Archive for the ‘cataloging’ Category

Mac less

June 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Sad news in the world, J McRee Elrod has died. I thought about writing “shuffled off his mortal coil” or something witty but, I just cannot.

Mac was an incredible man. I met him via the AutoCat list serv. Mac consistently, kindly, and with aplomb answered all questions that came across with his gentle, but firm southerness (he was not shy about expressing his opinion). He founded the Special Libraries Cataloguing. His cheat sheets helped me many a time. When I was a cataloging trainer, these were always on my resource list. When I organized an online RDA conference back in 2011, he was one of the first people I asked to speak. He very graciously did.

There is quite a bit out there about Mac, some written by Mac and, most recently, an attempt for a Wikipedia page about Mac. All can be boiled down to … a wonderful, kind and knowing man who was glad to share his knowledge. I never had the pleasure to meet Mac in person but still hold him in my heart.

Mac will be missed by cataloging community and, well, everyone who knew him.

ARN: 44330

Green, green grass

April 11, 2012 1 comment

When I was quite young and in training for something that has benefited me my entire life, Mom tells me I used bring my “special chair” out of the training room and into the living room so I wouldn’t miss anything.  This has not changed. Oh wait, no I do not bring my “special chair” into the living room but I do hate to miss anything.

For me, the grass is always green. I don’t mean greener but just green – different shades of green, all very appealing.  I love what I have but I also want to experience that stuff over there and OH! Look over there! How cool! I want to do that too! Wait a minute, what’s that? Oh yes please, can I do that too?

I’ve been struggling to learn patience – to enjoy the bird in my hand and not also envy the other birds.  I cannot be everywhere at once. I cannot do everything. I have to pick and choose. And I love what I choose (generally).  I tend to find the joy or happiness in whatever it is – at least, I try to find it (sometimes it can be difficult). At the same time, however, I want to go do X Y or Z as well.

What I am saying is – there are lots of very cool things happening in our world. To RDA or not to RDA, to MARC or not to MARC, to Cloud or not to Cloud and the development of each of these (and their accessories – FRBR, FRAD,etc.). I want to know it all and do it all!  Instead I am watching and listening (sometimes from afar) and trying to keep up with all the cool stuff.  I am so happy to know there are such great people involved in all of these things – and that they patiently share their expeditions and forays into the uncharted world.

Keep it up guys. It may seem at times that you are swimming upstream and in a deep abyss but there are lots of us out here. Watching. Listening. Eagerly learning from you.

Categories: cataloging, frbr, marc, RDA Tags: , ,

Sharing is

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Sharing is what we do. It is a major part of The Profession – all librarians share, catalogers/metadata specialists are exceptionally good at sharing. I guess those years in kindergarten were not a waste [grin]

Who else read/participated in the recent CILIP CIG Forum? CILIP is Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and CIG is the Cataloguing and Indexing Group. If you missed their brilliant forum April 18-19, 2011, you can get a summary of the discussion. I urge you to go read it.

Wow. You guys at CILIP/CIG are great! I’ve been in a fair few forums in my life, and of late several to do with RDA. However, this forum impressed me most of all. Why? Sharing. The suggestions and ideas in this forum are lovely, Anne Welsh made quite a bit of sense and stir with her suggestions for training on RDA. I do hope they are brought to fruition. I’ve volunteered to help in any way I can and hope others do as well.

Here are some of the ideas:

1. Let’s ask publishers to provide scans of the information we’d use to catalog materials in RDA. For books, perhaps the cover, title page (and verso), spine, and a bit of information about the book. One cataloger on the list offered to contact her music publisher to get similar for scores.

2. Let’s take those scans and create records based on RDA – putting these records up on a public site with the scans for all to use to help educate. I’m hoping that with involvement internationally, we could perhaps have not just the RDA record but also AACR2, Dublin Core, and all current standards represented to show how each moved to RDA.

