Re: Cataloging

Stephanie Andrew (
Tue, 26 Feb 2002 10:20:08 -0800 (PST)

The cataloging of one format or another has been at least a part of every
library job I've had across some thirty years, and though I fight any
description of myself as a cataloger (the state of my personal papers alone
may prove this), I do want to make some observations from "their" side.

Over the past year, I've been cataloging thousands of videos in a
collection begun with the introduction of the medium in the late 70s,
ranging through 2002 release DVDs. The difference in the quality of OCLC
records available for the early titles and the current ones is
striking. Early video records ARE minimal, seemingly cataloged without
seeing an image, consulting a primary reference, or feeling that non-print
materials deserved the same care as printed ones. But current copy coming
from a range of libraries (including Gary's and some others on this list)
is satisfyingly complete, committed, and intelligent (far fewer breathless
blurbs transcribed as the 520!). Expanded inclusion of personal and
corporate names, more variant titles, various geographic and language
fields/codes, increased use of genre lists, and fiction-style subject
headings--all these are providing access points and ways of making lists we
have never had. I think AV librarians' beating their drums for media and
setting up increasingly clear standards for its cataloging has been part of
the difference. Let's keep improving.

As for the quibbles over classification numbers which happen with certain
titles and categories in every format... Especially in public libraries,
where so much depends on browsing, classification may have elements of both
science and art, but it's more akin to carpentry. An item has to be
fitted into the collection already there. In my former public library,
though machines and paraprofessionals did most cataloging tasks, we thought
it was important that final (Dewey) call numbers be assigned by librarians
(who furthermore spent part of their days working on relevant public
service desks). With videos, it was our decision which ones to classify
and which to call "movies" using our own sense and the feedback of our
patrons. A number that makes sense (or doesn't really matter as in a
closed-stack collection) in one library may not work in yours. CHANGE it
so your users will find the material.

And a final observation on the wording in another post... Though even we
citizens might still have reason to call LC "them," OCLC really is
"us." The range of 040 initials on the 3000 or so records I used is
impressive. And even those bad old ones, I was glad to have as a
start. WorldCat/OCLC is certainly not perfect, but it's still amazing.

Stephanie Andrew

Film Study Center
Yale University