Monthly Archives: October 2011

6 Debunked Myths About Cataloging

Myth 1) Copy is always correct and can be used “as is”.
* Debunked!: While most records are good and useable, trusting that copy can just be grabbed and put into a catalog without changes can lead to dirty catalogs and misinformation. Even though I’m still new to cataloging, I’ve seen lots of unique errors in copy records that make me cringe, especially when OCLC shows that multiple libraries have touched the record. Simple errors from mistyping a name or word in a title to misclassification of call number or subject headings. I’ve also seen mistakes is nearly every MARC field–wrong or unneeded 043, odd 260s, and don’t get me started about 5xxs. All copy needs to be reviewed and checked before it is used, to better help the patrons.

Myth 2) It takes a certain type of person to catalog.
* Debunked!: Catalogers don’t need to be anti-social, strict rule-following, cat-crazed, computers-preferred-over-people people. What does it take to be a cataloger? It’s about skills and abilities. Obviously details are the core of cataloging–representing, verifying, and exacting the item’s information. Also, there’s a certain rhythm to cataloging, being able to deal with the mundane, pretty straight-forward description, and yet not get too wound up about (or bogged down in) analysis of the item. Balance is key. Navigating the rules and creatively thinking about the item and its record takes a talent and a sense but also experience. Remaining curious and interested in learning more and questioning how to represent items and content is also key. It’s more a mind-set and capabilities rather than a personality that represent catalogers.

Myth 3) Cataloging is a solitary job.
* Debunked!: This couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t believe, sign-up for cataloging listservs! Catalogers love to talk, discuss, and help each other out. (Perhaps another myth included should have been that cataloging is black and white.) These listservs are very popular and discussions carry on, sometimes for a very long time. Cataloging communities are important and beneficial to cataloging. It’s great when libraries and organizations have multiple people cataloging who can and do pick each other’s brains and bounce ideas off each other, debating what to do and how to best serve their patrons with the cataloging records. And for those who are solo catalogers, there are the listservs and conferences and professional connections. Collective knowledge, besides experience, is beneficial to cataloging.

Myth 4) Computers could and should do cataloging.
* Debunked!: Sure, the possibility exists but when it comes down to it, humans still do much more that what computers are capable of with cataloging. Catalogers add value because we assess the item for what it is and what it’s about. Sometimes the item itself isn’t clear-cut and takes interpretation. It might use new lingo for an already well-document topic or put a spin on an old idea. Plus, descriptive cataloging alone requests a certain assessment level since items might be missing a title page, or mention a series in passing within the prelim pages, or have more on a title page than just an author and a title. It’s these gray areas that humans still excel at. Then there are subject headings and boy does it take skill to understand and apply those! And sometime even post-coordination can’t account for some items and topics. As humans, we care and in cataloging that can make all the difference in creating records.

Myth 5) Cataloging is unnecessary now with internet capabilities and full-text searching.
* Debunked!: First off, the internet is not organized and search engines use algorithms to produce lists that are likely relevant to the search but usually require vetting and sorting by the user. Also, not everything is tagged nor in full-text on the web. Nor in library catalogs. Here at UMich, the Google Book scan is not just a hot topic but a real issue since the school is now part of the lawsuit with several authors and publishers. If full-texts were available for every item in a catalog, it’d be way too overwhelming and there would need to be a system in place to rank and gage each item in relation to the search. However, as mentioned above in a previous debunking, writers don’t always do their topics justice. A book might saw it’s about cats but perhaps it focuses on the natural enemies of cats and hardships that befoul them, meaning a lot of other terms are going to be contained in that book and might skew a search result. Or what about the idea that new lingo is used to talk about the same idea, which would result it in probably getting missed when searching the more popular terms. This is where, again, librarians are crucial because of our human ability to asses and think things through in ways computers can’t. A library is a library with or without books/items due to the knowledge and expertise of its librarians, plain and simple.

Myth 6) Vendor records are terrible.
* Debunked!: This had to make the cut since I work for ProQuest and create vendor records. Look, I chose to work there because my records will be disseminated to libraries who pay for our content. I love what I do even more knowing that my good cataloging will make it easier for libraries and their patrons to find our items. Catalogers in libraries can produce bad records, just as vendors can. Bottom line, it comes down to the individuals doing the cataloging. It doesn’t matter if the person is a paraprofessional, a degreed librarian, old or new to the profession, working in a library or for the government or in a corporation. All that matters is that the cataloger cares and puts in the effort to create and use the very best cataloging records. This is what I strive for everyday and what makes me so passionate about what I do. At the end of the day, where I work or what I catalog doesn’t mean as much as why.

