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Conversation on Cataloging

Dec - 5 - 2007
Nicole C. Engard

I had an interesting chat with a friend regarding cataloging rules and tools that I wanted to share with you all. I know it can sometimes be hard to follow someone else’s chat transcript – but here you go:

Brooke: I think I want to try gluing my catordogging cripple speak to my lack of coding knowledge
Brooke: You know how there’s dublin core
Brooke: RDA and MARC
Brooke: as well as other junk
Brooke: and a bunch of folks that use Koha for personal collections
Brooke: I think all of the interfaces I have ever seen with cataloguing
Brooke: have fields and boxes and junk to fill in
Brooke: they just aren’t particularly interactive
Brooke: is that so with you?
Nicole: yes – if you mean dragging and dropping as interactive
Nicole: it’s a pretty static form where you hit a key to add a row
Nicole: and tab through the fields
Nicole: in OCLC it’s hitting enter to add a field below and shift+enter to add a field above
Nicole: in Voyager is F3 above and F4 below
Brooke: *nod*
Brooke: but is any of that stuff actually important to the aboutness of a work?
Brooke: is there anything inherent to this interface that _aids_ in cataloging?
Nicole: um … I guess not – it aids in usability for me – I often forget a field and need to add it in
Brooke: *nod*
Brooke: suppose, and I know I’m losing my mind, that the program asked you what it wanted and that stuff was in plain language
Brooke: such as
Brooke: What is the title of the material?
Brooke: and had a simple text box
Brooke: then it said something like what’s the author?
Nicole: the problem comes in with MARC and AACR2 rules
Brooke: then it said something like is the author corporate?
Nicole: the title isn’t always a 245
Nicole: and there are different titles
Brooke: *nod*
Nicole: there’s a uniform title in another field
Nicole: and a different title in 246
Brooke: *nod*
Nicole: and the author isn’t always a 100
Nicole: sometimes it’s a 110
Brooke: *nod*
Nicole: or a 710
Nicole: ….
Brooke: *nod*
Nicole: so without letting me say what field it is “title” isn’t enough
Brooke: but those instances have a related question, don’t they?
Nicole: yes
Nicole: but I think it would take me longer to answer the questions then to type the field myself
Nicole: ….
Nicole: it might be dumbing cataloging down too much – which would work for people with no experience – but those of us with experience would start to get annoyed – I think
Nicole: it’s like this contractor I worked with once
Nicole: he always wanted to copy paste cause he couldn’t type
Nicole: but I could type faster than he could copy paste
Nicole: so I always did it that way
Brooke: do you think they’re really going to change those rules?
Nicole: MARC rules?
Nicole: no
Nicole: AACR2 – that’s what RDA is – but I haven’t read it so I have no idea how different it is
Brooke: but isn’t that curious?
Nicole: curious? no – it’s stupid as hell
Nicole: :)
Brooke: I mean you’re changing the basis for the stuff that a record is
Brooke: but you aren’t changing _how_ you’re inputting the record itself
Nicole: aren’t we? I don’t know – isn’t RDA more like XML? and I agree with you – the how that I hate is the stupid rules about periods and semi-colons -
Brooke: all of these disparate methods of working round or gluing to MARC is just kind of funny
Nicole: I’m not sure … see even as I was learning MARC I thought it was pretty cool
Nicole: I mean think of the power in the data by using so many fields and subfields
Nicole: there is so much there
Brooke: (punctuation and a bunch of convention seems to be disappearing with RDA, but I am far from a cataloger…)
Nicole: the problem is with the systems that read the data …
Nicole: they don’t take advantage of all of the work I put into my MARC records
Brooke: uh huh
Brooke: the problem isn’t either the system OR marc, it’s both, yes?
Nicole: and if I didn’t have to follow AACR2 then I could work much faster
Nicole: I don’t know
Nicole: maybe MARC could be updated a bit
Nicole: but the systems are the big problem as I see it
Nicole: they don’t read all of the amazing data we have …
Nicole: example:
Brooke: (Yes I weight the systems heavier in the blame equation, too.)
Nicole: when I have a photocopy of a dissertation I put in data about the photocopier and that data never shows in our catalog
Nicole: I enter data about the fact that our books have been deacidified (yes there is a field for that) but that never shows
Nicole: I enter all kinds of valuable archival data that never shows to the user – which is the system
Nicole: the system doesn’t read all MARC fields
Nicole: and if it did it would have to come up with a reasonable way to display it all….
Nicole: maybe because I was a db admin before learning MARC – I like MARC – I like all the fields – I like how they have the potential to link together
Nicole: I enter in the fact that a title was indexed in X index and that’s an awesome resource for a researcher – but my system doesn’t link that to the index – it just says if you want you can look here – but you have to figure out how to do that yourself
Nicole: silliness
Brooke: *nod*
Brooke: I agree completely
Brooke: I think you said what I anticipated you might, which is just nuts
Brooke: I think the cataloguers are beating sense into me thick skull
Nicole: hehe
Brooke: here is one thing I have always wondered about
Brooke: Our Library types ought have their own out of box distribution
Brooke: you, as an academic, want a deliciously complex cataloguing setup
Brooke: BUT the interface for you is simple
Brooke: you want a text box, rev her up, I know my fields, I’ll data dump em into a box
Brooke: yeah, I might forget summat, but as long as I can fix that, no big deal
Nicole: that’s not necessarily an academic thing – that’s a cataloger thing …
Brooke: *nod*
Brooke: I was getting to that
Brooke: large publics would want that, too
Brooke: presumably
Nicole: I agree that there need to be different types of systems for academic, special, and public libraries though
