Tag Archives: Cataloguing

CCQ Research and Opinion: Cataloging Blogs

In CCQ’s recent issue, there’s a brief article on Cataloging Blogs.

This article talks about the growth of cataloging blogs since 2007 and why listservs still appear to be more popular than blogs that deal with cataloging. While I am (personally) saddened to see my blog content described as “Laurel Taurelli includes links to resources that she uses frequently in cataloging” because I hope I offer more than that (including the correct spelling of my last name), I am happy to see this topic being explored. Why are there only a handful of active cataloging blogs and why does it appear that we prefer our traditional listervs over blogs?

I think we do need to ask ourselves why more of us aren’t writing about cataloging. If we are a growing profession, a profession that will become more important in the future, why is there a lack of writing being generated among us?


Filed under future of cataloguing, Our Profession

What comes after IFLA…

As I’m getting ready to leave for IFLA, I’m already thinking ahead to future blog posts.  There’s one area of cataloguing that has really grabbed my attention:  the debate between outsourcing and in-house cataloguing.  In addition to what I come across at IFLA, I’d like to explore this idea of outsourcing.   Why do libraries decide to do it?  What are the pros and cons?  What do libraries lose when they decide to outsource?  Is there a future for cataloguers in libraries?

I’ve been gathering and reading the literature on this topic.  One of the most disturbing themes I’ve come across is that cataloguing is NOT considered a core library function.  What?!!

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Filed under future of cataloguing

Jack Of All Trades, Master of None

Our cataloguing department had a chance to sit down this past Friday and listen to ALA’s super debate “There’s no catalog like no catalog”.

1.   How does a library catalogue get better every time it is used?
2.   What do we “cost” in relation to our benefit?
3.   Where do our services fit in to a user’s goals?
4.   Is our “virtual” library just as well staffed (with its own librarian too) as our physical branches?
5.   Why aren’t we collecting data from our patrons to enhance the catalogue and share community interests?

Some other interesting points:
1.   We need to be more evidence and cost driven.
2.   It’s important that we place more emphasis on statistics to justify what we are today and where we want to go.
3.   Our largest enemy is indifference – indifference from the profession, management and from the public.

And finally, my one concern:
It seems as if many professionals want us to become a “jack of all trades but master of none”.   A catalogue can’t be all things to all people.  Rather than try to be a Google and an Amazon, what do we do well?  What can we grow and enhance?  We are, after all, a database, not a search engine.  Perhaps I’m taking a narrower view than some.  Yes, the sky is the limit, but where do we start?  In the end, people use the catalogue because they are looking for information that is free and local.  They use the library website to find programs, links to additional reading resources and links.  I see, in the near future, a melding of these two ideas.

I found the debate useful in that it has started a dialogue in our own cataloguing department about the future of cataloguing.  I’m hesitant to adopt an “all things to all people” mentality, but I do believe we can be doing much more than we are.  I’m certainly looking forward to change, but not at the expense of a catalogue’s integrity or the detriment of the communities we serve.  First and foremost, we provide local service to the taxpayers who support us.  What do they want and need from our catalogue?

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Filed under future of cataloguing, Our Profession, The Library Catalogue

Speaking of copy cataloguing…

In my post of July 14th, much of what we discussed involved copy cataloguing.  Mitch Turitz brought up an interesting comment regarding the history of copy cataloguing.  By chance, I also stumbled across this paper by Moya K. Mason called Copy Cataloguing: Where is it Taking Us On Our Quest for the Perfect Copy?

A little Friday reading perhaps…

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Filed under The Cataloguer, The Library Catalogue

What’s the big deal, you just import it, right?

It never ceases to amaze me that some new librarians (and not so new) continue to believe that cataloguers just import and “dump” records into the catalogue, without any editing.  After all, who gives a fig about uniformity, misspellings, local subject headings and access issues?  Oh wait, they do – but only when faced with it at the “front-line”.

(I know that there is an ongoing debate regarding the editing of each individual record, localized headings and so on.  I follow this debate as well – and am waiting for day that when I import a record, inches will convert to centimeters, “Indians of North American – Canada” will change to “First Nations”, “African Americans” will convert to “Blacks” and American spellings will add a “see also” for Canadian spelling.  These are only a few “wishes” on my cataloguing wish list.  However, until our systems are at that point, we continue to go in to records and convert, add or remove information as required by our cataloguing practices.)

