120 years, as Henke has come to realize. Her office fields the frequent calls and e-mails from individuals interested in how things were done by previous generations, researchers looking for primary sources and people from other parts of the world living in similar arid climates who seek agricultural resources.
Surplus copies of many of these publications still exist. Henke and her staff have spent many hours over the course of the past three years sorting and cataloguing the thousands of old publications boxed and stored in three sheds on campus.
"The sheds are filled from floor to ceiling with hundreds of boxes, covered in dust, but filled with surprisingly well-preserved publications," Henke said. They come in the form of pamphlets and booklets and include numbered series of Extension guides and circulars, technical reports, research reports and research bulletins. The collection also includes issues of the Extension News periodical. Some of the publications were produced in Spanish as well as English.
Henke and her staff have been systematically entering basic information about each publication in a database they created.
"To date, we have inventoried and entered approximately 1,800 publications into the database," she said. "That could ultimately double!"
Although this project isn't the top item on her list of responsibilities, Henke gets great pleasure out of discovering some of the older pamphlets and circulars.
"It's hard not to get lost in some of them," she said. "Not only do they contain useful information, but they also beautifully portray the history of Extension in New Mexico and the evolution of printing techniques in America."
Henke has made her database available to colleagues in the NMSU Library in hopes of assisting them in filling any gaps they may have in their collection. She also sits on a university committee formed to explore ways of digitizing these old publications. In addition to preserving them, digitizing also would make them more readily available to the public.
"We are producing digital versions of all of our new and revised publications and making them available online," Henke said. "It will be wonderful to someday have all of these historical publications available electronically for the public as well. It is a big project, and one we are proud to be a part of."
Recently, a dozen additional boxes of old publications were found in another storage facility. Henke and a couple of colleagues retrieved them and managed to clear space for them in one of their current archival sheds. She looks forward to exploring this new set to see if it includes items not already in their inventory.
For more about publications and videos from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/.
Written by Jay A. Rodman.