Tag Archives: future of cataloguing

Are catalogues more than an inventory? Or, more than just a place to query library holdings?

Yesterday, Ivy from The Catalogs of Babes, posted a great piece called All catalog queries are reference questions, but not all reference questions are catalog queries.

Ivy’s post goes to the heart of what I’ve been exploring for the past year. In fact, the book I’m currently writing explores the idea that catalogues can be much more than inventories. In fact, if we are willing to redefine and explore the potential of catalogues through the new technologies available to us, they can play a vital role in enhancing not only local “core” library services within the physical branch, but create a remote “all-in-one” branch that includes interaction with reference staff and readers’ advisors.

What struck a chord in this post is Ivy’s exploration of the following:

If catalogs truly aren’t designed to work like reference librarians or Google information searches, then it’s not fair to patrons who have that impression and expectation. It should be on us to make it clear that the catalog is a list of what the library holds and nothing more. Maybe we need to start referring to it as an “inventory” rather than a catalog?

Exploration, acceptance or even the concession that library catalogues can never be more than an inventory should give us all pause; given the technology at our fingertips and the continual growth and maturation of “social” (what I have recently been calling “Collaborative”) catalogues.

The shift has only recently occurred that we no longer compare ourselves to Amazon or Wikipedia, but now to the grander and all-encompassing Google. It is fair to assume that many of our patrons may not understand how the search box in Google differs from our library catalogue and the ranking of results. However, is it safe to assume that users who find themselves on the library website or catalogue believe that the catalogue is another Google? If they do assume we are just another Google search engine on a local scale, why do they believe this and why do they continue to believe this? Does some of the fault lie with us, trying to be all things to all people?

Rather than comparing ourselves to Google, I’d rather look at what the library offers (can offer, doesn’t yet offer, etc.) and the expectations from users as to what they want from us (where does our value lie in community?) and then look at if we are successful at doing this. And, as a result, how to carry out these expectations to meet the mandate and needs set by our users, and our profession.

One of the primary topics I am interested in focuses on the catalogue being MORE than an inventory, rather than just an inventory. If we use the technology at our fingertips, a library catalogue can incorporate reference and readers services into it. There are chat widgets for reference and RA staff that can be placed not only on the catalogue interface, but within the catalogue. There are add-ons to catalogues that includes faceted navigation as well as reading recommendations (NoveList Select).

In that way, catalogues can be more than just an inventory. In fact, catalogues can offer remote patrons access to reference staff, reading recommendations, access to readers’ advisors and access to all of the holdings in the library (including “virtual” holdings like our downloadable collections and subscription databases). In fact, with the genius of Youtube, author readings and other programs that occur at the library (and are recorded) can now be catalogued so that they, too, can be accessed. I’ve even seen libraries work together with local museums, community groups and cultural groups to incorporate museum exhibits, events, courses, organizations and so on in search results within the library catalogue.

As a result, the library catalogue has now become a gateway to numerous core branch services, as well as a wealth of other information not housed within the library.

It is only our own definition of the limitations of what the catalogue can and can not do that hinders the potential of the library catalogue. Will everything work that I suggest? No. Do I want professionals to disagree? Absolutely. It is only through discussion and exploration of these issues that we can truly see the catalogue mature and grow. However, I don’t think that I can accept that the catalogue is only an inventory. Not when I see the wealth of opportunities and creative ways we can use the catalogue now and in the future.

I think Ivy’s post should get us all thinking about the limitations of the catalogue – limitations we place on it, technology and resources place on it and then, we need to explore how many of those limitations we can eliminate.


Filed under Discovery tool platforms, future of cataloguing, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

The Impact of Social Cataloguing Sites on the Public Library Catalogue: Patrons, Social Tagging and the New Face of the Catalogue

Dr. Louise Spiteri and I will be presenting on the above topic at both the Canadian Library Association Conference in Montreal as well the Atlantic Provinces Library Association Conference in Halifax.

I’ve attached a short conference summary about this presentation.

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Cataloguing component in RA training course

Last week our library held a Readers’ Advisory training session for those staff members new to RA work, or new to the library and interested in RA work.

For the first time, a cataloguing component was introduced into this training. This is a big step for the catalogue in public libraries. With the shift toward social catalogues, I foresee a bright future for catalogues in the area of Readers’ Advisory services.

