July 9, 2014 3-5pm
When I began my journey of an exploration of librarianship I was drawn towards archival work, and while I thoroughly enjoyed my archive experience I have become more and more interested in metadata and cataloging. Until yesterday I wasn’t exactly sure what each meant. Today, I met with Leigh, who is the head of Boatwright Memorial Library’s research description area, aka cataloging, metadata, among other hats. After Leigh’s explanations of what metadata is, what cataloging is, what MARC is, and what RDA & AACR2 are I am exceptionally intrigued to learn more and to get my hands dirty, so to speak.
A very basic and brief outline of what the above terms mean:
Cataloging is the process of entering a book, eBook, journal article, etc. into a library’s catalog.
Cataloging is done by creating a MARC record for an item; an example would be the tax form that you fill out when you file your taxes each year. But, you can’t simply enter whatever information you want into the tax form; you have a set of rules that you must follow, such as which items you can count as deductions. The rules used when entering information (aka metadata, which is essentially data about data) are the AACR2 and RDA rules.
So think of having to provide your tax filing to the government as cataloging, the tax form as MARC, the information as metadata, and the rules you use to enter that data as AACR2 and/or RDA.
Leigh showed me how each item in a library catalog has three different records: bibliographic record, holding record, and item record. While patrons can see each type of record in the catalog, not all of the information within each record is visible to patrons simply because it’s information that they don’t need or even want to know. The interesting thing is that when libraries receive their new book orders there are two things that are delivered: the physical book itself and a completed electronically delivered record for that particular book. This delivery of the completed record is done via OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) http://www.oclc.org/en-US/home.html?redirect=true which is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to help libraries. It is my understanding that not all libraries are members of OCLC because there are membership dues, but it would be interesting to find out the percentage of libraries in the US who are members. While your first thought about a library receiving a completed record might be, “well what are catalogers for?”, the answer is simple: these records may not be fully correct or complete, they may have inaccurate links to the eBook information, and they absolutely need to have some of the information tweaked to fit within the cataloging parameters of a particular library. Checking for these errors can be time consuming.
MARC records have been around since the 1960s. MARC is what libraries know and while continuing to work with a system sounds like it makes sense, it doesn’t for MARC because MARC is not changing and adapting to the ever burgeoning world of technology. Leigh showed me how in a MARC record it still asks for a number to be placed in the “print the record” field, meaning the catalog record would be printed on a physical card. It’s been many years since card catalogs were around, so why is the “print record” field extant in the MARC record? While the entry of a number in the “print record” field now equates to “digital” it is still around simply because, as Leigh stated, libraries are non-profit organizations who do not have the time to create, train, and implement an entire new form of creating records. I have questioned several things during my internship when it came to our ever growing technology, but it wasn’t until Leigh stated that libraries are non-profit organizations that I truly understood why things are transitioning so slowly to the digital world. And to be fair, not everything is moving slowly, but in terms of cataloging it certainly appears that way to my untrained eye. In addition to still having to use MARC, libraries are now stuck in a limbo between which types of rules to use: AACR2 or RDA. AACR2 is the old set of rules used when creating a MARC record and RDA is the newer set of rules. Boatwright Memorial Library, as well as many other libraries use both sets of rules. How confusing that must be!
The amount of information we went over today was more than I could actually process and write down and this just goes to show how detail driven and important the position of a cataloger is. I should be getting an opportunity to get my hands dirty with resource description and as I do so I will be sure to post detailed notes of my experience!