Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guide to MARC21 – Book Review

CMRLS recently purchased a copy of Guide to MARC21 For Cataloging of Books and Serials. The bib record’s been added to the C/W MARS catalog. I finally had a chance to read through this book and I have mixed feelings about its usefulness.

The book is written and edited by people whose first language is not English. I’m sure if I attempted to write even a paragraph in Spanish or French, the results would not be nearly as successful as Asoknath Mukhopadhyay’s book. Still, I found it distracting to be reading along and not have articles in places where I expect them to be, or have articles where I would not expect them. (“In early 1960s the Library of Congress … ”) Word order is sometimes a little unusual such as “Why MARC is needed when …?” since a born English-speaker would say “Why is MARC needed when …?” Like many people who have learned English as a second language, Mukhopadjyay’s vocabulary is excellent. However, his writing style is somewhat stilted or overly-scholarly sounding and requires paying careful attention. Maybe that's good.

The book has a copyright date of 2007. Details of MARC have not changed much in the last 2-3 years, but the attitude toward the format has. Mukhopadhyay’s “Wow! MARC is so great” perspective contrasts sharply with the “MARC is dead” crowd on the NGC4LIB and AUTOCAT discussion lists. Even I, a devoted fan of MARC can see that MARC is beginning to outlive its usefulness and that XML or other formats probably offer more for 21st century data transmission.

The book contains lots of URLs for further reading and research. Early on I noticed a typo: dektop. Even when I corrected it to desktop, I still received an error message. After some searching, I realized the URL was also missing a /. I found some URLs that no longer existed. I was able to locate Kyle Banergee’s Cataloging Calculator at an entirely different site. Too bad no one had left a forwarding URL when the site was moved. The 2007 publication/copyright date means there are some pieces of information that are out-of-date such as the contact information for Sagebrush Corporation which was bought out by Follett. As I found these mistakes or changes, I annotated the CMRLS copy of the book.

Guide to MARC21 does have positive points. If you need clarification of what data belongs in a particular MARC sub-field, you will likely find it in this book. Despite the typos and out-of-date URLs, this is a one-stop-shopping guide offering a wealth of information on all sorts of cataloging-related topics. There are selective lists of MARC codes, lots of examples of bib records, a list of form subdivisions, a glossary, a list of sources for MARC records and cataloging information, and information on barcodes. While there is nothing in the book that says so explicitly, the several pages of Romanization Tables for Indic Languages lead me to believe the primary market is intended to be India and adjacent countries.

Inside the back cover, there is a disc that contains cataloging software which I did not install on my computer. I think that Guide to MARC21 and its accompanying disc are intended for libraries in developing countries that don’t have Integrated Library Systems like most of the libraries with which I’m familiar. Mukhopadhyay is providing librarians there with a way to create a usable catalog and also to be able to exchange bibliographic records with the rest of the world.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Book on MARC21

Received, cataloged and ready for you to check out: Guide to MARC21 for cataloging of books and serials by Asoknath Mukhopadjyay.

I haven't had a chance to review this yet, but will soon.

In the meantime, I have lots of books on cataloging, classification, and other technical services topics in my office as part of the CMRLS professional collection. All are in the C/W MARS database and ready for use.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All the RDA you could ever want

With RDA approaching, I've been seeing more references to it accompanied by links to more information.

I've updated the Sites for Catalogers page on the CMRLS website to include some of these links. Here's a synopsis of what's been added:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dewey(less) in the News Again

The October 1 issue of Library Journal contains an article about the newly re-opened Darien CT library and how they have modified the Dewey Decimal System in classifying their materials. More and more libraries are taking a new look at the organization of their materials as they try to provide a “positive experience” and ensure their libraries are “user friendly”. I think we can all agree that satisfied customers are a very good thing.

As a cataloger, however, I hope we’re not rushing too far in the Deweyless direction without taking a careful look at the entire picture. In reading the article (which I absolutely recommend – it is thoughtful and thorough) note Table 1: Why patrons have trouble finding non-fiction. These are the results of a survey by Barbara Fister, author of the LJ article. The reason with the highest percentage (68.4) is that patrons have “Trouble understanding the online catalog”. The catalog is not the classification system and I suspect this response is related to reason #3 below. The second reason (63.3 %) is that patrons “Feel intimidated by a classification system they don’t understand well.”

I won’t argue that DDC is far from ideal, but before discarding it altogether, look at the third reason. Patrons “Want to go straight to the right shelf without having to look anything up.” I can sympathize with that feeling every time I go into a new and/or large store. Where is that one little thing I’m looking for? And that patron who knows just where the knitting or car repair books are in one library, will have to start from scratch in a different library. I think the classification system is less important than good signs - and attentive staff on the lookout for confused patrons.

It’s not just a matter of whether to use Dewey or BISAC. If the patron can’t find what he/she is looking for, does the library not own it? It is checked out to another patron? Is there something available at another library? One hopes these questions can be answered via the catalog.

The staff at Darien are making a serious effort at reorganizing their library to be more useful to patrons who want to browse but not ignoring the scholar looking for a specific title. Their system of “glades” looks promising.

As you consider re-organizing your library’s collection, remember
· DDC was developed in 1873 for an academic library. It’s not as much “broken” as we’re trying to make it do something different.
· The DDC in the bibliographic record is not mandatory; you do *not* have to use that number if it doesn’t make sense for your library.
· Public libraries have already made a lot of modifications to DDC such as organizing fiction by the author’s last name and having a separate biography section.
· DDC is an “expansive” system and the numbers can get very long. Use the shortest number you can without combining disparate topics.
· If a subject seems to have two (or more) numbers (weight lifting is a good example: 613.713 and 796.41), choose one number and put all items there.
· General classification schemes do not work well for a focused collection such as Local History, and specific schemes have been developed such as NLM (National Library of Medicine).

Libraries are evolving organisms. Things change. I still see a lot of use for the Dewey Decimal System in the small to medium public library, but I’m open to modifications, adaptations and changes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cookery is soon to be cooking

That title will likely make sense only to catalogers.

Read this announcement from the Library of Congress!

After confusing our patrons (and ourselves) with the subject heading Cookery, "... the ABA Policy and Standards Division (PSD) of the Library of Congress is in the initial planning stages of a project to revise the headings used in this area."

Thank heaven for the ability to make global changes in our on-line catalogs. Had this change occurred some 20 or so years ago, we'd all be wearing out every eraser in sight.

However, this means I'll have to update some of the handouts I use when I teach cataloging.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Do You Catalog Weird Stuff?

Today I received an email from Jeremy Goldstein of the Berkshire Athenaeum, which is the public library in Pittsfield. The email contained a link to a slideshare presentation by Nanette Donohue of the Champaigne Public Library called Cataloging the Weird Stuff. I'm adding the link to the CMRLS Technical Services pages under Games and Tutorials.

While the presentation requires some basic knowledge of MARC format, I found it very helpful. I can easily see it's usefullness for a cataloger who is experienced, but not with the more recent and unusual media - sometimes called "funny formats."

You can view the tutorial here.

To see links for all of the tutorials and games I've amassed, go here.

Have you discovered a site useful for catalogers and other technical services types? Please let me know ( so that I can add it to the list.