Cataloging and Authority Records for n00bs
June 12, 2006 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I am an academic reference librarian who has been thrust unceremoniously into a cataloging position. Help me understand what I'm doing!

Ok, so I've been working very part-time at a small college library for 4 years, doing reference and instruction. We have had a terrible time keeping catalogers on staff, so my Dean has asked me do the cataloging. I am happy to do so, since I enjoyed cataloging in grad school, but I have never cataloged professionally or used OCLC online before. To make matters more complicated, we are migrating from Multilis to Millenium this summer.

My primary question is about authorities. As far as we know, we used to subscribe to Marchive and obtained authority files that way. We no longer do, though, and we are unsure if the previous catalogers were adding authorities at all. (Multilis' reports feature sucks!) Now that I'm grabbing the MARC records from OCLC, using the Connexion browser, do I also need to export the authority files to the local database? What about the "controlling for authorities" feature? If I do that for every holding I export, what actually happens in our local database? (I told you I was a n00b!)
posted by Biblio to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
IANAL (yet) and IANAC (definitely not yet). This is probably a useless answer therefore, but I wanted to mention, in case you didn't know...

LC made its authorities available free:

Now, less helpfully...

I think that you do need local authority files, in order to assure that your local authority control works.

For example:
If you search in LC Authorities for Blackfeet, one of the choices is Blackfeet Indians (Algonquian). When you inspect closer, this has a SEE reference to the authorized heading, Siksika Indians.

It's my understanding that unless you import the authority files into your local database, the connections in the vocabulary control won't be usable. So a person subject searching for the Algonquian Blackfeet would have to enter Siksika or he or she wouldn't necessarily find all or any of the relevant materials. I believe that if you just copy the MARC records for the books, and don't control for vocabulary, you only allow access directly through those fields in each record, including sometimes outdated subject headings. I am pretty sure that if you want good collocation, you need local authorities.

But I could be wrong - I'm just a lowly first year in L school.
posted by jann at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2006

Owch. I fled screaming from the realms of cataloging, so am just as much a n00b as you.

Were I you, I'd take this opportunity to ask my Dean if it were possible for me to take a cataloging refresher course if I were to serve as a cataloging backup. If fulltime catalog support were in my future, I'd insist upon it.

In the meantime, call up OCLC/Mutilis and get them to walk you through the process. Locate all your library's documentation on the subject to see if you can gleen how things were done in the past. Also consider calling up another library that uses the system (here) and pleading your case. Good catalogers can be pretty evangelical and would be willing to help you out if they have the time.

AFAIK, you should be importing the authority records along with the MARC from OCLC. I am unsure how my library performs this operation, but do know that we are locked out of the catalog (Endeavor, btw) for a morning every month or so for authority record updates. I suspect that this process involves blood sacrifice, bonfires, and dark hoodoo, but my feeble reference mind shies away from considering it for long.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:57 AM on June 12, 2006

You might want to get in touch with your regional OCLC provider (NELINET, if your profile info is accurate). They often offer training classes on cataloging using OCLC and such that you might find helpful.

"Controlling for authorities" in Connexion compares the headings in a particular bibliographic record against the authority records in OCLC. So it'll help you figure out if something is an authorized heading, but not necessarily if the heading's corresponding authority record is actually in your own catalog. Your MARCIVE subscription would've helped with the latter-- namely in processing your new bib records and providing you with the authority records you needed.

If you're doing this manually, you won't need to download authority records for every bib record you're grabbing from OCLC, but you might need to download some. I'm not at all familiar with MultiLIS, but most cataloging modules have some way of letting you know if your heading appears unauthorized? Those headings would be the records you'd need to download. Your catalog might have some other reports designed to assist this process.
posted by Carol O at 9:21 AM on June 12, 2006

Try Catalogblog. Also, consider joining some e-mail lists where you can hit catalogers up for help.

Yes, you need authority records.

My condolences on going to Millenium.
posted by QIbHom at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2006

I'll second QIbHom above - sign up to some library cataloging listservs and ask your questions there. I just googled "listserv library cataloging" and found several, including: LC Cataloging Newsline; Autocat (Library Cataloging and Authorities); and OCLC-CAT.
I'm not a cataloger, but work in a library and do web design, information management, etc., and I have found library listserv people to be very helpful with any questions I have had.
good luck
posted by crepeMyrtle at 11:44 AM on June 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all. Yes, I've checked NELINET, and my Dean is more than happy to send me for a class, but they don't have anything right now.

Part of the problem is the last few catalogers were highly secretive and didn't like anyone to know what they were doing. So I have very spotty documentation. I know that Multilis as we have it set up doesn't let you know anything...I am assuming Millenium will play nice with OCLC.

I will definitely check out those listserves. I took cataloging in '96 and things were done very differently! (Anyone else here have Candy Schwartz for cataloging?)
posted by Biblio at 12:02 PM on June 12, 2006

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