RA services are all about suggesting reading ideas to patrons. It isn’t about telling them what is good, or what the library recommends. In a way, it’s similar to the way a new generation of cataloguers view the catalogue: to explore and discover. The catalogue is a discovery tool, not just an inventory of the library’s holdings.

There are two elements of RA services that are currently lacking in our bib records: Pacing and Characterization.  We are also weak in the description of storylines.  I’m looking into ways of adding these elements, however rudimentary.  I think, in view of the direction that our bib records are heading, this added descriptive content will add value to our records and, as a result, our catalogue.

I’ve attached my presentation slides, Using the library catalogue for RA services from this training session. If you wish to sample the searches I’ve prepared, try them out in our catalogue.

The verbal feedback that I received from the presentation was very positive. Many staff members were surprised by the use of genres and subject headings, and the combination of searches available for finding what a reader wants. The perception of the catalogue is changing, both in the eyes of professionals and non-professionals. I’m excited to be participating in this.


Filed under Access Issues, future of cataloguing, The Library Catalogue

“Standards are like toothbrushes, a good idea but no one wants to use anyone elses”

So quoted Anita Golderba during her presentation at the Cataloguing session at IFLA.

My remaining session notes are posted below. I am extremely late in posting them, but there are so many good ideas and points that were made by the presenters, I wanted to make them available.

Classification and Indexing
Classification and indexing without language borders
Anila Angjeli, Biblilotheque nationale de France
  • Interoperable data between all countries
  • “Semantic interoperability”, especially between special and heritage collections
  • Goal – bibliographic records may be structured differently, but still interoperable because there is uniform metadata, vocabulary and subject indexing.
  • Ideal – When data is pulled up, institutions should share information and draw from subject words/cross references to pull up multilingual but uniform pages. This is done through building complex indexes (cataloguers are being used for this). This allows users to search multiple catalogues from different libraries/institutions

Problems with sharing data – different MARC records, fields, authorities, subject use, etc.

How to get past these problems?

  • Use of semantic web
  • Insist on using a standard/common format
  • Consider conceptual vocabularies and base them in XML or HTML
  • Semantic links, more search options
  • Scope notes
  • Links/definitions
  • Additional resources
  • Deeper search choices

This is done through use of algorithms and complex indexing. 

Philipp Mayr, GESIS Social Science Information Centre
Vocabulary that is controlled is great – but it usually only represents one catalogue. How do you handle multiple collections in different languages?

Translate – cross-walks = Terminology mapping

Difficulty comes when mapping

Classification vs. thesaurus
Change of disciplines

Do mappings inprove subject searches? – YES
Do mappings allow for free text searches? – YES

example of multilingual, mapped database

Michael Kreyche, Systems Librarian, Kent State University

  • Spanish/English Database – with a bilingual interface
  • Based on LCSH
  • Multilingual subject headings

Concern for multilingual catalogues:

  • Outsourcing
    Experts (cataloguers) aren’t controlling the terms. Vendors provide data that is incorrect, inappropriate and not uniform.
    You must have cataloguers to have a functioning and accurate bilingual catalogue.
    Most libraries, both public and academic, are moving in the direction of multilingual catalogues.

Example of bilingual database: lsch-es.org

Read article “The Changing Nature of the Catalog and its Integration with other Discovery Tools” by Karen Calhoun, 2006.


Knowledge Managements
Towards understanding in the multicultural world

Donna Scheeder, Law Library of Congress

Turning the world into a learning organization – World wide collaboration such as Wikipedia is an example of knowledge management beyond the walls of our organizations

Librarians are knowledge managers and cataloguers understand how to organize and disseminate this knowledge.

  • Factors that impact knowledge management:
    Many of our projects are too big for one organization
    Resources need to be shared
    Knowledge needs to be distributed across cultures and national boundaries

This is more than a database – information need to be put into a context. As a result, the demand for librarians, and especially cataloguers, is predicted to grow, if we put ourselves “out there”.

New technology has enabled us to create and share knowledge across boundaries. An example is GLIN (Global Legal Information Network). This is a global, collaborative legal database searchable in 13 languages.

  • Success for global sharing:
    Decision making structure emphasizing collaboration
    Agreement on quality and technical standards
    Taxonomy/thesaurus that provides a basis for understanding through linking languages for common concepts

**This goes far beyond Google and requires experts in cataloguing and indexing.

  • Success factors for finding/working on global sharing
    Risk assessment
    Anticipating problems
    Make sure leadership roles are shared

Book recommendation: The 5th Disciple: The Right and Practice of the Learning Organization (Peter Senge)

Q & As:

Q: Difference between knowledge management v. information management.

