One of the hardest parts about implementing local practices in your catalogue, and then sharing your success stories, is explaining how or why other libraries should adopt your ideas and practices.
Adding genre headings to assist in readers’ advisory work is often a matter of juggling uniformity, cataloguing rules and access. Uniformity and cataloguing rules are relatively easy. Does an authorized heading exist? If it does exist, will your library adopt it? If so, what are the rules for applying it (only to new items? Retroactively? Etc).
It’s when we start exploring the nuances of access that things get tricky. What type of access do library catalogues now provide? We’ve accepted that known item searches (title/author) and topical searches are the traditional access function of a library catalogue. But, if we approach the library catalogue as an RA tool, we need to view access in the library catalogue differently. Now we’re exploring a way for readers and staff to use access points in bibliographic records to find read-a-likes, recommended reading and items that fulfill a particular reading mood/experience. As a result, cataloguers are creating localized headings and content to address the changing nature of cataloguing and how the catalogue is being used.
I was asked an interesting question lately about how cataloguers, who add these additional headings and content, share the information on a wider scale so that other libraries don’t have to repeat work that has already been done. Or, can at least learn from it.
This is tricky, because it’s like examining why interesting and popular frontline service strategies and programs vary from library to library. If the implemented service is so successful, why aren’t more libraries doing it? Why isn’t it common practice? Are the libraries implementing these strategies “reinventing” existing service models because they aren’t aware other libraries are already doing it?
It’s the same with our cataloguing practices. While we rely on standard resources for finding our genre headings, such as GSAFD, Library of Congress and, for those in Canada, Library and Archives Canada, cataloguing practices and access points vary from library to library because of in-house resources, how/where records are created, local community needs, preferences and our library’s goals and objectives.
As a cataloguer, I’ve also seen sharing of local practices through blogs, articles and publications, presentations and listservs. Sometimes, this is more beneficial than just submitting an access point to LC because it explains why or how practices have been implemented. With the work surrounding fiction genre headings, RA driven access points and enriched content, I’ve found this extremely helpful because it provides background information and the considerations that went in to developing ideas and practices.
Cataloguers also share ideas through copy cataloguing. For example, when I copy catalogue, I have a handful of favourite libraries from whom I like to download records. If I see that they’ve implemented a new subject/genre heading, interesting additional content, or even a new MARC field, I consider using it. As a result, it is like a single rain drop in a pond that slowly works its way out through ripples. Cataloguers speak, collaborate and share on a variety of levels.
When we create a genre heading, or implement local practices that we believe benefit a larger community than our own, many of us attempt to spread the word in a variety of ways, including the avenues I’ve already mentioned. And, of course, one of the most common way to share is by submitting our ideas to leading libraries, such as LC or LAC. However, they are often slow to change or accept our ideas for a variety of reasons. But, if a cataloguer waits for these changes to be adopted on a larger scale, opportunities and innovative ideas are missed.
So how do we share our local cataloguing practices on a wider scale? To what extent is cataloguing or, innovative cataloguing useful? Should cataloguers in public libraries address shortcomings in current cataloguing practices, especially when it relates to what readers are seeking in our catalogues? If they do, how can they share their ideas with the rest of the cataloguing profession?
Public library cataloguers are in a unique position when it comes to the expanding the role of the library catalogue. How we address these issues and how we plan to share our solutions and ideas for creating a *better* catalogue is an interesting issue.
I see this as becoming an important discussion, as cataloguers start exploring the implementation of appeals terminology within the bibliographic record. I don’t know if I’ve answered the question completely, but it certainly has made me take a look at how I share innovative (or what I believe as innovative and beneficial!) cataloguing practices to colleagues near and far.