But, back to the point.  Where are library schools in this?  For the recent graduate, new librarians should know that many records that are imported need to be edited.  They should be taught to analyze records and know the difference between a good one and a bad one.  Why aren’t they aware that libraries have local practices, or that some libraries use different subject headings than others?  Where does this “it’s just copy cataloguing” mentality come from?

As for the more “mature” librarian, I find it very frustrating when I hear the comment “What’s the big deal, you just import it, right?”  Yeah, right.  That’s what we went to school for.  Although this “attitude” can be blamed partially on a lack of interest in cataloguing (or the fact that we work so quickly and efficiently that’s what they THINK, because we’re so good!), I think it also stems from an unconscious desire to minimize the importance of cataloguing. 

There’s a great divide between front-line staff and “the backroom”.  I’d like to blame this attitude solely on library schools and those on the front-line who devalue our services to promote the survival of their own.  However, I think it’s partially our fault, too.  While we discuss the future of cataloguing amongst each other and in technical terms, we’re not selling what we do to management and front-line staff. 

I’ve heard about an orientation that some cataloguing and technical services departments are developing to assist with this problem.  I’m hoping to adopt this in our library as well.  New librarians will be asked to spend a morning in cataloguing, to experience first-hand what goes on behind the scenes to get the items out to the branches.  I’m also hoping to make it out to all of our branches as a representative of the cataloguing department.  While visiting, I’d like to show them some strategies for using the catalogue, let staff know how we can work together and generally, provide them with a face to the catalogue.  I’m also interested in gathering their input and ideas.

If we aren’t willing to put ourselves out there and explain just what we do to non-cataloguers, we will become a lost profession.  I want management, front-line staff and patrons to think we’re more than just editors with “cut and paste” skills.


Filed under future of cataloguing, In the Cataloguing Department, Our Profession, The Cataloguer, The Library Catalogue

Readers’ Advisory Services: In the Backroom

As a member of our Readers’ Advisory Team at HPL, I’ve become interested in what the catalogue can do to assist and promote RA services while at the same time, maintaining the integrity of the catalogue.  While I don’t mind creating local headings if they provide long-term benefits to access, I don’t feel comfortable adding RA “buzz” words that are “here today, gone tomorrow”.  So, how can we balance our cataloguing rules while meeting the needs of RAs?  This is something I’ve only recently been exploring.  Our first step here at HPL has involved creating genre headings that fall under the “Narrative Nonfiction”. 

This week, we’ve begun a project to create genres that fall into the narrative nonfiction category and add them to our bib records, where appropriate. The birth of this project began with the idea of a narrative nonfiction tutorial.  The first steps in our own project began through frequent discussions with frontline librarians and by looking at RA websites.  Also, I’ve been working with an adult services librarian in our system to come up with definitions of these genres for our scope notes. While cataloguers are used to compartamentalizing and organizing books into clear categories (at least, in theory this is how we work), I decided to pick the brains of those RAs who are actually doing the searching on the frontlines.  As a result, I asked an adult services librarian to create definitions of how RAs would define the different genres and what they feel would fall into those categories.  Not only has this created a working partnership with frontline staff, which makes us visible and relevant, it also provided us with scope notes for our authorities.

I’ve recently proposed holding a session on this topic at CLA Montreal.  Although I haven’t heard anything yet, I do believe this is an area of cataloguing that should be explored. My splash for the session is below:

With the growing popularity of RA services, what role does the library catalogue play?  Why is the library catalogue being passed over for databases such as Novelist? This workshop takes a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of the library catalogue in RA services.  We will discuss the option of implementing RA “buzz words” as subject and genre headings, ideas for collaboration with RAs and the catalogue for enhancing Readers Advisory Services and what cataloguing departments need to do to get out of the backroom and onto the RA playing field

I’m looking for feedback on this idea.  Should we be exploring our role in RA services?  Do any of you have suggestions or comments about this?


Filed under Access Issues, In the Cataloguing Department, The Library Catalogue

Narrative Nonfiction – A New Genre Heading?

With the growing popularity of Readers Advisory Services, it is to be expected that skills and expertise will grow to incorporate nonfiction as well. We are starting to see this trend in Canada.

