I currently work in the Technical Services Unit at Cardiff Met based at the Llandaff campus but over the course of 32 years in libraries I have had a range of interesting posts. I started out in Newport Central public library during sixth form to get some work experience prior to starting my B.LIB at Aberystwyth.
|How to find rain in San Pablito Pahuatlan Pue - Alfonso García Tellez|
Since graduating I have had jobs in medical libraries; a special library (county council planning department); an academic library as a Subject Librarian; and in acquisitions and cataloguing in a public library technical services department.
So why settle on cataloguing?
Well, it’s varied cutting-edge work with the opportunity to create records that will help searchers today and for many years to come. It’s fair to say that what we backroom bods do directly impacts on the search experience of users. We create or select records so that users can find, identify, select and obtain resources.
Cataloguers compile records to international cataloguing standards (Anglo American Cataloguing Rules 2nd ed. and Resource Description & Access) and using a format (MARC21 or Dublin Core) that machines can recognise, display and index. Many of us also classify using Dewey Decimal Classification or Library of Congress.
|The Disappearing Alphabet - Richard Wilbur & Barbara B. Blumenthal|
A system, whether it’s a library catalogue or web scale discovery layer (we use SUMMON,) is only as good as the data in it. Poor quality records hamper search and discovery, which considering the money we all spend on resources is not something that we should shrug off!
Here’s what I do on a typical day.
I start by checking mailboxes and dealing with queries from colleagues, e.g. “Why doesn’t the jacket/container image for this title display in the catalogue?” “What is the correct Dewey number for …?” “Why are there so many duplicate records for the same title in our web scale discovery product?” Some I can answer or remedy quickly but others require more investigation and analysis. I might have to open a case with the supplier of our LMS or web scale search product to get a resolution. Once I have cleared these I move onto responses from suppliers to cases that I have opened previously. Sometimes they are proffering a solution to a problem but often there is a request for further information.
|22743 Punchings - Jürgen O. Olbrich & Achim Schnyder|
Although HE libraries spend a lot of money on eBooks and electronic journals I still have physical stock to catalogue. A glance at the shelves now reveals books (in English & Welsh), DVDs, story-telling packs and off-air recordings. The majority of the book stock will already have catalogue records, of varying quality, attached to the orders. I check the records against the item in hand and make any necessary amendments:
- Are the records coded correctly? If not then faceted search will be compromised.
- Does the record accurately describe what I have in my hand or can see on the screen? Important for helping users distinguish between multiple editions and/or formats.
- Are the access points i.e. names, genre headings, subject headings correct? Do I need to add local keywords to ensure retrieval?
- Can I use the classification number in the record? We have a number of “Metisms” which are local variations on standard Dewey. I have to ensure that stock doesn’t get dispersed on the shelves by inadvertently accepting a class number for a subject area where we have traditionally used a local number.
Sometimes I source records from other datasets and import them to overwrite our local records.
Then there are the eResources.
We rely on commercial services for records for eJournals and eBooks but I still have to monitor the records for availability, quality and negotiate service improvements with suppliers.
|Surley not! - Jackie Batey|
Cardiff also has special collections. One of these consists of Artists books. (You can see images of these dotted around in this blog entry!) I love cataloguing these! They are quirky, entertaining, thought-provoking and beautiful. They require a lot more cataloguing than the average textbook because often records are not available as the books may be limited editions or even one offs.
There’s advocacy work as well.
For the last 3 years I have been working with commercial catalogue record providers, the Welsh Books Council and the National Library of Wales to try to ensure that libraries in Wales can access good quality records for Welsh and bi-lingual books. I‘m a member of the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group and thoroughly recommend attending their training events and biennial conference.
|© Cataloguing and Indexing Group|
My advice to anyone wanting a career as a cataloguer is to ask yourself these questions.
Can you handle change?
Are you flexible?
Do you like a challenge?
Are you good at problem-solving?
Do you have a good eye for detail?
Are you good with IT?
If the answer to these questions is yes then cataloguing or metadata management as it is more commonly referred to these days is going to be an absorbing and satisfying career for you.
In Wales we have the fledgling Cataloguers in Wales Group which aims to provide an informal network for cataloguers working in any library sector. It costs nothing to join our mailing list or follow us on Twitter @CatalogueWales. We also have a blog so feel free to use any of these avenues to ask questions or seek advice.