I dread the day one of my senior cataloguers will approach me telling me they are retiring. I often joke that no one can retire until I do, with a date close to (shudder) 2040. Unfortunately, that means that a handful of my staff will have to work into their 90s and 100s.
If you haven’t had to face a retirement or a new hire in the past few years, your cataloguing department most likely runs like a well-oiled machine. You have senior cataloguers and mid-career cataloguers who know their subjects, they are intimately familiar with cataloguing rules and the quality of the records they produce is excellent. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about errors in cataloguing or access issues because they are trained cataloguers who know their field. Because of the reliability of your staff, you can oversee the procedures to improve access, decrease backlogs and, on the whole, focus on the improvement of cataloguing and the library catalogue at your library.
But, what happens when one of your cataloguers retires?
The best case scenario is that you get to hire a new cataloguer, and preferably one with some experience. But, in reality, budget cuts, lack of available candidates and a management team or board that doesn’t understand the value of the cataloguing staff may put you in a situation where you are hiring a non-cataloguer to catalogue. For the most part, the bottom dollar is what ultimately dictates the decision.
What do you do?
This is an extreme, worse case scenario. Whenever possible, fight for your cataloguers and stress, through statistics, cost analysis and available literature, the reason why a trained professional should be valued. I firmly believe that if you want a tooth pulled, you go to a dentist. If you need to get a massage, you go to a certified masseuse and, if you want your items catalogued properly, you hire a cataloguer. Cataloguers are like accountants. Most people can do math, many are even good at it, but would you trust them over a certified accountant? On the whole, not bloody likely. Like basic accounting, copy cataloguing might not be too difficult for an untrained cataloguer, but when rules need to be interpreted or problems need to be solved, you need a professional. With the ever increasing introduction of new formats and genres, as well as changes in cataloguing practices and the surge of remote, online users, hiring professional cataloguers is more important than ever. I believe that to not hire a professional likely costs the institution more in the long run, and any initial cost saving benefits are lost as a result of poor access to collections, increased backlogs and lack of overall efficiency.
J. McRee Elrod (Mac) posted a list on AUTOCAT several weeks ago that I think is useful if you are faced with tight budgets and a lack of trained professionals. Here’s the disclaimer from Mac when I asked him if I could post this: “…please note they are not suggested best practices. They are measures of desperation…”
The easiest ways to save money are:
1) Get a good cataloguing module. TLC’s ITS is easier for a clerical
person to understand than the newer Bibliofile. It has Z39.50
2) Use free Z30.50 records.
3) Use LCC or DDC (adding Cutters) as found. Don’t second guess.
Some older material may have out-of-date DDC numbers, but most
materials will be new with current numbers.
4) Change DLC 490 0 to 490 1 and copy into 830, without checking SARs.
Only revise 830s if a patron says series are separated in the
catalogue. Even LC has separated series entries in their catalogue
due to typos. Most search by what is on the item.
5) Accept entries (100/110/6XX/700/710) as found. Only revise if a
patron says entries are separated. Most of the material you acquire
will be the only work by a particular author,
6) Use integrating resource practice for serials, i.e., current title
and publisher in 245 and 260; past titles in 247; past publishers in
503 (obsolete though it be); as opposed to confusing to patrons