Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Catalog Power

We mostly do copy cataloging at my library. For non-catalogers, that means that rather than make up a record in the catalog from scratch, we use one someone else made, with minor adjustments according to specific practices at our library.

It's standard library practice. Economies of scale, etc. Saves every single library that owns a book having to catalog it themselves; instead, one library catalogs, and everyone else can just copy their record.


Now the thing is, very often you don't find a record that's exactly the way you want it for your own library. A frequent issue I've noticed is that ebooks seem to often have different years listed in the most popular catalog records than are listed on the item itself. I don't know why.

But that's merely an example. There are plenty of other irritating discrepancies that must be dealt with in various formats. As a result, there's ever so much tidying up that always has to be done.

Some might say this is the job of a cataloger, in the age of mostly copy-cataloging, but I say it's a ghastly imposition on my valuable time, which might better be spent appreciating lightly armored fighters or worrying about killer robots.

So I've recently decided that the solution is to start throwing away any book that doesn't have a perfect, pre-existing record to use. This will clear a lot of clutter from the shelves, cut down on some of the little details of my job, and bring us closer to a nice, clean catalog.


The catalog seems very formal and official and so forth, but ever since I started working on it, I realized its clean tidiness is an illusion. One constantly strives for perfect accuracy, of course, but it's a goal that is forever out of reach. There's always some strange misspelling or misplaced text or some peculiar code in the wrong subfield.

Always! Embrace the sea of tiny imperfections, strive to make the records at least suggest the holdings of the library, and let it go, I say.

Besides, the library catalog is possibly on its last legs anyway, what with new federated search features. We're getting Primo soon! It's bound to be a whole new world.

In the meantime, I'll keep tidying my copied records, at least until I get approval for my throw-away-all-the-books plan.


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