ONLINE INDEXES AND LISTINGS
Cataloging is closely allied to indexing — two circles that can overlap broadly.
During my tenure at the State Library I’ve been involved in projects that were more within the indexing or list making “circle.” For me it was just another means of creating paths to information. A good example of this is the web site, “Kansas Legislators: Past and Present.”
For many years State Library Legislative Reference staff kept basic information about former state legislators on 3 x 5 cards. Arranged alphabetically by surname, the cards contained names, districts, party membership and other basic information for about 8,000 men and women who had served in the Kansas Legislature from 1861 on. During the 1980s data within the files was enhanced from a similar card file maintained by the Kansas State Historical Society and eventually the data was entered into a local database called AskSam, where it is still kept up-to-date today.
In 1998 State Library technical services staff began construction of a web site where all of our collected information on state legislators could be made available to the public. Called “Kansas Legislators, Past and Present,” the new site quickly became proof of the “Field of Dreams” adage, “If you build it they will come!”
Visits grew steadily as the names were entered online. Staff also spent free time going through traditional Kansas biographical resources such as A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans collecting further data on individuals. The plan was to add information slowly, citing sources. Then something happened that we hadn’t really counted on.
We had built it and they came, bringing obituaries, biographies, newspaper articles and a lot of information! Historians, relatives, genealogists, former/current legislators, librarians and others began sending us information on legislators within the listing. Some had cited sources that corrected or expanded what we already had. Most had added data. One Kansas public library was kind enough to send us photocopies of an entire file folder with obituaries of legislators who had served from their county. Long before social networking was set into place by Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter, we found ourselves inundated with emails and packets in the U.S. mail. Kansas Legislators Past and Present was not just a website listing, it was an interactive, online resource allowing individuals to submit information for display.
Submitted information included within the listing was cited online. More extensive resources were cited, as well as offering viewers the opportunity to find out more about an individual. This included online sources with linking URLs embedded within citations. Information from family with no other verifiable citation was usually added with family members’ names/relationship to the legislator included. Disagreements on dates and places were included, citing why and where the differences came from.
Eleven years later, Kansas Legislators, Past and Present continues to thrive and grow. Staff regularly update the listings with newly elected or appointed legislators and session dates. The emails and letters continue, though not in as much of a flurry as they did years ago. We also continue to add information ourselves, trying to fill in the many near-blank listings with more information.
A more complete sample record within the listing looks like this:
Name: Frank Leslie (Les) Hagaman
Born: June 1, 1894 in Bushnell, Illinois
Died: June 23, 1966 in Kansas City, Kansas
Occupation: Lawyer, Farmer
Town: Kansas City
Chamber: House 1939, 1941, 1943, 1945
Notes: Majority floor leader in 1941 session. Interim governor of Kansas for 41 days in 1950-1951, making him the 31st governor of Kansas. This occured when Governor Frank Carlson resigned his seat to accept the U.S. Senate seat he had won in the 1950 elections. Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, 1947-50.
1)—1943 Kansas Legislative Directory. (Topeka, Kan. : Kansas Business Magazine, 1943?.)
2)—Topeka State Journal 6/24/1966 obituary.
Only basic information is included, limited by library policy, which is stated on the main page of the web site. Spouses are included in data for legislators who are normally a couple generations removed from the present to protect the privacy of family members. The library currently keeps the paper resources donated and will send out copies of this information upon request.
Though not “cataloged,” Kansas Legislators Past and Present serves as a good example of providing access to basic information with added references for further research. It has been set up within a framework of rules of construction and content. It also permits limited updates by contributors with further information.
Online listings or indexes like Kansas Legislators Past and Present can serve as auxiliary access tools alongside OPACs offering paths to information that might not make it into the catalog… those hidden treasures that often lie at the core of our bibliographical service, but are often “lost” with limited access points.
OTHER ONLINE LEGISLATOR INDEXING TOOLS:
U.S. Congress Biographical Directory
Colorado Legislators Past and Present
Maine Legislators Biographical Directory
Minnesota Legislators Past and Present
Nebraska Legislators Past and Present
Wyoming Legislators Database
(list supplied by Megan Schulz)
Cataloging and Kansas Documents Librarian