but they haven't written a Cataloging for Dummies! I looked!
November 5, 2010 12:23 PM   Subscribe

I need an introduction to practical cataloging, as opposed to the very theoretical stuff we covered in library school. I have recently started a job as a public library cataloger, I guess on the strength of my interest and local ties, as I have zero experience. So, what books/online tutorials would you recommend to a brand-new cataloger, who took her last cataloging class in 2003?

And who works for a public library with a single branch, and a collection of about 60,000 items? Unfortunately, the person I am replacing left long before I got here, so no training directly from her. I am getting some training in how things are currently done from the part-timers who helped her, but they only know the how and not why, so I'm not sure what I can/should change and what is done that way for very good reasons.

I saw this question, but that was more specifically about authority records (which, yes, I also need help with).

My employer will pay for some training, but there is of course a budget crunch; plus, they are emphasizing training on their ILS. Mostly because we know where to find that training. The state library association (Virginia) does not appear to have anything on cataloging in the near future. ALA's offerings also don't seem helpful - to advanced and/or specific to areas I don't need.

I mean, as long as patrons can find the book in the catalog, how important are the authority records? How do you note the series info (especially order, in a fiction series) - and should I bother? Do I need to put a bunch of subjects on fiction books (you know - location, professions of characters, main plot line)? Do I really need 7-digit Dewey numbers (remember, 60K items)? Should I be changing the Dewey call number from the CIP suggested one very often? How about changing titles? (because as someone working with the public, it drove me insane when something that technically had an official title starting with the creator's name was shelved under that name - like Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail under T and not M, or Bram Stoker's Dracula under B and not D. That's not where people look, dammit! Obviously more of an AV issue than books). I'm sure I have more questions, but I can't think of them right now.
posted by timepiece to Education (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I got nothing, but are there any other similar libraries in your area where you could look in and see how they do things? If they're doing things the same way your library is, you might assume that it's for a good reason, and if they're doing things differently, you can get a feel for what it might be like if you changed things.

Also, I would totally look for Tyler Perry's Madea Goes To Jail under T, but I'm a librarian.
posted by mskyle at 12:53 PM on November 5, 2010

First, if you aren't already, sign up for the AUTOCAT listserv. This is a must. This is THE cataloging list. (It's high volume so you might want to set it to digest.) There is a super big archive so your questions may have been asked fairly recently, or else ask yourself. Everyone is also really nice so don't worry about asking 'stupid' questions.

I would also try reaching out to other catalogers (especially at public libraries) in your general area (state?) to see if they will share their training materials with you. You know we like to share information :)

I've been out of the cataloging game for a while so I don't have any more specific advice, but good luck!
posted by grapesaresour at 1:28 PM on November 5, 2010

Oh wait. This looks like it will be helpful.

Damn. Now I want to catalog something.
posted by grapesaresour at 1:31 PM on November 5, 2010

I find a lot of helpful info on cataloger's toolbox. I'm a law cataloger so I can't speak too much to your questions, but I'm a big believer in "as long as the patrons can find it."
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:25 PM on November 5, 2010

A couple of caveats: one, I'm not a cataloger and two, I'm not a public librarian. With that in mind:

Most catalogers I've met are quite experienced. I feel fairly confident that someone in your area knows the answers to these questions and every other question you've got. Are you active on the Virginia state library association lists (please tell me you are)? They may not be having training or a conference anytime soon, but you should definitely contact their Tech Services Committee (look for the VLA Tech Google Group) to ask about a mentor/helpful person in your area. What about local working groups for librarians (are there any and can you start one if not?)?

I would, were I you, keep a weather eye on RDA. I currently work for one of the formal testing sites and the head cataloger has been working in the business for...several decades, and is having to relearn quite a bit. It's still in the future, but perhaps something to think about.

Speaking as a reference librarian, yes, please think about keeping the seven digit Dewey and the authority records. Well, I should clarify: I haven't worked with Dewey since I took cataloging in library school, but do use whatever reasonable number of digits for your size collection and I would definitely check with local librarians to see what that might be. The authority records may not be so useful for patrons but ask your reference staff if *they* use them.

FWIW, I know you said you didn't want the theoretical stuff but I really found Introduction to Cataloging and Classification to be a helpful book. I jumped into subject without having had descriptive and between that text and my awesome professor, I got a great grade and a decent grounding in the topic.

In my experience, other librarians are happy to help and to point you in the right direction. Good luck!
posted by librarylis at 5:16 PM on November 5, 2010

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