So, take a moment to admire the craft and art form that is cataloging and the MARC record–and if you spot any errors, please make the catalogs a better place by leaving cataloging in a better condition than when you found it.

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


There’s a Subject Heading for That?!: Stuffed Foods (Cooking)

Alright, after today’s loss again Sparty, UMich fans might need a pick-me-up. At least for the LIS speciality at SI, this should take your mind off it for a bit and give you something to laugh about. (Look, how can you beat a team that comes prepared for am all out battle when we just thought it was a football game? Anyway, on to cataloging–Go Blue!)

When I came across this subject heading, I was perplexed and could hardly believe it was true. It makes sense but it’s still goofy and makes me laugh even now. And probably will as long as it’s a sub. head. and I’m a cataloger.

What I want to know is why was “stuffed foods (cooking)” created?

Seriously, doesn’t “ravioli” or “cannoli” or “taco” just need a self-referring subject then maybe a type of culinary food that it belongs to? Do we really need “stuffed foods (cooking)” as a catch-all? It seems any especially broad heading, for sure. There are 29 items in the LC catalog that use it, though mostly they are about wraps so why isn’t there a “wraps” headings instead? Alas, that is not the case. From a quick glance, the only item that is entirely about stuffed foods as a category is Stuff it! by Lora and Max Brody.

The subject heading works great when it comes to the authorities, though, since it collects various foods. Not everything has a narrower term, which would be helpful for ravioli, wraps, etc. that get left out otherwise. Or should that be leftover?

LC Authorities screenshot for "stuffed foods (cooking)"

A cool thing about this one is that it was part of the switch when “cookery” became “cooking.” And so did some of its narrower terms, yet not all of them. As catalogers know, and probably many librarians in general, too, even patterns aren’t always followed in cataloging when these are set up. For some reason, only a couple of the terms are qualified further rather than all. This is the whole list, too, which feels to me that it is lacking some obvious narrower terms but again, that’s what happens. Where are the “samosas” and “wraps” and would “corn dogs” count? I’m sure someone has written a book about corn dogs–especially State Fair ones from all around the US? *quick search* Well, Amazon shows a couple of corn dog books but nothing like a State Fair food tour of them…hmm, this might need to be remedied; as you may have figured out, I love a good corn dog now and then. And turkey legs. Next summer, I might just have to visit my parents in MN during Fair time. Yum!

Alright, I’ll stuff it on stuffed foods for now. Just remember this sub. head. next time when you’re cataloging a book about stuffed peppers and mushroom caps–you’ll know just what to use!

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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Uncategorized


There’s a Subject Heading for That?!: Subject Heading of the Week

Ever found a subject heading to scratch your head over, or laugh about, or ponder its creation? That is the reason behind this new feature on my blog, titled “There’s a Subject Heading for That?!” We all come across them, whether in use as a patron or in practice as a librarian, especially us catalogers. Really, subject headings are one of the best (and worst) parts of being a cataloger. Mainly I love sub. heads, but there are days, and headings, that perplex and stump. Some times they bring together a topic succinctly in one heading and some times there is no amount of post-coordination that can corral what an item is about. Hope you enjoy this new segment!

“Bullying in the workplace”

Came across this subject heading this week, and while it’s very useful, it made me a little sad to find it. It’s a sub. head. because enough people wrote works about it, and its prevention, to necessitate it’s own 650. However, this one doesn’t surprise me. There are 43 items in the LC catalog with it, and several geographically subdivided items.  What’s more, I searched “work environment” for the same item and it turns out that “bullying in the workplace” is a narrower term–guess I should have seen that coming–along with other interesting terms. Included are, of course, “sex in the workplace”, “gossip…” and “dress code…” but some that stood out were “personal internet use…”, “conflicts of generations…” and “sex role…”. “Naps (sleep)…” and “music…” also have their own terms. It’s an interesting mix of narrower terms, to be sure, and I didn’t list them all here so check it out on LC Authority File. The one term that seems missing that feels like it should be included in this list is a subject heading for sexual harassment or harassment in general. Oddly enough, it merits it’s own subject heading with no broader nor narrower terms–only giving a see also note for “sex role in the workplace” and specifying in its scope note that it is used for office as well as general harassment. Seems odd, then, that bullying gets it’s own narrower term, separating it from the rest of bullying. How is that distinction different from harassment in the workplace? Alas, the complexities of subject headings!

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Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

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