Category Archives: Authority Work

“MARC” Cataloguing

In preparing for class this week, I’m brushing up on some readings on the topic of authority control, controlled vocabulary and AACR2.  While reading Michael Gorman’s article Authority Control in the Context of Bibliographic Control in the Electronic Environment (2009), I stumbled upon these wise words:

People who talk of “MARC cataloguing” clearly think of cataloguing as being a matter of identifying the elements of a bibliographic record without specifying the content of those elements.  It is, therefore, clear that those people do not understand what cataloguing is all about. (p. 16)

While there are many of you who may not always agree with Gorman, you must acknowledge that this statement is spot on in its observation.  How many of us, in the practicing profession, have seen the devaluation of cataloguers from a position that requires training in cataloguing to a position that requires no more than a high school diploma?  Cataloguing is not simple data entry, and understanding how to catalogue within a MARC record is not as simple identifying the field and inputting straightforward data and punctuation.  However, in many public libraries with tight budgets, we often turn to library assistants for help in editing our MARC records.  Does this activity make them a cataloguer?  While using staff as a valuable resource, is this also confusing (sending mixed signals) management and other professionals about the knowledge, skills and judgement (Gorman) necessary to be a cataloguer?

Gorman goes on to state “[T]he most important thing about bibliographic control is the content and the controlled nature of that content, not the denotations of that content.” (p. 16)

While Gorman is discussing all of this in the context of his dislike of Dublin Core, his comments should have us all rethinking how we hire, train and educate our future cataloguers and librarians.  It should also have us questioning why such a vital service – the access to information and retrieval of information –  is so misunderstood.

A great discussion can certainly develop from the brief comments I have made, starting with the complexity of MARC and our descriptive standards, however, if our professional can’t clearly communicate the overarching goals and practices of cataloguing, the details about how we set out to achieve these goals will not matter in the long run.

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Filed under Access Issues, Authority Work, In the Cataloguing Department, The Cataloguer

RDA Train-the-trainer webcasts

I know these have been available for a bit, and many of you know about them, but with CLA (our Canadian Library Association Conference) and ALA Annual coming up, I thought there might be renewed interest in watching RDA train-the-trainer webcasts before attending the RDA workshops and presentations. Or, if you can’t attend these conferences or workshops, an opportunity to take advantage of these helpful webcasts and learn about RDA on your own.

All free of charge, these webcasts can be watched by all professionals
who are facing the implementation of RDA and would like some help!

*Thank you to Bryan Campbell for posting this on AUTOCAT!


Filed under Access Issues, Authority Work, future of cataloguing

Update on First Nations Subject Headings

With LAC’s decision to hold back on making a decision about the use of First Nations subject headings, I am still attempting to provide proper access to these names in my own work as a cataloguer. Recently, one of my staff members brought to my attention a work on the *Malecite* First Nation. They are a People geographically located primarily in New Brunswick, with one band located in Maine.

The proper LC authority for this First Nation is “Malecite Indians”. As always, this is a struggle between following LC, and reflecting the cultural differences in terminology and use in Canada. In this case, given that they are primarily located in Canada, I knew immediately we had to alter the authority to reflect that they are a First Nation, removing the term “Indian”. For a refresher on the work I have done in this area, you can view these past posts.

My research, however, indicated that the spelling of Malecite was not necessarily accurate. While Malecite appears to be the English spelling, the more commonly used spellings are Maliseet and Malisit (which is the Mi’Kmaq term). Also under consideration (or at least for inclusion as “see” references in the authority) was their own name for themselves, Wolastoqiyik, as well as the two other names, St. John’s Indians (term used in old literature) and Etchemin (French name).

So, I began to do some digging.

Not only did I visit every Malecite First Nation website that I could find, I read up on the history of these People (including Canadian government and museum resources/documents). However, one of the most interesting websites that I ran across was Daniel Paul’s website. Daniel Paul has focused an incredible amount of his career on the history and terminology of the First Nations of Canada, and more specifically, the Maritimes. What an amazing resource! The information on his website, in addition to all of the firsthand accounts and information from the Malecite First Nation sites that I had discovered assisted me in making, what I hope, is an informed decision in the proper usage name (terminology/spelling) for the Malecite.

In the end, I decided that Maliseet is actually the most commonly used and accepted spelling. While it is arguable that I should adopt Wolastoqiyik as the proper authority or leave the LC authority as is, I had to consider access to the general public (in Canada), and not just our First Nations communities. And, from what I found in my research, Maliseet rather than Wolastoqiyik is used more frequently among all groups of communities/peoples (First Nations included).

This is now our authority for Maliseet First Nation. It is not complete, as you notice if you compare LC’s authority, with our newly created authority. We have to add additional 450s and 550s, but at least it now reflects what, in Canada, is perhaps a better term for this First Nation.
Authority screen shots comparison


Filed under Access Issues, Authority Work

Cataloguing Potpourri

A couple of interesting items for discussion have come across various listservs lately. So, while many of you may have seen the following items, I thought I’d post them for those who haven’t.