A: Don’t get so hung up on terminology

Overall theme: We must have a shared goal. Information is culturally and contextually sensitive that require various degrees of engagement. Information transcends time, space and format.

Linda Stoddart, United Nations

We should view ourselves at knowledge managers, with a goal to outreach and sharing information. We can no longer think in terms of libraries and librarians.

Sharing standards: cooperation with other actors

Pat Riva, Bibliotheques et Archives nationale du Quebec
  • Reasons for cooperation:
    Cultural heritage
    Serve common users
    Facilitate exchange of information

FRBRoo focusses on process and models concepts in FRBR

Go to the IFLA FRBR website for the working group’s reports

Elizabeth O’Keefe, Morgan Library and Museum

Sharing standards and expertise in the 21st century

Moving toward a collaborative, cross-community model for metadata creation

Musems like the Morgan are continually seeking the expertise of cataloguers. They are creating cross-domain catalogues. Objects in local art galleries or museums are being included in the local library catalogue.
Curators and librarians share a common goal. Historically, curators have catalogues all non-book items in museums. This has led to databases with differing standards.

What did the Morgan do about this?
Adopt the cataloguing standard used in libraries. The standards are better as well as the controlled vocabulary and metadata standard.

  • Cataloguers are responsible for:
    Data mapping
    System implementation
    Selection of controlled vocabulary
    Final say on records
    Curators provide content

“Many hands make light work – especially when cataloguers do the work they’re trained for”

Anita Golderba, National Library of Latvia

“Standards are like toothbrushes, a good idea but no one wants to use anyone elses” – Burca.

Everyone agrees library records are the most structured and accurate due to our standards.

However, we practice such rigid standards that we’re missing some of the great content and ideas that other instutitions use (but lack our skill to make it accessible)

Negativity towards cataloguers stems from the design and limitations of OPACS, not the lack of expertise or ingenuity of cataloguers. Unforutanely, many times it is easier to blame the cataloguers.

FRBR – the whole point is to bring interoperability and collaboration bewteen libraries, organizations and other information institutions.

Comment from audience:

Barbara Tillet – Bibliographic records are dynamic. They are always changing. Authorities need to be altered frequently, as do access points (think government names and geographic locations, the invention of new terms and technology, etc). Library records aren’t static.

National bibliography agencies without borders – experiences on collaboration with other producers of bibliographic data

Philippe Cantie and Anne-Celine Lambotte, Bibliotheque nationale de France

With web 2.0, the user has a more active role

How can we bring the users in for participation in bibliographies? – in this case, users are libraries, galleries, museums, etc.

Creating searchable bibliographies based on Dewey, with web 2.0 features

Ability to add comments and tags

Goal is to add an open, collaborative bibliography housed on the web.

Liz McKeen, LAC

Web harvesting
LAC has a cataloguing policy for digital publications

Basic acces: full text searching
Supplementary access via metadata
Metadata supplied by others
Generated by existing descriptive metadata
Automatically generated by the digital information itself

Traditional cataloguing:
Full cataloguing criteria is set out
Is it important to Canada?
Is it important to research?

Digital requires a single record approach

If government publication was in print, add digital link and information to existing record.

Stresses the importance of maintaining traditional cataloguing and access while bringing in digital materials that also need attention for access.

Maha Zumer, University of Ljubljana

Cataloguing, the “new” definition: Describing to promote access, not describing an object for the sake of describing it.

  • You can’t outsource a bilingual catalogue or anything you collect that’s local:
    Government documents/websites
    Local CDs, Books, Videos
    Heritage items
    Local headings
    User needs
    Customized needs for staff
    Reading lists
    Cultural needs

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Filed under future of cataloguing, Our Profession

Another Library Ditches Dewey

The Frankfort Public Library in Illinois is yet another library, in the growing list of libraries, choosing to break free of the Dewey Decimal Classification System.In an interview with Melissa Rice, head of adult services and reference librarian Joanna Kolendo the Southtown Star reports:

“People spend 10 or 15 minutes in the library. They are frustrated if they have to go to a card catalog and get the number. They are embarrassed to ask for help. This Dewey-free system takes out the middle man,” Kolendo said.