Not only are patrons happy to seek the assistance of a Reader’s Advisor (RA) when attempting to find that “perfect” summer novel, but they are now asking RA’s to suggest nonfiction titles about travel, crime and adventure. Still seeking a fictional read, a new term has emerged among Readers Advisory Services to describe these nonfiction books; Narrative Nonfiction.

With the emergence of this genre, it is necessary to consider this term for library catalogues. If patrons and RAs are using this to find books, then we need to examine its usefulness in our catalogue and the possibility of implementing it. Currently, it is not a valid authority. However, it is being used as a valid genre in RA databases such as Novelist.

While catalogues are not resources like Novelist, it is important to note that most RAs prefer to use Novelist over our catalogues and prefer their terminology. I find myself continually encouraging RAs to use our catalogue to assist them in finding materials for patrons rather than using alternate resources. Building a partnership between Readers Advisory Services and cataloguing is important. This relationship ties us directly with front line staff and keeps us current on the latest trends in reading and “buzz” words.

It was inevitable, but recently it was suggested that we consider the implementation of Narrative Nonfiction as a genre in our own catalogue. When I first heard this term, I didn’t really know what it included. All cataloguers need their terms defined, so I began seeking out definitions; something succinct and straightforward; something that I could apply with uniformity to nonfiction items.

What is Narrative Nonfiction, exactly? According to Abby Alpert, who wrote the article Incorporating Nonfiction into Reader’s Advisory Services, Narrative Nonfiction is “a style of writing that tells us a true story as a compelling narrative”. It’s a start, but that definition makes for a poor authority and gives cataloguers no direction. As a friend of mine pointed out, that’s an awfully vague concept for a cataloguer to base an authority on. Edward Humes provides a deeper understanding of Narrative Nonfiction. However, after reading his description and Abby Aplert’s, I concluded that the term was just too vague and discretionary to use as a genre.

By its own definition, narrative nonfiction will mean different things to different people. How will cataloguers possibly decide what will fall within that genre with any consistency? Even if we implemented this genre, would patrons find it helpful? I can’t ignore my cataloguing instincts that this genre would be more of a “hit and miss” grouping of titles, rather than a useful heading.

However, with a firm decision not to use Narrative Nonfiction, I still didn’t want to abandon the idea entirely. I believe the idea of this type of nonfiction has significant merit and patrons want to be able to search it. So, I started to explore the genres and headings in our catalogue that will assist patrons and RAs to find Narrative Nonfiction titles.

What I came up with was the following list of subdivisions in our 650 fields:

Case studies
Personal narratives

A colleague of mine is currently preparing a tutorial on Narrative Nonfiction for our Readers Advisors. As a result, I’ve sent her these terms, with search ideas and strategies such as:

(specifically of things rather than countries) are often written in “novel” form. Try performing the subject keyword search: “Salt history” in our catalogue.

Try search a subject keyword and combining it with “anecdotes”. For examples, search “cat adoption anecdotes”.

Case studies
Search a topic like “organized crime” and combine it was “case studies”. You’re subject keyword search will be “organized crime case studies”. Most or all of the results retrieved in HPL’s catalogue will fall under the genre Narrative Nonfiction.

Helpful hint: Usually if you combine a topic with [anecdotes, case studies, personal narratives, travel, biography], as a subdivision, you’ll recall items that fall under narrative nonfiction.)

Even with the above search strategies, I believe we can do better. Our catalogue is just starting to make greater use of genre headings. In the past, we haven’t done so because the software hasn’t allowed them to be as “searchable” as subject headings.

As a result, we are considering the following terms for genre headings:

True adventure
True Crime (which we already use)
Micro History

The idea of Narrative Nonfiction is not going away. The RA movement is growing and we need to find ways to assist it. Perhaps we will not always be able to implement to exact “buzz” word, but many times, we can make these topics and genres easily searchable for patrons and RAs. Collaboration, education and a willingness to change the catalogue to meet the needs to today’s society are essential.


Filed under Access Issues, Subject Headings, The Library Catalogue

The Virtual Museum of Cataloging and Acquisitions Artifacts

With all of the grumbles about how slow we are to embrace change and new technology, I thought this site is a nice reminder of just how far we’ve come. It’s really very interesting.

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Filed under Our Profession

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

Quality v. Quantity

I had an appointment with my doctor the other day.  When I arrived several minutes before my scheduled appointment, I checked in and was told to take a seat.  I ended up waiting about a half an hour before the doctor was able to see me.

