Notes From Cataloging Class

While working on the RDA overview, I started thinking about bar codes on books and wondered why didn’t the bar code have embedded standardized cataloging in it? A quick scan and the information is all there. This is not to say that catalogers become extinct at libraries. Far from it, employ more of them in diverse media fields, like music and within publishing houses if they are not there already. There is usually one of maybe tops of three catalogers in any given institution. At larger institutions, I have only heard of a maximum of five.

Change the structure a bit and pre-catalog in AACR2 and RDA. When the books or similar materials get to a library, scan the book, and if institutions need to tweak an entry for individual use, that is the functional role of the staff cataloger. We do not lose catalogers that way, we add to them. I am not sure whether this is already being done, but I see no reason it is not. For union catalogs, it still works.

Adding catalogers to staff of book sellers, DVD processors, CD processors, and etc. Even iTunes needs cataloging standardization and methodology to help with making content more accessible. These thoughts do not seem new. I am a new GSLIS student, and I am all about not reinventing wheels when it is not necessary, but in finding the fastest and the best methods possible for a given task. They are not always mutually exclusive endeavors.

I would love a systematic cataloging system utilizing Mills citations for sharing across the genealogical world. As of this writing, I am not aware of anything that comes close. Something inexpensive or free for home cataloging. And something that allows a Creative Commons use for archival uploads. Catalog an item once. Do it once (if possible) and do it right, no matter which institution it belongs to, whether NARA, a historical house, or a private collection. I want the Creative Commons ability for my crusade about digitizing as many documents as possible with keyword-search abilities to make searching easier, faster, and better. That said, cataloging should function in similar manner. Do it once and allow for downloads anywhere needed or the bibliographical information.

No future-proofing option exists now, but if the current motions for acceptance of RDA come true, and international standardizing bodies recognize it and start using it, then there is an obvious need to turn the AACR2 information into compatible work. Software with dual screen abilities, populated by OCLC Connexion or similar software should give current catalogers a chance to keep using their skills even as they merge over to the new fields. If someone has need to look up information backwards, they should also be able to do it. AACR/2 has been around for 30+years and all efforts in American academia up to this point revolve around this system, Dewey, Cutter, or a similar method with Library of Congress information. The idea is not to interrupt workflows, but to make for as seamless a transition as possible.

My class uses OCLC Connexion for double-checking basic bibliographical references and we do not add to the records. Seems like good reason as we do not know what we are doing, and wish not to disrupt the entries of those that do. AACR2 has a million rules to follow, also. Following the rules means that people get really good at proving their cases for things. Akin to lawyers’ court cases, or mathematicians’ proofs, or family historians’ Genealogical Proof Standard, everyone uses evidence as proof of things. In most places of life after introductory basics, a person is proving him or herself all the time. Very few people accept anything on face value unless tired, or the facts are not sufficient to alarm them.

Even God uses evidence, although there is a certain degree of faith attached. “Prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts” is part of a scripture asking for people to try out the promises that God gives. Try it, akin to trial, perhaps. Who’s trying whom? To be determined.

That aside, I want things to run efficiently. Let the para-professionals simply scan in books or other items as they come in. If there are back logs of previously cataloged items, then use the logs to help with populating the new material or union catalogs for distribution. There is always more cataloging to do. Whether it is new acquisitions, or archival items, or even simply cataloging Google images and items, it needs doing. Search terms help, but they’re not enough. An Advanced search on Google is almost impossible unless a person literally searches Google for it. And while there is a lot on Google, there isn’t everything there yet.

For those of us who did not grow up in the instant information-Fast Pass (thank you Disney) mentality of the Internet, there is still a lot of material left to cover and a lot not yet available online. Even for what is there, keyword searching does not always cover it, nevertheless cross-cultural information algorithms.

Hire more catalogers. Improve and increase software, and make sure that what is there is known.

Best to all from the Genealogy Doctor.


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