3. Let’s do some more training online and more materials available for trainers to utilize in-house.   Seems I recall reading that when AACR went to AACR2, there were bands of trainers roaming the land providing training wherever they went.  With the online capabilities of today, we could eliminate or reduce that need to travel.  There are a plethora of lovely open source options out there for online classrooms (Moodle anyone?). My hope is they do this in little sound bit type sessions – that is, a nice series of 1 to 2 hour sessions that cover a very specific part of RDA. Again, it would be great to have all standards represented and available to grab and listen to the recording as needed. These could be live sessions (always great because of the questions and give/take possible) or just recorded vidcasts. Or both.

The Library of Congress already has many of these things for RDA, including the great AACR2 to RDA examples, but we could expand this!  Barbara Tillett’s absolutely fantastic webcasts are there as are other training sessions but why not add more for other standards, etc.? I mean, actual recorded classes. I’m not asking Library of Congress to do this, I think we should do it, us, the catalogers. I think we  can.

If everyone takes a small part, it becomes doable. It becomes easily sharable. It becomes us.

I get it [RDA]

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s been, oh, about 4 years since I first heard of RDA. I read, I reviewed, I tried to comprehend.  The ideas of FRBR came naturally to me, learning the terminology took a bit longer but I understood the concepts.  RDA, not so much.

I disremember what I read initially but it has taken me four years to really understand. The idea of RDA is really to change the vocabulary and the way we think of cataloging. That is, instead of looking at it from an item perspective and starting with format as we do with AACR2, with RDA we look at the individual bits of data (name, title, etc.) and link them together. It is sort of cataloging by reverse engineering. I wish I could have seen more clearly 4 years ago but it took hearing from Shana (comments on Why RDA then in why RDA, revisited) as well as recent discussion on RDA-L, NGC4LIB, etc. which explicitly stated this – thanks everyone!

So, I understand RDA – at least, I think I do. The actual changes (such as rule of three, GMD, etc.) are not tremendous and truly, as things are, will not make a huge impact (other than work load perhaps).  However, the idea is the future – when MARC21 is gone and we use a new input;  when the ILS begin to program to the new rules/ideals; when other industries might also pick up RDA and use it as a standard – this is when the real change occurs.

The very difficult thing right now is trying to force new concepts into the old molds. Pushing and shoving RDA into MARC21. Trying to get the ILS to change, drastically change, the way they program their cataloging modules. Having other communities (Publishers, Museums, etc.) adopt and understand the RDA rules.

It seems to me, to make this whole thing work – EVERYONE has to buy in and make the change. The format too – MARC21 has to go. Will that happen? I don’t know. The world’s largest bibliographic database is wedded to MARC21 – can that be changed? How much will it cost? How much will it cost us all?

Categories: aacr2, cataloging, frbr, marc, RDA Tags: , ,


November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

On the OCLC-Cat list for November 2010 there have been several posts of interest. Let’s look at some, shall we?

First, let’s look at Wojciech Siemaszkiewicz’s “November 2010 Memorandum Against RDA Test” from November 2, 2010. In this post, Wojciech instructs OCLC:

Immediately suspend coding the test RDA records as acceptable records and recode them as substandard records with a code “RDA” (no PCC, LC, etc. coding should be allowed on these records). The encoding level for these records should be “K”, which usually triggers a full review of the record by highly trained technical assistants or professional catalogers. The LC records should be coded as level “7”. The RDA test records should be treated the same way as records coded with Spanish, French, German, etc. codes. This would allow catalogers to create parallel records for 040 English records according to existing and widely accepted AACR2 rules. Under no circumstances should RDA testers be allowed to create conflicting NAF or SAF records in LCNAF or LCSAF. This has already created a great deal of confusion and has been universally rejected by catalogers involved in the discussion.

We instruct agencies responsible for the RDA test to instruct its testers to follow above mentioned rules as a way to avoid workflow complications and growing confusion in libraries around the world.

We understand that the RDA test is just a test and in no way is an indicative to a future cataloging procedures and rules that would replace universally accepted AACR2 rules

Subsequent posts include a November 3, 2010 “Petition to support Wojciech’s memorandum” created by cataloging managers at Indiana University, Bloomington. The link to the petition is

The discussions on both threads have been fascinating. This culminates in a November 16, 2010 post “Update on the Petition to Support Memorandum on OCLC’s RDA Testing”. Another very interesting read.

