eBooks and eBook readers have been one of the newest book crazes for the past few years. With the introduction of eBooks came the question of whether or not libraries would offer the option of borrowing eBooks instead of physical books. Libraries answered the eBook fad by providing eBooks on vendor provided websites dedicated to borrowing eBooks. While these books were not physical versions, but electronic versions, each eBook still had to be cataloged within each library’s OPAC system. The input information catalogers required was not much different from a physical copy of the book; however, eBooks derived from different vendors, such as one of the most popular vendors, OverDrive, led to several different versions of each eBook’s record. As there is no reason why an eBook should have multiple records, vendor netural records by batchloading were introduced to solve the problem. Batchloading is where catalogers accept “batches” of new eBook records from a vendor neutral system that puts together the MARC record. While in theory this sounds like a great idea, it has caused extra work for catalogers who have had to double check many vendor neutral records looking for errors and sometimes having to scrap the entire record, creating a new record.
In her 2013 article, Notes on Operations: Quality Issues in Vendor-Provided E-Monograph Records, Stacie Traill discusses the numerous errors found in vendor neutral records and how these errors are affecting cataloger work flows. By focusing her study on vendor neutral records at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Traill (2013) presents specific findings of “eighty-nine record sets from nineteen different providers” each of which consisted of anywhere between “100 and 1000 records” (p. 216). Each of the eighty-nine record sets consisted of one or more records that had what Traill categorizes as a critical error, an access error, or an other error. Records that classified as critical had “problems that meant the records could not be loaded without correction,” such as “MARC coding errors that would affect indexing” (Traill, 2013, p. 216). Sometimes catalogers were able to fix individual records, but in one instance, so many of the records needed to be fixed that the “library did not load the set until the vendor corrected the errors” (Traill, 2013, p. 216). The lack of URLs was another critical problem that catalogers had to address. URLs are an important component of eBook records as they are how patrons are able to gain access to the eBook itself. Traill (2013) notes that out of the eighty-nine record sets eight had URL issues, ranging from incorrect URL addresses to the complete absence of URLs from one record set (p. 217). Access errors and other errors consisted of general cataloging errors, such as “obsolete subject headings and subdivisions that had apparently been carried over from the print version records for those titles” (Traill, 2013, p. 219). Several records had entire MARC fields missing from the record or the absence of “Library of Congress call numbers or ISBNs” (Traill, 2013, p. 219).
The numerous critical, access, and other record errors that Traill notes does not paint a good picture for vendor neutral records; in fact, it leads one to believe that catalogers are now tasked with more work than they would be if they fully entered eBook records themselves. By being observant and knowledgeable about which errors occur, catalogers should be able to put an action plan into place for checking frequently seen errors. Vendor neutral errors, however, are unpredictable, which leaves catalogers unable to determine what types of errors they will run into, and therefore unable to implement an action plan that will aid in “the time-consuming practice of spot-checking some records in each set” (Traill, 2013, p. 221). Traill (2013) also notes that “it is not realistic to expect vendors to meet exacting library standards when they are generally offering record sets for no additional charge beyond the price of the content” (p. 221). Instead, catalogers should answer several questions in regards to fixing vendor neutral batchloading issues: “what is gained in terms of efficiency and cataloger time? What is lost in terms of access and standardization? How important for user discovery needs is the additional access provided by full-level cataloging?” (Traill, 2013, p. 222). For the time being, it appears that catalogers will have to decide whether it is more important to make sure each record is error free or ensure that patrons have access to eBooks even when the record is incorrect.
Traill, S. (2013). Quality issues in vendor-provided e-monograph records. Library Resources & Technical Services, 57(4), 213-226.