Calling all Catalogers

Fellow catalogers,

I have been spending a lot of time these last few months working on getting a new web-based cataloging tool ready for you all. It’s finally time! I’d like to invite you to sign up for free and try out ‡ a community cataloging tool from LibLime.

So, what the heck is it? ‡ is a web-based original and copy cataloging tool with built in federated search of any Z39.50 target (via an integrated search registry with over 2000 targets – or by adding your own) and a large (30 million strong) shared database of catalog records. This means that you can visit ‡ and benefit from the work of other catalogers who have gone before you. You can also edit and contribute to the database without any restrictions.

I have also worked on creating some macros (others can be written by users) to help streamline some of our cataloging processes and templates for common item types to make original cataloging a little bit easier :)

I’m looking for both novice and professional catalogers to give me their opinions of the tools, services and overall user friendliness of ‡ I am of course also looking for people to join the community so that this tool and grow and help us all with our cataloging work.

I have worked very closely with the development crew on this new tool and believe very strongly both in it and the ideas behind it. The fact that we all work so very hard on our cataloging makes the fact that the records in ‡ are freely-licensed under the Open Data Commons all that more appealing.

If you want to learn more you can read through the documentation on the site and/or take a peek at this great write up by Jonathan Rochkind.

Thank you so much! I can’t wait to hear what you all think!!

Sign up for the ‡ Beta Test

Wondering what I’ve been up to at work lately? Well I’ve been swamped with getting ready for the ‡ beta test.

‡ is a subscription-based, hosted version of the open-source ‡biblios metadata editor ( that LibLime released earlier this year. In addition to the editor, ‡ includes some extended community features such as integrated real-time chat, forums, and private messaging.

‡ also provides access to the world’s largest database of freely-licensed library records. The database will be freely available to ‡ subscribers and non-subscribers alike via Z39.50, OAI, and direct download.

Furthermore, the database itself will be maintained by ‡ users similar to the way that Wikipedia’s database is maintained by users.

We’re now looking for enthusiastic participants to help shape the final production release of ‡ The beta test will start this week and we’re looking for copy and professional catalogers alike to test out the new service. Sign up ASAP at

Can’t test, but want to keep up with us? Follow us on Facebook.

Full Draft of RDA Available

I have to be honest- I’m terrified to even open this link …. The full draft of RDA is not now available for review.

Why am I scared? Something that takes this long to finalize cojures up an image of an infinite switch (or if/else) block. For non-coders – I’m imagining a document that says if you see this do this – except if you see this … and so on.

Why else? Well, I’m pretty darn busy right now, so the idea of having something else to read just makes me sad.

Anyway, I’ve done my duty and shared the link with you all so you can choose whether to click it or not.

[update] fixed some typos [/update]

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A call for help

Karen Coyle has a great post on her site where she calls for help on creating “An easy, online, social library catalog.” Why another cataloging tool? Karen has recently returned from Kosovo where many of the library don’t have catalogs and certainly don’t have the resources to run many of the affordable solutions out there. Here’s Karen’s checklist:

  1. A social networking site where the society members are libraries, not individuals.
  2. The ability to capture copy cataloging from other libraries or create cataloging on the site itself.
  3. Full Unicode support, both for the interface and for the data.
  4. The ability to capture and create records using a MARC-compatible format.
  5. The ability to export the library catalog records in MARC format.
  6. A reports function that could print off the results of searches or even the library’s inventory, so it could be used off-line.
  7. The creation of groups of “library friends,” that is other libraries whose data should be included in searches and displays. This will facilitate sharing and also will serve users in areas where resources are scarce and scattered.
  8. A search and display interface that looks like a modern library catalog
  9. It all has to be easy to use with no training required, and not require any technical support on the part of the library.

Read Karen’s entire post and if you think you can lend a helping hand, let her know.