“I love coding. I read Dewey’s biography,” she said. “As librarians, we have a hard time changing things. But it’s not about me. It’s about the patrons.”

When Frankfort’s patrons walk into their library, they can look for colored signs directing them to books on gardening, cooking, auto repair, health and fitness, travel, computers or whatever.

Cooking and gardening collections already have been retrofitted and broken down into subcategories, all clearly marked and alphabetized on the shelves. Within each subcategory, books are further alphabetized by author.

So if a patron wants Rachael Ray’s “Thirty Minute Meals,” they find “cooking,” “quick and easy,” and find Ray’s name, instead of looking up the 641.555 RAY. (Ironically, this places “cooking” and “heart attacks” in the same 600 category, according to Dewey’s system.) If this is confusing, think: bookstore.

The gardening category now combines botany from the 500s, gardening from the 635s and landscaping from 717s.

This dynamic duo pores over one collection at a time and decides what to name each new category and subcategory based on what patrons are asking for and using words they can identify with.[Emphasis added]

First, the question must be asked, where are the cataloguers? Were they consulted? Are they in favour of this? Was there expertise utilized in any way?

According to this article, the head librarian and reference librarian have taken it upon themselves to classify the materials and assign random categories to items, with no authority control or uniformity. Are they taking these categories from the subjects assigned in the MARC records? Or, are they just making it up, “for the good of the public”. The MARC records provide detailed information regarding subject information and the Dewey number provides librarians and patrons with the subject most closely related to the item. 

Now, I’m going to get a little stereotypical here. Isn’t it always the “front-line” staff and librarians who believe they have a greater understanding of classification and the library catalogue than cataloguers? Most of these librarians, and I remember them from library school, stayed far, far away from cataloguing and classification courses. Yet, somehow, they assume the responsibility and expertise of knowing more about how information should be classified and structured than cataloguing librarians.

What Frankfort Public Library has now created is a changeable, non-uniform classification system that has no standards or guidelines.

Regarding the use of Dewey as a system whose only function is to provide classification numbers, I urge you to read Moving Beyond the Presentation Layer: Content and Context in the Dewey Decimal Classification System.







Filed under Access Issues, future of cataloguing

Berman’s Plea to ALA’s Executive Board

I recently had a chance to read the latest issue of The U*N*A*B*A*S*H*E*D Librarian [Issue number 148 (2008)].  Sandford Berman’s plea to ALA’s Executive Board is found on page 25.  As Berman begins, he states:

Beginning years ago with the screwball plan to stop classifying materials at the Library of Congress and instead shelve them by height and continuing through the more recent Calhoun Report, termination of series’ authorities, LC Working Group recommendations, and presently underway reorganization involving new acquisitions duties for professional catalogers, it is manifest that core, essential LC cataloging operations – which truly benefit national and even global library communities – are in the process of being diluted and dismantled.

Berman refers to Thomas Mann’s paper “‘On the Record’ but Off the Track“.  Mann delves into and assesses the changing nature of cataloging and cataloguers’ responsibilities at LC.

As he continues, Berman outlines several recommendations to the Board, emphasizing the key points that Mann stresses in his paper.  These recommendations include:

1. Viewing what’s happening at LC as a serious crisis
2. Opposing departmental reorganization within Technical Services
3. Emphasizing the continued improvement and maintainence of the existing catalogue over the digitization of collections.

This is a timely topic given the Library of Congress’s recent merging of Acquisitions and Bibliographic Control.  As well, many cataloguing departments are currently under review, put to the task of re-evaluting their departments, reviewing the possibilities of stream-lining processes and creating new “best practice” models.

Although I tend not to take such a dramatic view as calling this a “crisis” in cataloguing, I do believe the emphasis on the reorganization and merging of departments demands our attention. Maybe it is because I am of the younger cataloguing generation, but I also see this shift and merging of departments as an opportunity for cataloguers to come out from behind the catalogue and step into new roles and take on new responsibilities within the library. I also think it’s an opportunity to change traditional practices that have never really worked, but have remained in place because of “tradition”.  LC’s shift in focus has also left vacant a position for new libraries to lead the way in cataloguing practices.

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IFLA 2008: Session on Bibliographic Control

I’ve finally had a chance to summarize some of the sessions that I attended while at IFLA. The Bibliographic Control session is summarized below.

