Friday, 1 February 2013

Why cataloging matters

I know that a few of my cataloguing friends will have a wry smile at this post, as many will have heard me over the years be rather offhand about some of the pedantry that sometimes attaches to discussions around cataloguing perfection.  I'm not here to eat humble pie, but to reinforce some pragmatic necessities around cataloguing - particularly now that  so many libraries are part of our consortium & so many more are still to join up.

In some ways - it doesn't matter too much how we catalogue, so long as we're all agreed and consistent in what we do.  We need to remember that the main purpose of cataloguing in a public library is to make items easily discoverable by our customers.

A couple of the promises of our Statewide consortium are that:
  • It will be easy for the customers to use
  • It will provide efficiencies for library staff
  • It will accurately reflect the collective public library holdings
  • Collections from across the State will be easily accessible
For us to achieve these and other goals we have agreed to a number of "rules" that we will all follow. We don't have too many rules, as we want libraries to respond to local needs.  However one set of rules that we need to insist that everyone follows is our cataloguing standards.  And these standards are more than professionals just being picky or pedantic.  Adherence to these standards have very practical applications in our consortium.

For example, where libraries choose to alter the standard catalogue record that they receive from PLS they run the risk of their catalogue record not matching with others - causing multiple records to appear in the system. Here is one example: The Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Blu-Ray DVD has at least 2 separate records in the system.  One says;
      Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [BLURAY] : Part 1. and its primary author is listed as Radcliffe, Daniel 1989 -
The other says;
     Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 [Blu-ray DVD] and the primary author is listed as Yates, David 1963 -

(I've used the italics to show exactly what is in the record) 

Now for the purposes of this discussion it doesn't matter which record is correct, its just that once we have agreed on a standard then we need to ensure that everyone scrupulously follows that standard.

Why is this so important?

If we take a customer's perspective, they look up this title and are confronted with these 2 records - not to say all the other Harry Potter titles on the screen!!  They want to either see if one is available at their local library and/or reserve a copy.  In the example I am using I had to open both records to see which library holds the item - it happens to be Tea Tree Gully and Marion.  (No criticism here of these libraries - these records were added to their systems long before we created the consortium.  However because they have the title and author as looking different the machine matching of records will not merge these two records as they may be different.)

On opening the records I find that both copies are out.  I want to place a hold on this movie so it will come to my library, so what am I to do?  Do I put a hold on the one that has the earliest due date?  What if it never gets returned?  Perhaps I should put a hold on both of them and then I will get the 1st available copy?  But then a 2nd one will arrive later - oh well, I will just ignore the notice to say it is available for collection.

So - the customer has to look at 2 records (& for some examples 6 records), and they are uncertain about what to do.

If they choose to reserve both copies we pay to ship these across the State when only 1 copy is required.

We have also noted that some customers just place a hold on the 1st record they see.  And this sometimes means that they are reserving a copy from another library, even if their library owns a copy.

So - we look unprofessional by having multiple records for the same title showing, we have some degree of customer confusion, and we are shipping items across the State, often for no purpose.

We will slowly tidy up our database to eliminate these inconsistencies, but it will take time.  And it would be more productive if this time could have been used in other ways in libraries.

So - for all libraries I would request that whether staff are adding or modifying records in either your own LMS or in the consortium they need to be familiar with and follow the agreed cataloguing standards.  These standards are available on the PLS Intranet & if you don't have a copy please make sure that you get one.

And can I stress that any fields that are "match points" such as ISBNs are retained in records even if they're not important to our customers.  We use these to ensure that the database will only have 1 record for each title, and all items are linked to this one title field.  I am aware that non-book media is a bit more difficult, but essentially, where match fields are available they need to be retained for a vey good reason.

I am aware of other issues in the database at present, such as many "on-order" records not being overlaid by final records & the issues that this is currently causing.  I will be addressing this in a subsequent post.

No comments:

Post a Comment