Article of Interest
After losing users in catalogs, libraries find better search software
This is an article by Marc Parry in the Chronicle of High Education.
Here’s a sampling of what’s discussed:

The problem is that traditional online library catalogs don’t tend to order search results by ranked relevance, and they can befuddle users with clunky interfaces…

…That’s changing because of two technology trends. First, a growing number of universities are shelling out serious money for sophisticated software that makes exploring their collections more like the easy-to-filter experience you might find in an online Sears catalog.

Second, Virginia and several other colleges, including Villanova University and the University of Rochester, are producing free open-source programs that tackle the same problems with no licensing fees.

A key feature of this software genre is that it helps you make sense of data through “faceted” searching, common when you shop online for a new jacket or a stereo system. Say you type in “Susan B. Anthony.” The new system will ask if you want books by her or about her, said Susan L. Gibbons, vice provost and dean of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries. Users can also sort by media type, language, and date.

Discussion Paper addressing the subject access treatment for cooking and cookbooks
This came across several listservs, but as they are asking for feedback, I’m reposting the announcement in its entirety.

In response to a long-standing and generally recognized need to modernize the subject headings treatment for cooking and cookbooks, the ABA Policy and Standards Division (PSD) of the Library of Congress is in the initial planning stages of a project to revise the headings used in this area. A discussion paper has been posted. Tentative decisions have been made about some aspects of the project; for other aspects, various options are under consideration and no decisions have yet been made. PSD invites public comment on the plans described in the discussion paper.

In recognition of public interest in this topic and of the enormous number of subject heading revisions involved, as well as the volume of materials affected by this policy decision, comment is encouraged. Interested parties are invited to send comments on these plans to Libby Dechman at The deadline for comment is December 1, 2009.

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Filed under Access Issues, Authority Work, Social catalogue, Subject Headings, The Library Catalogue

The Changing World of Authority Control

For those of you who read my ALA posts, you’ll remember that I rushed off from a NoveList focus group over to the Hilton, eagerly anticipating the session Continuing the Conversation: A further exploration of the brave new world of metadata. Unfortunately, I not only arrived late, but couldn’t find the room.

However, Barbara Tillett was kind enough to send me her slides from that session. Enjoy!

Also, for those of you who missed the announcements when they made the rounds on the listservs, here are the links to the revised RDA background documents.

A number of RDA background documents have been updated in line with the final RDA text supplied to the co-publishers for the first release, including the element analysis and the FRBR and FRAD mappings.

The list of AACR2 changes has also been revised, and now includes a
comparison of AACR2 SMDs with RDA vocabularies.

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Filed under Authority Work, Conferences, future of cataloguing

Indigenous and Aboriginal Peoples Resources

Many of you have read about my Indigenous Peoples subject heading project or my post  Native Peoples v. Indigenous Peoples v. Aboriginals…are any of the terms really any good? I am thrilled to finally let you know that this project is nearing its completion and the changes and creation of authorities have been implemented.   At least, the completion as it stands today (terminology is alawys changing and evolving).  Throughout this project, we questioned our knowledge on these subjects and went to various resources to assist us in our decision making.  Many of you also played a role by providing me with feedback and your own opinion.

There has been some resistance regarding the fact that I made the decision to deviate from accepted or proper authorities.  But, my question was, proper to whom?  Do the First Nations of Canada really want to be called “Indians of North America — Canada”?  Do the Mi’kmaq really want to be represented by the term Micmac?  We feel very good about what we’ve accomplished in our catalogue and that we’ve moved one step closer to properly representing a culturally diverse and thriving Peoples in Canada. 

So, for many of you who are also looking into resources to help out with projects in your own library, I’d like to recommend the AILA’s Subject Access and Classification Committee’s wiki.

Also, a blog that recently came to my attention is Loriene Roy’s From All Directions.


Filed under Access Issues, Authority Work, Subject Headings

Library of Congress Announces Study of Bibliographic Record Publication

For those of you who haven’t seen this announcement yet (I know it’s been posted on quite a few blogs and listservs) :

The Library of Congress today announced the next phase of its

investigation into the creation and distribution of bibliographic data in U.S. and Canadian libraries. The Library has commissioned a study to research and describe the current marketplace for cataloging records in the MARC format, with primary focus on the economics of current practices, including existing incentives and barriers to both contribution and availability. The study will be carried out by R2 Consulting LLC of Contoocook, N.H.


The Library has recognized that its role as a producer of bibliographic data is changing and that other libraries have options as they consider sources for cataloging records. The conclusions outlined in a report issued last year, “On the Record: Report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control,” indicate that cataloging activity must be shared more broadly and equitably among all libraries. Before the Library considers any changes to its cataloging commitments or priorities, however, it is vital to understand the extent to which other libraries rely on its contributions. The study will examine  cataloging production and practice across all library types, including cooperative activity through OCLC, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC), the National Library of Medicine, the National Agricultural Library, library consortia, and other shared cataloging initiatives.


