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Centennial Celebration Spurs Librarians' Quest for Story of County's Past

July 23, 1988|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

As head of the department of special collections at UC Irvine, Roger Berry spends his day acquiring materials for the department, dealing with patrons who need research information and reviewing the cataloguing of the special-collection holdings.

So it may seem a bit unusual that he would spend a lot of his free time in the evening and on weekends going to--where else?--the library.

But Berry recently spent four evenings in the Tustin library looking through the Orange County section of the library's vertical files. And he has gone on similar expeditions to libraries in San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Yorba Linda and a string of other cities.

The mild-mannered Berry is on a mission.

And he is not alone.

Berry and librarians at more than 50 other facilities in Orange County are working on a project that they believe will be the most enduring legacy of the Orange County Centennial.

The project is known officially as the Centennial Bibliography of the History of Orange County, California.

Sponsored by the Orange County Historical Society, the Centennial Bibliography will provide a comprehensive listing of publications on the history of Orange County available in county libraries.

The bibliography will be of immeasurable value to historians, students and anyone else interested in the history of their community.

"It will be the most comprehensive record of materials on Orange County history that has so far been produced," said Berry, 59, who is serving as editor and compiler.

When it comes to Orange County history, Berry said, California history bibliographies in the past have been of limited scope. One of the best, he said, devotes only eight pages to Orange County.

But the draft of the Centennial Bibliography is already 460 pages. And, Berry pointed out, it is only 85% completed.

The publications reported in the bibliography will include books, pamphlets, theses, oral histories and periodical articles on the county and its many communities. In addition to political, economic, religious, social and artistic materials, subjects will include studies in archeology, anthropology, natural history and the physical sciences.

To help researchers, the bibliography also will identify specific library locations where materials may be consulted. "That's really one of the big contributions," Berry said.

"It is something that will be a one-of-a-kind production," said Shirley Stephenson, associate director of the oral history program at Cal State Fullerton; Stephenson is chairman of the historical society's bibliography committee.

"What we're finding is the librarians don't even know what they have," Stephenson said. "Roger seems to have a knack for finding these things, particularly small items that have not been catalogued."

That is why Berry has been making his visits to libraries around the county.

"We want to make this as all-inclusive as it can be," he said. "One of the problems is there's a lot of stray material out there. You go out looking for things that have been missed. It's just astonishing how many discoveries you can make."

Although primarily a volunteer effort by county librarians, UCI has allowed Berry to spend part of his regular working hours on the Centennial Bibliography as part of the library's contribution to the project. Helping him is Sylvester Klinicke, the cataloguer in special collections, who has been entering all of the different libraries' local history holdings into a computer. Berry said Klinicke also has devoted endless hours in the evening and on weekends to the project.

Berry doesn't mind all the time he is putting into the project.

"There's a sense of enjoyment in assembling bibliographies," he said, grinning: "I'm sort of a born bibliographer."

Seated at a table in the reading area in the special collections department in the UCI library, Berry had the air of a man showing off his prized stamp collection as he thumbed through one of two black binders containing the draft of the bibliography.

"This," he said, peering through black-rimmed glasses, "goes beyond what past bibliographies have done."

Take, for example, Samuel Armor's 1911 "History of Orange County, California with Bibliographic Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With the Growth and Development From the Early Days to the Present." (Long titles, Berry notes, were typical in the 18th and 19th centuries and in the early part of the 20th Century.)

Although Armor's tome is listed in other bibliographies, the Orange County Centennial Bibliography will actually spell out the diverse contents of the volume, such as: the county's English walnut industry, the city of Santa Ana and, most intriguing of all, "The Killing of Sheriff Barton and the Capture of His Slayers."

In the past, Berry said, "the information about Orange County publications has pretty much been the private province of a few librarians and a few researchers, and this information has sort of been locked in our heads."

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