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#38: A Job Ad of Sorts

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue.

There are three parts to every entry in my bibliographies: The ‘easy’ descriptive stuff – the core of the bibliography – title, author, issues, pages, etc. Pretty much anyone who can read and has eye for detail could learn to do this. In academic library terms it might be done by a non-professional library assistant. It’s the quickest job and just takes a minute or three per entry.

Then there’s the harder contents analysis: choosing what to include and what to leave out; as well as deciding what section of the bibliography to put the entry in. This would require a bit more training and an understanding of what Traveller authors write about and what readers would most likely want to find. It also requires the skill of being able to write a very short summary. Again, in library terms, it might be an assistant librarian role for those just starting out after a library degree. It takes anything from a few minutes per entry to perhaps quarter of an hour or longer if it’s not clear what era some rules or character have been written for or is a piece of fiction that needs to be read in its entirety to summarize adequately.

Finally, there’s the descriptive bit that contains meta information about the article and/or connects the work to the larger corpus of published Traveller. This is the hardest to do, as it requires a good working knowledge of everything that’s gone before, now several thousand items. Occasionally an article will include some of this information itself, which helps. There’s also the need to revisit old entries to add their connections to the new items. It’s perhaps no surprise to learn that I would equate this with an experienced subject librarian’s role—someone who knows the field. You could say it takes a lifetime per entry.

I should add I don’t claim mastery of that last item. I can strive for perfection on the first and aim for it on the second – I’m still pleased that the first edition of TTB only had 7 known errors in it, all of them typos – but it’s all too easy to miss some connection to a book or article I’ve not read in a while, or to simply not know a piece of information that would be interesting. A recent example: for all that I watch out for such things, I’d never heard of the Italian edition of Mongoose Traveller until I happened to put a question on languages into the quiz at last year’s TravCon. (Yes, I’ve slapped with a wet kipper the person who knew but hadn’t mentioned it – despite being the publisher of the bibliography!)

As I get older or more tired or both, perhaps I’m moving to the ‘next’ level of librarianship where I have to recognize it can’t all be done by one person and needs some kind of management or a small team. So if there is anyone who’d be interested in helping out the Traveller community in this way, get in touch. I don’t do it for money or for fame – and a good job too – but there is the quiet satisfaction of a professional job and a finished result which I hope is useful to others.