Nicole: the problem at the special library I used to work at was that the system was built mostly for academics
Nicole: and it didn’t fit some of our very particular needs
Brooke: *nod*
Nicole: that’s where the modular system comes in
Nicole: and is needed
Brooke: *nod*
Nicole: but that still doesn’t change the cataloging aspect – I think if there is one professional cataloger in your library then they’re going to want a system pretty similar to what I want …
Brooke: *nod*
Nicole: they’re used to it and they know their job
Brooke: absolutely
Nicole: that said
Nicole: it sort of sounds like “we’ve always done it that way” and I hate that….
Brooke: no!
Nicole: so if someone comes up with a better more efficient way – I’m all for it
Brooke: you get what you want is the reason OS is
Brooke: I’ve just had this problem rattling in me brain for at least 5 years
Brooke: what does someone who’s in the middle of no where
Brooke: who isn’t like you
Brooke: who doesn’t have cataloguing experience
Brooke: or even more dire, is a volunteer
Brooke: but really wants to help the Library
Brooke: how do we construct a way for them to help
Brooke: AACR2 is very particular
Brooke: you start with nothing
Nicole: we develop a simple cataloging system that isn’t built on rules like AACR2 and doesn’t use MARC
Nicole: we develop the system you described in the beginning
Brooke: yes, but the kicker to that
Nicole: one where title, author, publisher, call number … are all fields
Brooke: is that the computer CAN assign it MARC fields
Nicole: why does it have to?
Nicole: why can’t you have a different cataloging system than me?
Brooke: bingo!
Nicole: why can’t your system just read the data the way you need it to?
Brooke: bingo!
Brooke: the only reason that information is constructing MARC is that we tell it to
Brooke: there’s no reason the same information can’t morph a little and be dublin core
Brooke: or nothing
Nicole: I agree
Brooke: but it has to have a box
Brooke: so that it can be a proper database and get retrieved
Nicole: so you need an OPAC that reads XML – or another format … something that reads a format that anyone can write
Nicole: this wouldn’t be hard to develop
Brooke: I don’t think so either
Nicole: and in fact it probably exists
Nicole: there has to be some small library with a homegrown system just like this out there
Nicole: but if you want to fit this data entry format into a traditional cataloging system – you can’t – there are too many variables involved
Nicole: like I said – title is not descriptive enough for those systems to put the title in the right place to display the data correctly
Brooke: yes
Brooke: I realize that
Brooke: I was simplifying things
Brooke: but I think most materials in smaller collections could be seen to with relative ease
Brooke: in fact, there’s so much copy cataloguing
Brooke: that most of the stuff I’ve seen is just barcoding
Nicole: but if you’re that small a library do you have access to tools like OCLC to copy catalog from?
Brooke: no, but you don’t need OCLC to copy catalogue
Brooke: >:)
Nicole: k
Brooke: ^^^^^ Ghetto Librarian
Brooke: I almost wonder if I’m thinking of a tutorial
Brooke: and not a module at all
Brooke: wouldn’t you improve after a few go rounds at this
Brooke: wouldn’t you realize that you had a corporate title right away
Brooke: or a translator or whatnot?
Brooke: I mean, you weren’t born knowing that the 856u was a field with a link in it
Nicole: I’m losing you
Nicole: right
Brooke: but after seeing a few of those records and digging around a bit
Brooke: you figured out what was displaying and you learnt about that field perhaps
Brooke: I don’t know too many people that sit down and read the AACR2R cover to cover…
Nicole: I do!!!!!!!
Nicole: it’s insane
Brooke: :)
Brooke: I do too, but I read the dictionary as well
Nicole: I agree though – you can figure out MARC by poking around a bit
Nicole: it’s the rules from AACR2 that stop things up
Brooke: which are going to be changing…
Nicole: so drop the silly punctuation rules from the card catalog days and let me enter my data however I want in the right fields and then be done with it
Brooke: uh huh
Nicole: there is no reason a computer can’t change my capitalization or my punctuation after the fact
Brooke: BINGO
Nicole: let me do the human part and let the machine do the machine part
Brooke: YES!!!!
Nicole: :)
Nicole: so are we back to a MARC based system minus the AACR2 (or RDA) rules?
Nicole: or are we still talking about a simple system for non-catalogers?
Brooke: all of the above *duck*
Nicole: how does it work?
Nicole: you allow for 2 interfaces depending on preference?
Nicole: like me and the consultant who wanted to copy paste?
Brooke: mmm hmmm
Nicole: both our ways worked – and one was just faster for each of us?
Brooke: I can’t decide if cataloguers will string me up or embrace me if I figure out how to get what’s in my head out
Nicole: both :)
Brooke: this’ll take forever
Nicole: there are those who are willing to change and those who aren’t – in all fields of life
Nicole: I’m up for anything that makes my job easier ….
Brooke: I think most folks are
Nicole: seems like a no-brainer to me
Nicole: but some people are all about tradition
Nicole: and the way it has always been done
Brooke: *nod*
Brooke: thank you so much for humoring me
Brooke: I don’t meet too many people that really know cataloguing
Brooke: I told my clerks it was like elementary school
Brooke: there are kids at the front of the class that everyone copies off of
Brooke: and by the time the record gets to the back row, it’s not so great anymore…
Nicole: do you mind if I share this convo on my blog – minus your name?
Nicole: I think it’s a good convo for people to read
Brooke: bwhahaahah
Brooke: not at all
Nicole: k
Brooke: someone has to externalize my thoughts
Brooke: feel free to use my name
Brooke: you can even put up my email
Brooke: I want to talk about this stuff with lots of people
Nicole: keep and eye on the comments – maybe you’ll get some good feedback
Brooke: mhelman@illinoisalumni.org
Nicole: okey dokey – I can do that
Brooke: thanks
Brooke: I know you have readership

