In the age old debate for cataloguers: “what is more important quality or quantity?”, very little is ever said about how we define quality.
What do we, as cataloguers, consider a “quality” or acceptable bibliographic record? Is it one without errors? Without any obsolete tags? One with uniform subject headings throughout, say, a series? One where all the punctuation between MARC fields is correct? Or, is a quality record a record any record that can be found or accessed?
In 2007, when I first started this blog, I wrote a post called Quality v. Quantity. At the time, I was convinced that quality demanded more than a “good enough” attitude. Recently, another blogger also wrote a very similar post, ironically enough also called Quality vs. Quantity.
My post, as well Ms. LeGrow’s neglects, I believe, what is at the heart of the matter. What do we define as a quality record and are there levels of quality based on circumstances and expertise? Unlike my views in 2007, I believe quality must be balanced with productivity, especially with the new technology (ie. “Did you mean…? feature) and increasing amounts of formats that we are put to cataloguing. My definition of quality has also changed. In an ideal world, our records would be perfect (of course, the definition of that, too, is debatable). However, I find I am more interested in access points and accessibility. With the change to RDA, I don’t believe a using a colon, rather than a semicolon will impact access, nor will the improper use of capital letters or additional tags within the record. However, cataloguers still focus heavily on these small editing issues – and debate this issue vehemently!
With the growing ability to harvest metadata from a variety of places, not just OCLC or local consortiums, at what point can we accept the work of others? After all, it is neither efficient nor acceptable, especially when harvesting large amount of metadata, to edit each individual record. Indeed, with the ability to download bib records for the most popular items in a library’s collection, if we accepted those records which we must assume are considered “quality” by the institution which created the record, wouldn’t we increase our cataloguing productivity?
If most cataloguers believe his or her records are the best, when can we start accepting our colleagues’ records and really focus on the original cataloguing? Until we understand what we mean by quality, we can’t begin to address the issue of quantity vs. quantity.