From pamphlets to posters – library’s ephemera services presented

​What are ephemera?

The easiest thing to say is that they are neither books nor journals.  The remaining group includes all kinds of prints from annual reports, adverts, price-lists, publications  produced by municipalities, associations and firms to manuals and exhibition catalogues.  In addition to the National Library of Finland, the Turku University Library is the only Finnish library to receive a copy of each ephemera  printed in Finland.

Isn’t their handling very time-consuming?

It is, because at least 85 metres of ephemera are published annually. We receive a large shipment of materials each week, which we first briefly go through to determine if there are any mistakenly included books or magazines. These are sent back to the Feeniks Library.

The delivery also contains a lot of material that we don’t keep – wrapping papers, visiting cards, stickers and blank notebooks. Duplicates or several different variants of the same item are also not stored.

What do you do with ephemera items that are kept for storage?

First, items without much information value, such as luncheon vouchers and gift tokens are separated from the materials. These are only grouped based on publication type and stacked into separate boxes.

The remaining ephemera are arranged more carefully into classes based on the library’s own classification  system and by publisher.

Does anybody really need ephemera?

Sure! Our ephemera collection holds a lot of valuable material not found anywhere else, such as  various annual reports or devices’ manuals. In addition, the collection is of value especially for the historians, since the first legal deposits started arriving in 1919  and there is also plenty of  older material due to donations and purchases. Home-loans are not allowed but you may study and take copies of ephemera material at our customer premises.

What kind of ephemera material  do people ask for?

All sorts of material are requested. Recent requests include, among others, Finnish building regulations of playgrounds, Jewish almanacs, Christmas ads, material related to nurse training, search warrants dating from 1918, cat-related material… The topics vary hugely.

Is it easy to find material dealing with cats, for example?

No, not really, because ephemera items are not arranged by subject and due to this you cannot find a shelf class dealing e.g. with cats in the same way as you can locate a specific book. That’s why requests require creative thinking – you must think about in which contexts cats may have appeared. 

And then you must start the actual search. Are there any cat publications produced by cat or animal related associations? Are there any cat calendars? This kind of topical request often requires going through almost all our ephemera collection.

Does finding the right kind of material require conversation with the customer?

Knowing the exact need of the customer helps the search. That’s why  conversation with the customer is an important part of our work. Sometimes she has not given enough details  and we may need to ask for clarifications. For example,  a customer requesting cat materials may in fact be interested in the vaccination of cats and therefore does not need any cat food ads. The interview may also bring to the customer’s mind new kinds of material that might be useful for her.

There are at the Raisio warehouses also Finnish newspapers in addition to ephemera.

That’s true,  our collections include all Finnish printed newspapers from 1919 till the end of 2007, after which the library stopped receiving newpaper deposits due to law change.  

In addition to ephemera and newspaper materials there are also copies of posters that we have just arranged into new shelves for easier locating. We are glad to say that nearly the whole poster collection is now in order and available for customer use.

Text: Ilmari Jauhiainen
Translation: Kristiina Hintikka
Photos: Teppo Kahtola

Published date 8/29/2017 1:35 PM ,  Modified date 8/29/2017 1:48 PM