10 Responses so far.

  1. Brooke says:

    I’m unemployed at the moment, actually.

  2. Nicole says:

    Post updated as such :)

  3. Brooke says:

    I’m unemployed at the moment, actually.

  4. Nicole says:

    Post updated as such :)

  5. Bryan Campbell says:

    You might be interested to know that in Germany catalogers do not add ISBD punctuation at “field borders.” See http://serials.infomotions.com/ngc4lib/archive/…. I think the punctuation is system supplied.
    There are some other interesting things that the Germans do–like make parts records for just about everything.
    Read about that in REUSE+ at http://webdoc.gwdg.de/ebook/aw/reuse/reusep.htm

  6. Bryan Campbell says:

    You might be interested to know that in Germany catalogers do not add ISBD punctuation at “field borders.” See http://serials.infomotions.com/ngc4lib/archive/2007/200708/1558.html. I think the punctuation is system supplied.
    There are some other interesting things that the Germans do–like make parts records for just about everything.
    Read about that in REUSE+ at http://webdoc.gwdg.de/ebook/aw/reuse/reusep.htm

  7. Brooke says:

    Thanks and thanks.

    Must read late 90s doc when semi conscious, but the first posted link was interesting and noted. I like that communication is closer with the Extensible Catalogue project – there’s a natural programmer / Librarian team at its inception. This is closer to Nonaka & Takeuchi’s advocacy of an American Football approach instead of a pure Western or even rugby try.

  8. Brooke says:

    Thanks and thanks.

    Must read late 90s doc when semi conscious, but the first posted link was interesting and noted. I like that communication is closer with the Extensible Catalogue project – there’s a natural programmer / Librarian team at its inception. This is closer to Nonaka & Takeuchi’s advocacy of an American Football approach instead of a pure Western or even rugby try.

  9. Bryan Campbell says:

    You might want to check out the REUSE+ examples database
    that helps to elaborate the report; it’s available at http://www.biblio.tu-bs.de/db/mm/. Mind you REUSE+ was only part of the larger REUSE project. Mention of it can be found on AUTOCAT, in CCQ, and the open web. Look in AUTOCAT for contributions by Bernhard Eversberg especially with regard to discussions about formatted contents notes.
    I tend search the online web archive rather than send getpost commands. A search in AUTOCAT using Eversberg’s e-mail address as an anchor and “contents” in the search box retrieves a representive sample of posts.

  10. Bryan Campbell says:

    You might want to check out the REUSE+ examples database
    that helps to elaborate the report; it’s available at http://www.biblio.tu-bs.de/db/mm/. Mind you REUSE+ was only part of the larger REUSE project. Mention of it can be found on AUTOCAT, in CCQ, and the open web. Look in AUTOCAT for contributions by Bernhard Eversberg especially with regard to discussions about formatted contents notes.
    I tend search the online web archive rather than send getpost commands. A search in AUTOCAT using Eversberg’s e-mail address as an anchor and “contents” in the search box retrieves a representive sample of posts.


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