Biblographic Control
New challenges in bibliographic control in North America

Liz McKeen, LAC

Amount of digital materials. Traditional formats are not decreasing in production, but we have more and more digital information to organize and make accessible.
Technology. We need to create better ways to disseminate information.
Resource discovery. There is a shift away from listing (ie. An inventory of the collection) to discovery.
Cost effectiveness. Traditional cataloguing is expensive. How can items be “touched” less while still maintaining accessibility and uniformity while balancing cost?
Collaboration in description. With the amount of materials, we need to find ways to allow others to help by sharing information. Vendors? Other libraries? Businesses?
Personalization of description. We need to seek user input and contribution while adapting records to our users’ needs.
Standards, interoperability and sharing infrastructure among other libraries and institutions.

What are libraries doing to deal with these challenges?
LAC has created a description policy created to deal with cataloguing digital items. This departs from traditional cataloguing practices. A copy of this policy is available online, however, it has not been fully implemented yet.

General ideas in policy
1. Set out levels of description:
Basic, Full or Supplementary (access via metadata)
2. Define criteria for cataloguing
What to catalogue, how to catalogue, how will it be disseminated

For digital cataloguing, always look at it from the users’ perspective. Digital information has three components: Acquisitions, Cataloguing and Dissemination. The emphasis for digital is on cataloguing and dissemination as the acquisitions aspect takes the form of webcrawlers and other institutions “docking” their information or alerting system of new material.


Beacher Wiggins, LC
LC is redefining bibliographic control as broader than just cataloguing. They have merged Acquisitions and Bibliographic control. As a result, the items are handled less frequently and the cataloguing aspect can be expanded to cope with the increase of digital information and the shift away from traditional cataloguing.

Merging will result in revision of job descriptions and one librarian monitoring the workflow from receipt through cataloguing and processing.

LC can no longer handle cataloguing everything. They are leaving the field open for other libraries to become “leaders” to fill in the gaps.

What is LC doing to handle the increase in information that needs to be cataloguing, organized?
1. Streamlining processes
2. Sharing responsibilities
3. Increasing collaboration among other libraries
4. Increasing bibliographic data sharing
5. Internationalizing authority files

What about RDA?
The LC working group strongly recommened suspending work on RDA. They’ve decided to collaborate with other US National Libraries to test RDA before it moves forward. What are they looking for?
1. Ease of use for cataloguers
2. Interoperability with existing OPACs
3. Interoperability between RDA & AACR2 in the catalogues
4. Access to broader range of materials
5. User retrieval
In short – Financial/Technical/Operability

Testing participants include, but are not limited to:
1. Cooperating cataloguing libraries
3. Commercial vendors
4. Archival Institutions

Patrice Landry, Swiss National Library
With the increase in digital information, how will this effect traditional cataloguing?
Traditional publications have NOT declined. As a result, cataloguers are having to balance new & old. As a result, streamlining certain functions in this new era assists in providing more time for cataloguers to focus on the library’s priorities and the items that need to be fully catalogued.

It’s not a matter of not needing cataloguers, it’s cataloguers doing more & sharing the workflow between digital and print. This results in a need for collaboration and vendors providing us with better metadata.


Q & As:
Q: What consideration is being given to the training of praciticing cataloguers in RDA?
A: LAC – thinking of creating an RDA training group, although they are hoping RDA won’t require significant training.

Q: Education for the future of cataloguing?
A: 1. Emphasis on how to manage projects and activities.
2. Understanding the organization of knowledge is more imporant that ever.

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LC merging Acquisitions and Cataloguing

In June, 2007, Library Journal published the article LC merging cataloging and acquisitions by 2008

When I was at IFLA, Beacher Wiggins mentioned this merger in one of his presentations.  In fact, it may have already taken place just prior to IFLA.

This poses some interesting questions.  Will it be the cataloguers or aquisitions staff who stay?  Will there be retraining for all staff?  Will the emphasis be on aquisitions or cataloguing? How, exactly, with this merger work and what will the new department look like?  How will the workflow be organized?

I’m interested to see how this pans out and the type of reorganization involved.

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IFLA 2008 and RDA

As most of you know from reading my blog, I was able to attend the IFLA conference.  However, I was unfortunately not able to attend the RDA satellite session that took place on Friday, August 8th in Quebec City.  However, The Bib Blog has provided an excellent overview of the session, together with a link to the power point presentation.

If you weren’t able to make it, like me (sigh), this is a great way to catch up on what’s happening with RDA.

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