Under the general direction of Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services at the Library of Congress, R2 will develop a description of the current economic model and will determine the extent of library participation in and reliance on existing structures and organizations. The study will show the degree to which sources other than the Library of Congress are supplying quality records in economically sufficient quantities, or whether most libraries use records created by the Library. This project is oriented toward fact-finding and reporting rather than solutions, and it is intended to produce a snapshot of the existing market. The project is scheduled for completion by June 30, 2009, with a written report and visual representation of the existing marketplace. Progress reports, along with various other data collection and communication tools, will be made available via the R2 Web site at and the Bibliographic Control Working Group site at


“I am very optimistic that the project will shed new light on the current cataloging supply and distribution environment,” Marcum said, “in such a way that future opportunities and challenges can be promptly identified and evaluated. I am hopeful that librarians and all other participants in the distribution chain will be as forthcoming as possible during the investigative process. Our intention is to understand as fully as possible both the economic and workflow implications for the U.S. and Canadian marketplace prior to implementing any changes at the Library.”


The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world’s knowledge in almost all of the world’s languages and America’s private sector intellectual and cultural creativity in almost all formats. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s Web sites and


R2 Consulting LLC was founded in 2000 by partners Rick Lugg and Ruth Fischer and specializes in selection-to-access workflow analysis and organizational redesign of academic libraries. The firm also participated in the “Economics and Organization of Bibliographic Data” session of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. R2’s primary professional interest is to help library organizations improve performance and adapt to the changing information environment.

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Filed under Access Issues, Authority Work, future of cataloguing, Our Profession

WorldCat – Increased number of controlled headings

The following information was posted on the MOUG-L listserv by Glenn E. Patten, Director WorldCat Quality Management.

Automated processing is now being used to identify, modify, and control
specific types of personal name headings in WorldCat bibliographic
records. This processing, based on data used to build WorldCat
 and developed by Thom Hickey, Chief Scientist in the OCLC Office of Programs and Research, is projected to control more than 26,000,000 headings over the next few weeks.

In this phase of processing, personal name headings that consist of more
than a single subfield and that match the established form or a
reference in the authority record are being updated (if necessary); the
heading is then controlled and the record is replaced. Records affected
by this processing can be identified by the symbol “OCLCG” in field 040
$d. When a problem is encountered, the record is skipped and reported
for manual intervention.

Dr. Hickey has posted a description of the project on his blog,

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Using our in-house Wiki to keep cataloguers aware of subject heading changes

We recently received our hard copy of the Cataloging Service Bulletin from the Library of Congress. Our usual practice is to circulate this bulletin among all of the cataloguers so that they can make changes or add new subject headings in our own catalogue. In addition to the new subject headings that may or may not be adopted, there are subject headings that we alter or change. It is important to let all of the cataloguers know about these changes so that we maintain uniformity in our catalogue. Our practice in the past has been to send out group emails to advise everyone about these changes once all the decisions have been made.

Earlier this week, I had some great suggestions from two of my cataloguers. Rather than having a meeting to discuss the changes or additions, as we have in the past, one of the cataloguers suggested we add this information to the wiki. As each cataloguer has a chance to read the bulletin, they can add to the list of new, changed or old subject headings. Another cataloguer also suggested linking the pdfs of the Bulletin to the wiki. This will allow everyone to revisit decision made by LC, and in essence, everyone will then have a copy of the bulletin at their fingertips for reference.

Both of these are excellent ideas. Because of the format of the wiki, the entire department can also enter into discussions, or read the comments from the other cataloguers regarding any changes.

I’m looking forward to implementing these ideas.

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Filed under Authority Work, In the Cataloguing Department, Subject Headings

BISAC to replace Dewey in the future?

The buzz surrounding the replacement of Dewey seems to be growing louder. Many librarians are saying that BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications system of classification) may take Dewey’s place.

I cringe to think of a world without the Dewey Decimal System. From my understanding, while some libraries are considering the change over to BISAC, they are hesitating because of the time and cost. To change over to a new system of cataloguing will require cataloguers, and then staff and patrons, to learn an entirely new set of categories and subdivisions. Tutorials will need to be created to assist both staff and patrons learn the new categories and cataloguers will have to take the time to learn new cataloguing rules and subject headings. New in-house rules will also have to be developed. And, as we are all well-aware, no classification system will provide descriptions for everything. As a result, there will be exceptions to the new categories and new subject headings or uses will have to be determined.

If you’re interested in learning about BISAC, here’s an interview with Dr. Lois Chan from the University of Kentucky. This first appeared on the August 6th edition of LibVibe.


Filed under Access Issues, Authority Work, future of cataloguing, Subject Headings