On November 17, 2010 a post appeared cross-posted to several lists “US RDA Test and OCLC”. This does not directly address the Memorandum or Petition postings but certainly it seems to be aimed at them.

What I find interesting, in reading all of this, is that the idea is no duplications should be allowed in the OCLC database. I understand and applaud this. However (you knew that was coming, right?), why is it considered a duplication when we already have “parallel” records?

Parallel records? What’s that?? Check out OCLC Technical Bulletin 250: Parallel Records. Starting back in October 2003 OCLC began to allow “parallel records within WorldCat by language of cataloging”. Huh? OK, let me break this down for you. If I, in my little library in anywhere, USA, catalog the latest James Patterson using my AACR2 (or whatever) rules then add it to the OCLC database as the first bibliographic record ever to describe the book then it exists and others can use it, right? OK, now a few days (or weeks) later a cataloger in Spain catalogs that very same James Patterson book and also adds it to the OCLC database. Duplicate? NO!! Parallel record!

The key is the subfield b of the 040.  This is the “language of the cataloging”.  According to OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards:

Identifies the language for those portions of the record, which according to cataloging rules, appear in the language of the cataloging agency (e.g., notes). Subfield ‡b is in records created by libraries for which English is not the language of the cataloging agency.

Huh. So basically this is to accommodate the different rules and language of different countries.  Why then can we not have AACR2 records and RDA records?

Perhaps I’m missing something but that seems to be the same concept…or am I being blonde again?

Categories: aacr2, catalog, cataloging, OCLC, RDA Tags: , , ,

RDA, AutoCat, FRBR and MARC

October 19, 2010 1 comment

This last week AutoCat has had a lovely discussion on “Displaying Work/Expression/Manifestation Records” (look for that subject in the archives for Week 2 & 3 October 2010).

The entire discussion is well worth reading but I am going to focus on a quote from Mike Tribby’s post on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 8:31 AM

“And I think that Karen Coyle is absolutely correct when she states that we need to develop a data format. That seems a much better goal than a restatement of rules for cataloging content with arbitrary rules that simply replace other arbitrary rules.”

Exactly. We’re putting the cart in front of the horse. 

I like rules. I am a cataloger, I like rules and organization and structure. It’s really a part of my nature (do you write lists? organize your closet? you too could be a cataloger…or an accountant). If RDA passes the USA National Library test come Spring 2011, I’ll move to using it.  Well, that is if my ILS allows it and if I can afford it.

However, I think that perhaps not having a new format (to replace the venerable MARC) first or in conjunction, we are setting up future problems and angst. MARC is cataloging. I’ve discussed this before, many times. MARC is the language of cataloging. MARC is not only the backbone but the entire fleshed out being of cataloging in today’s world.

As Karen Coyle, and many others, have pointed out MARC is not as flexible as it should be to allow true linking and re-use of data. I’ve discussed this too (when I had my epiphany). I was a hard sell on replacing MARC. If you look at my earlier posts I obviously do not get it but I do now and agree it needs to be brought into this century (you can still call it “MARC” if you want).

In order for the lovely linking that is desired with FRBR and RDA, we need to redesign how we record our data. I’m not talking about “should we abbreviate or spell it out” or “rule of three” but the actual nitty gritty of the input and code.  And don’t get me started on the whole thing about catalogers in 2010 having to know to put a “4” in the second indicator of the 245 when the title proper begins with “the”! I have raged against that machine previously.

So I repeat myself. We need to get Systems, Catalogers, and ILS vendors together. Lock’em in a room and don’t let them out until they Build It. Maybe we can continue with what Karen Coyle has already begun.

Categories: cataloging, frbr, marc, RDA, systems Tags: , , ,

336, 337, 338

September 28, 2010 2 comments

Or, the RDA types Content, Media and Carrier.