The Future of Bibliographic Control: A Time of Transition

This is an interesting sounding event hosted by NFAIS at PALINET headquarters:

The Internet, search engine technology, and the growth in electronic resources have significantly changed both the publishing and the library environments. And a new, born-digital generation of information seekers is accelerating the pace of change as they embrace technology and integrate it into all aspects of their lives. This evolution from a print to digital information environment is forcing all those involved in bibliographic control for information access and retrieval to rethink traditional practices and procedures – even to rethink the concept of journals and issues! How does digital article-by-article publishing impact library acquisitions and cataloging as well as processing by traditional abstracting and indexing services? How can user-generated be leveraged to enrich bibliographic services? Can librarians and content providers collaborate in the creation and sharing of bibliographic data? What new forms of bibliographic control are emerging? And what opportunities does the future hold for the traditional players in bibliographic control?

The event takes place on the 28th of March and if you register on or before March 8th, you get a discount.

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ISBN Changer

Tim Spalding has written a tiny little API to change ISBN10 into ISBN13:

A smart young programmer from a book-related company and I were talking. It turns out that, to validate ISBNs and get back both 10- and 13-digit versions he was submitting ISBNs to Amazon Web Services. That’s like calling NORAD to find out if it’s raining.* Nor did he seem likely to hunt around for an ISBN library for Ruby. After all, what he was doing worked.

So I made a quick, very stupid API, ie.

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Brad Houston makes me want to cry (in a good way)

Thank you Brad – I was very tired and cranky because I had to go back out after work to a work party – but now I can’t stop laughing! You have to read his post entitled Michael Gorman makes me cry. Well Brad, I’m still laughing and that’s why I’m crying!! I have to leave for the party now – so you’ll all have to read his post yourself.

Of COURSE folksonomy is less exact than LCSH– that isn’t the point of it. Controlled Vocabulary is amazing for precision purposes, but if you don’t KNOW about the terms it’s not that helpful. Tagging, by contrast, allows users to determine what about the document is important to THEM, and note it that way. Remember them? The people we’re supposed to be serving?

And commenter Infosciphi, thanks for adding to my uncontrollable giggles:

I may be oversimplifying and perhaps exaggerating, since I have never met the man, but having read much of M. Gorman’s commentary, I have begun to view him like I would an adult with developmental problems. Sure he has the age & career of the adult, but his thought processes and reasoning seem to indicate some sort of mental retardation.

Cataloging Blogs as Serials

Back when I started here at the Seminary I decided to catalog my blog as an exercise in cataloging a serial. “But why a serial?” you may ask. I recently got an email to this affect and sent it on to Chris Schwartz, my cataloging mentor here, and here was her answer:

Here’s how we decided at Princeton Seminary as to whether or not to catalog blogs as serials or integrating resources (of course, both come under the umbrella of “continuing resources” in AACR2).

  • Even though blogs are websites (which are usually considered integrating resources) they have a distinct structure. We felt that blogs were most like serials.
  • We decided that the most important parts of a blog are its posts.
  • The posts do remain discrete. They are not integrated into the whole. So, the blog posts act like discrete issues of a serial.
  • Each blog post has what’s called a permalink. It is a permanent link to the post.
  • Also, like serials, blog posts have chronology and some have numbering. (My blog hosting software, TypePad, does not number blog posts, but Nicole’s does.) In fact, reverse chronology is one of the distinctive characteristics of a blog.
  • If you check the CONSER Cataloging Manual, you’ll see it’s possible to have a serial with chronology, but no numbering. I’ve only seen one of these in the last five years, but I’m not cataloging serials on a daily basis.
  • Even the comments left on blog posts have permanent links, and so remain discrete.
  • I don’t think there are any good arguments for cataloging a blog as an integrating resource. It’s true that the sidebar information, for example, a blogroll, does change and those changes are integrated into the whole. But the sidebar information is really peripheral. The posts are the most important part of the blog.

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Conversation on Cataloging

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
Nicole: okey dokey – I can do that
Brooke: thanks
Brooke: I know you have readership