If the shoe doesn’t fit, make it fit: hack cataloging

23 Jan
Although I could write a riveting post about the subject heading “containerization”, there’s a topic that’s more pressing: hack cataloging.
Perhaps it is a familiar idea, that of the hack, but if it isn’t, please know that I am not disparaging the profession. It’s a term that has come to mean using something in a way that wasn’t intended. And it cataloging, I’m thinking specifically of MARC fields. Everyone knows that there are cataloging rules and guidelines but what I’m referring to is using the record in a way that flies in the face of these norms in order to provide access that couldn’t otherwise be delivered to the user.
Sometimes there are cases in which the provided fields and terms just don’t suit the item’s, user’s, or library’s needs. For starters, there is a system already built into MARC records–the local fields (9xx, 090, etc.) and some indicators as well. It seems that for the most part these would suffice for unique needs. But I am sure that there are other ways catalogers make records and fields work for them, though my work has never had the need so I can’t speak from personal examples.
Local fields allow libraries to put in the information they need in a way that suits their collections and users. Since many libraries batch load records, there is also the issue of reviewing and sometimes making corrections accordingly or to fit the library’s needs. If local fields do get loaded into OCLC, for example, a library that brings that record in would need to asses and probably strip those parts out.
On a different yet related note, a couple of weeks ago on the PCC listserv, there was discussion about how to best deal with multiple 856 fields in Provider Neutral records–one library flips all the 856s to 956s, reviews which they want to keep and then turns those back to 856 and nixes the rest. This to me is a hack since fields weren’t intended to be used this way but it is an ingenious workaround!
What is your cataloging hack, or hacks?
*About the title: Did you know that in the original Grimm fairy tale, Aschenputtel (a.k.a. Cinderella), the step sisters cut off parts of their foot to make the shoe fit? The original tales were not meant for kids, nor the faint of heart!
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