She was running late, but I didn’t mind.  I usually expect to wait at any doctor’s office.  However, the doctor seemed to be very aware of the time.  In addition to apologizing for the delay, she rushed through our appointment.  I attempted to explain some symptoms I was having, at which point she began examining me, cutting me off and asking additional questions.

At the end of the visit, the doctor indicated that she would be referring me to several specialists.  Not indicating when or how these appointments were to be made, or if I could take the time off to attend them, she again apologized for running behind and began calling out the next patient’s name.

I felt rushed, unsatisfied and brushed off.  I did not feel that the visit that I had just experienced was professional or patient focussed.  Instead, I felt that the amount of patients that revolved through the doors and at the scheduled time was more important the the individual patients’ needs and at the expense of proper medical care.

In reality, my doctor did nothing wrong.  When complaining of certain symptoms, she performed a brief exam and, not noticing anything immediate, decided to send me to a specialist. That is the way to avoid litigation and medical negligence.  However, I don’t believe this visit was up to the standard that I expect of a professional.  When I visit a professional, any professional, I don’t want to feel like a number.  I want to feel as if the service I am being provided is of the highest quality.

Having had this experience, I began thinking about our own profession and the services we are providing our patrons.

Crunching the numbers
We hear statements like “It takes too long”, “What’s the delay, the book has been ‘in cataloguing’ for a week”, and so on, all the time.  There are articles, presentations and professionals who are always expressing concern over the turnaround time for getting the items out and on the library shelves. Many times, the solutions for increasing turnaround time involve harvesting other libraries’ records, or cutting corners and creating smaller records while ignoring cataloguing rules.

Stats are important, I will never argue that point.  Stats keep us employed and give us factual information to point to when budget time rolls around (in addition to many other things).  However, as cataloguing stats are climbing, are we sacrificing quality?  As professionals, our obligation is to our patrons and the service we provide them.  We have a professional responsibility to provide accurate records with proper punctuation and spelling.  If the name of a book is spelled wrong and we just “trust” the copy, how will that item ever be found?  What if it is a downloadable book and there is no physical item?

In my library, while we try to copy catalogue whenever possible, it is essential that we review the records when cataloguing the item.  I have never found a record that is perfect when imported.  There are misspellings, punctuation errors and, at times, terms or phrases that we either don’t use in our library or do not apply in Canada.  An example of this goes back to my Indigenous Peoples v. Indians subject headings posting.

In the end, even if the book is on the shelf, are we doing any favours to patrons who exclusively use the catalogue?  Aren’t we setting an example that we are not capable of handling the digitalization of information but can only provide proper service through a physical visit to the library?  Statistics show that visits to the catalogue are continuously increasing, while physical visits are down.  Isn’t that a good argument as to why we should be maintaining our professional standards?

While numbers become increasingly more important to justify our existance, we continue to have a responsibility to our patrons.  That responsibility includes providing an exceptional service.  This exceptional service is reflected in the accuracy of our catalogue, the ability to properly find information in our catalogue and the continuous updating of reading lists and new items.

I don’t believe in the saying “good enough”.  If you are aware that your standards are dropping to increase productivity, a review of procedures must take place.  We are professionals, we do not work on an assembly line where the only thing that matters is how much we produced that day.

While stats are good and helpful, I worry that the same squeeky wheels who complain the loudest about our turnaround will soon begin to complain about our poor, inaccurate records.  These records, created at their request, will further add fuel to the fire when questioning the role of the cataloguer.  If the turnaround is too long, sacrifice quality.  If the quality is poor and no longer adheres to any standard practice, what do we need cataloguers for?  It is a never-ending cycle.

What do we do?
Market, market, market.  It’s not easy, but it can be done. Besides cataloguers, who knows what we do all day?  Do they understand that we create electronic reading lists?  Make decisions regarding terminology?  Develop search tutorials? Create new restrictions and settings to make searching the catalogue easier (for both staff and patrons)?  Catalogue DVDs, CDs, Books on tape, Electronic documents, Reference materials, Books and Magazines?  And, by the way, where do you find copy for local publications?

In the end, we cannot compromise our professional responsibility to suit the needs of front-line staff or whomever our critics are.  Justify the time it takes to catalogue to management and make them aware of all of the factors that are involved in cataloguing an item so that it can be found. Electronically.


Filed under Professional Ethics, The Cataloguer