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Meet Andrea Martin, Loras Rare Book Cataloger

by Mary Anderson on 2022-09-05T07:56:00-05:00 | Comments

This summer the Loras College Library welcomed Andrea Martin to fill the NEH grant-funded position of Rare Book Cataloger. We would like to introduce you to her and the work she has been doing in our Special Collections.

Andrea is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science and the Center for the Book, where she specialized in rare book cataloging. Book making and the history of books has long been an interest of hers. After completing an English degree at Mary Washington College in Virginia, she began working for HarperCollins Publishers in their children’s book division, first in sales before moving to editing. While working at HarperCollins she also began an MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts to continue to foster her love of poetry. Soon after completing this degree, she entered the Library and Information Science program at UI. These studies gave her a different way to be part of the trajectory of book history. She wanted to learn more about the history of books as well as develop the skills to preserve and care for them.

At Loras, Andrea’s work focuses on cataloging the incunabula (i.e., books printed before 1500) and the manuscripts in our Special Collections. But what is rare book cataloging? Essentially it is describing a rare book to allow people to find it in the online catalog. Unlike modern books which are mass-produced and thus all virtually identical, rare books are one of a kind, even when printed. Books were often published unbound and the person buying the books would have them bound, rather than the publisher. Also, through use and age the physical book changes. Publishers sometimes added their own markings, previous owners might have added inscriptions or marginal notes, additional titles could have been bound together, and bookworms (yes, these are real) may have eaten holes through the pages. Consequently, rare book cataloging spends a great deal of time describing the details of a physical book, all those things described above, that make each one unique. You can learn more about Andrea's work during her presentation on October 25: The Outside In: Uncovering the Hidden Stories Within Loras College’s Rare Books Collection.

The oldest printed book in this collection is from 1471 and manuscripts date back to the 12th century. You can find more information about the rare materials on our Special Collections Guide, and you even can visit in person. The Special Collections Room at Loras is open for use by faculty, staff, students, and to members of the public. To set up an appointment contact Heidi Pettitt at

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