Monday, September 24, 2007

025.4 Cataloging Discussion: Access, Accountability and Other Thoughts to Ponder

I got to do one of my favorite things again this to a group of library school students, some practicing librarians and some still in classrooms, ABOUT cataloging, not how to catalog.

The professor, a former school library colleague, asks me and my office colleague each semester to speak to her students on a number of subjects in introductory terms. My topic is always cataloging and tonight's group contained about 50% cataloging surviors and about 50% still waiting to take the class. (Aren't they a nice looking group?)

Two points I always stress are how access to and accountability of any and all items are the main reasons for the cataloging procedure. Knowing what is available and where something is, are key to the item being useful to the student, teacher, parent, or community member needing the information contained in it. If these users don't know about its existence and where it "lives," then the library might as well not have it to begin with!

Accountability comes into the picture in these days of shrinking budgets, rising prices and more and more needs. When something is needed in our district, because of our union catalog, anyone can determine if the item already exists, who has it currently, and track usage. That way, t can be determined whether more copies are necessary expeditures or luxuries. Duplication of items can be avoided because it is possible to know ahead of time where and when an item needs to be purchased.

Careful cataloging...lots of keywords in the description or contents notes and lots of subject headings, allows for better collaboration between teachers, and between teachers and librarian. Cross-curricular use of the material can occur and an increase of materials available can occur when everyone can check on availbility.

I brought up several cataloging tools available to all librarians that make this "often-described as painful" process more palatable, if not more pleasurable.

1. Vendor records: Let the pros do it for you...not matter the cost. Have you ever figure the cost of cataloging if you do it? Figure 20 minutes per book and an hour per AV item...calculate your salary per 2o minutes or an hour! YOU are an expensive commodity...vendor records are not!
Time with your students and teachers is much more valuable.

2. Cataloging software: There are several out there. I am only familar with the Mitinet product currently known as Marc Wizard. It IS worth its annual subscription rate. Whatever your school or district has available, use it, and continue the subscription. Once again, let the pros help you in a much more efficient manner so you have more time with students and teachers!

3. Among several online resources is the Library of Congress catalog for downloading records AND its authority records for finding appropriate (and correct) subject headings. Free to anyone and everyone. Another source that has recently become available is WorldCat from OCLC...a tremendous resource for children's literature that hasn't made it to the LOC yet or professional teaching materials that never will. I am still trying to understand the lack of downloading process (that WAS available from some locations very early in the game), but subject heading are easy to find and MARC records acan be copied and pasted with greatest of easy. Ask me--I'll show you my multiple screen process. Again all for free!

Included in the discussion were some points about the Dewey Decimal System. I tried point out the same things as I did here and I issued them the same challenge as I did to the librarians in my sphere--check the signage in the library of your world. Can you as a patron navigate around based on the signage alone? Can you find your favorite book or topic?

A few more points...

why records in a union catalog must be consistent while holdings can be more individualized to meet the campus' needs.

why a librarian must always remember she/he is merely a temporary caretaker of the collection and NOT do something to the records taht would make it harder for the next librarian to comfortably use the records...i.e make up subjects, use "strange" call #s.

the differences between stand-alone and union catalogs as far as using the information.

AND online catalogs vs cards! (yes, there are a few libraries out there that still use cards!)

Links with interesting and useful stuff in addition to the ones included above are:
Cataloging post here
Cataloging post here
Catalogablog (David Bigwood)

All in all, a successful evening. I learned a lot as I always do. It was another good adventure LP...and thanks LA...I look forward to it again soon I hope!
P.S. Class members, please feel free to comment about the discussion or any points within!

1 comment:

Library Girl said...

Well, you certainly are the cataloging Queen. At least, of my universe, if not the rest of the world, too! Thanks for helping these people see that it's not as hard as the classes make it. That's what you've done for me, dear friend.