In my last post, Systems and Cataloging, Céline and Jason had some quite wonderful and thought provoking things to say. Go on, go read it and don’t neglect the comments this time!

Céline says what I have heard previously (she also says new stuff and states all quite beautifully), that is RDA is geared to separate the rules from the format. MARC is the format whereas AACR2/RDA are the rules. AACR2 bleeds into MARC (or vice-versa) quite a bit and part of the purpose of RDA is to separate the rules from the format.

Except, of course, that it doesn’t. Did you see the title of this post? Are you a cataloger? Your mind went immediately to MARC and the new fields.  Except these are really RDA elements (attributes?) shoved into new MARC fields. Guess what? Many already refer to them as 336, 337, and 338 instead of  “Content, Media, and Carrier types” . This will continue to happen so long as we have MARC. It is the nomenclature of cataloging and has been for quite some time. Vocabulary is quite a powerful thing.

It’s easier to say “245” than “title and statement of responsibility”.  We (that is, catalogers) tend to use the tags to describe whatever rule OR field we’re working in. Jason did it in his comment – he talked about the Desc which is what OCLC calls the 000 (or ‘leader’) position 18. He didn’t say “the descriptive rules utilized to create the cataloging record.” I do the very same thing.

I know we want to separate the rules from the format but it ain’t gonna happen whilst we still talk about it all using MARC tags or OCLC labels instead of the actual name of the type, attribute or element.

And please know, I am not dissin’ MARC. I rather like MARC. I like that I know MARC, I like that is it easy for me as a cataloger to determine what MARC field has what information and where to record the information I gather about the item I am cataloging. But I do recognize MARC has outlived it’s usefulness. When the majority of libraries stopped using cards, MARC was fairly outdated and continued to be so. I know there are better ways to record the information we currently record in MARC – heck I can look at ANY database program and see so much more is available because of the way the data is recorded.

However, I think that until the ILS, Systems folk and catalogers all get on board and all together we create a new place to put the information … well, I just don’t see the change a’comin.  I hope I’m wrong (and I probably am, I’m truly not that bright).

Psst…if you wandered on this post looking for information on how to use the 336, 337, and 338, go on over to the Library of Congress MARC Standards for the 3xx fields. Honestly you should just go ahead and bookmark the Library of Congress MARC Standards page for reference in the future…

Systems and Cataloging

September 26, 2010 15 comments

Recently I blogged a wee bit about RDA on the web and digressed into a “systems versus cataloging” paragraph or two. Céline commented

 I have recently started having some thoughts/conversations where I definitely see a crucial disconnect between systems and cataloguing, sadly.

Tis true, both “crucial” and “sadly”.    This is not a recent disconnect. It has been there quite a long time. Systems do not always understand MARC and Catalogers do not always know how to program. Some do though, on both sides, which gives me hope.

Jason Thomale’s article in the recent Code4Lib, Interpreting MARC: Where’s the Bibliographic Data?, is a wonderful place to start to see how the Systems person “sees” cataloging.  It is clear as you read the article that Jason did not understanding how MARC worked, the interdependencies, the meanings of the fields/subfields (and the ‘common’ interpretations versus the actual definitions) when he first created algorithms to search the catalog.  He did a marvelous job, his thinking was sound and he tried (which is more than many will ever do). He concludes acknowledging that his knowledge initially was lacking and thus problems occurred in his algorithms.

Back in a library I worked in (name shielded to protect the innocent), the previous cataloger had insisted that keyword searching should only search the 6XX tags. OMG. Really? Yes. Really. When I came aboard in cataloging (to replace said cataloger) I was told the online catalog was basically worthless and not really utilized. I discovered the search problem and worked with Systems to repair the search algorithms. Our hit rate hit the roof (well, in comparison to previously).

Catalogers and Systems need to work together to ensure the best possible searches are executed. Catalogers need to learn how to explain MARC to Systems and Systems needs to understand the Cataloger can help.

So – how will RDA help us make better catalogs? Can anyone explain that to me? I’m seriously lost on how changing the cataloging rules will help the ILS get better.