Really cataloging? Cataloging is fun!

~March 30-April 3~

A catalog record for any item can be disassembled into the fields, subfields, characters and codes used to represent certain information, and the information from the item itself. The structure of a record enables machines to read and present the information in a human readable format. MARC is a metadata schema that uses prescribed standards for listing bibliographic materials. This type of record allows for interoperability and sharing of library’s records. All of this information can be arranged differently by cataloging rules such as RDA and AACR2. It is interesting to determine the anomalies with these two rules. I think it can help a cataloger see how the fields have changed, but it can also be a confusing mess for neophyte catalogers.

When I began to learn rare book cataloging, I had a basic knowledge of the fields, subfields, and also their structures. What I have found to be most interesting is the meanings behind this mysterious numerical and alphabetical language. It is really satisfying to be able to describe what they mean and how to use them. I find my internship a very practical and applicable demonstration of what I have learned in library school. I still have questions for my supervisor every time I work, but that isn’t a bad thing. Each book I work with is different, even if it is the same copy of a book. I relish in the times when I can use a reference book (i.e. a bibliography or catalog) to help identify a variant copy or to confirm that our copy is the first edition. To flip through a book and see the chain lines as well as the impressions from the type is transportive.

As my internship is coming to a close in the next few weeks, I have been assigned progressively harder materials to catalog. At some points, I am still completely lost or unsure of what to do, but others I am confident and eager to implement what I have learned. For example,  I have been working with authority file records. I still have questions about the workflow of and procedure required to create correct authorities. Once I am able to understand them more, I think I will be able to create beautifully linked and sound records. In response to some of my questions, I researched the 670 field in authority records. I found all the information very helpful and easily understandable. I have amended and fixed some records that I had questions about.

Another aspect of cataloging that has gived me grief is pagination. Pagination is one of the most difficult things to figure out because if it is unclear when you have the item in hand, it will rarely get better unless you ask a fellow cataloger. I do like the puzzle, but I think I will be more comfortable and knowledgeable with pagination after handling many more books.

Miscellaneous doings this week consisted of conservation issues and variant troubles. I was working with three books that presented conservation concerns. One book had tape on the title page and on two pages as a solution for mending a tear. I had a book with a cracked spine and one that had a loose board. In addition to those concerns, I was updating records. One such record required research. I looked in Alexander Pope; a Bibliography by Reginald Harvey Griffith for a copy of Miscellanea in Two Volumes. I used this source to identify which variant we had. After reading the descriptions for the entries, I concluded that we had variant A because of the collational formula and the artist of the frontispiece. I also used A Bibliography of the Writings of Jonathan Swift by Herman Teerink. It was interesting because the record I was using had two different page numbers for Teerink’s work in which had at lease one other edition thus causing the problem for me. I also found additional information about the publication date, so I included that in a 500 field.

Next week will also be filled with similarly great work!


A pleasing variety of books to catalog

~March 23-27~

I was cataloging several different types of books this week. Most of them were from the 1700s to 1800s.  They all presented unique challenges, but I was able to solve them through research and with the assistance of my intelligent, helpful supervisor. I continued cataloging a book of bound broadsides which was a selection of Irish popular songs. The book was really fun to catalog, since I recognized these songs as ones I sung in choir.

A Pleasing Variety is a compilation of articles by famous authors. I had difficulties creating access points for this record because the title page and each of the entries simply repeated the last name of the authors. I was not thinking that the authors could be the famous Pope, Sterne, or Johnson. But to my happy surprise, the authors were one in the same. I consulted my supervisor and she said that given the time of the publication that they were proper choices to make up a book called pleasing variety.

I also had problems with finding Anne Walsh, the Irish Girl, and the Robert and Margaret Ship. I asked my supervisor about Anne who suggested it might be a fictional character used in multiple works. Sadly, the ship is still a mystery for now.

One morning, I looked up Program for Cooperative Cataloging: PCC and all the related acronyms. I found the web documents describing these important authority and cooperative programs very useful and understandable.

I reviewed the order in which general notes (MARC Field 500) go in. Even though there is not a prescribed order I wanted to know how the Lilly and its catalogers address this field. This ordering system also goes for the local, item specific field 590.

Additionally, I addressed the bound-withs in my workflow. I found them uncommonly easy for how difficult they sound. I will need more practices doing the particular steps associated with this type of item, but I think I can handle the dreaded bound-withs.

Interning over spring break

~March 17-20th~

This blog post covers the happenings over spring break. I was back in the swing of retrospective cataloging. Most of these materials are chapbooks or unbound printings of didactic, religious materials. Cataloging this type of ephemera is intriguing because it affords the cataloger an opportunity to see what types of printed materials were circulating. I also think it is important to understand what was preserved out of all the ephemera that was available.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, I accosted bound-with publications. I searched for a definition for bound-withs online; and to my surprise, I found a useful resource. Pennsylvania  State University Libraries created a resource for their catalogers to answer question such as: What is a bound-with?; How does that differ from an issued-with?; And how do I catalog these types of materials? First off, a bound-with is “an item containing two or more works bound together after publication by someone other than the publisher.” On the other hand, an issued-with is “two or more works intended by the publisher to constitute a single publication.” This are logical difference based on temporal contexts and the intentions of the publishers, booksellers, and collectors.  Instead of continuing with cataloging the item that presented this situation, I set it aside so my supervisor can help me with nuances that come with representing these items.

The books that I did catalog were items that were removed from their bindings. The indicators that can help confirm this manifestation are: pieces of the leather still attached to the spine, sewing that is going through the item (i.e. oversewn), and remnants of glue. I enjoyed cataloging these materials because they were mostly all printed from The Cheap Repository Tracts, which consisted of hundreds of moral and religious pamphlets and chapbooks. They are very interesting materials because of the subjects areas they cover in their publications. One title was “Husbandry Moraliz’d,” which offered readings for farmers. Similar to many of the other publications, it was only a brief twelve pages.

Some things I ran into were conflicting dates in OCLC records and on the Lilly’s shelf list cards. One in particular, I was able to support and reasonably conclude that the date on the card was correct, so I needed to create a new record for the item. I used several references to clarify the discrepancy between the two dates. I searched in the British Museum catalogue, The Catalogue of English and American Chapbooks, and the NUC pre-1956 catalogue. It was a very fun experience once I knew where to look.

During my time cataloging this week, I learned the value of reference resources for cataloging firsthand. I look forward to researching and discovering morsels of information about books I catalog in the future.

A bridge week between projects

~March 9th-14th~

I had one book left from the Mystery Writers. It was difficult. My supervisor and I went step by step through the creation of this record. I did have to search for Name Authority Records for some 700 fields. But after I finished I found out that I had cataloged the item wrong. So this coming week, I will learn how to properly catalog this item.

The next two shifts I returned to retrospective conversion cataloging. I created an original record. It was a metal shift because I have been thinking of creating  different kinds of records for books with other unique characteristics. I notice the variants between assorted books. I am realizing that they are important when I am cataloging. I cataloged about 5 or 6 books.

I really liked the change in pace. Once I familiarized myself with the specifics I need for these types of books, it was really fun. I really enjoy the diversity in cataloging.

Finding clues in bibliomysteries

~March 2nd-6th~

This week was spent dealing with materials that broke from the norm and ones I had questions about. I had whittled down the truck of books until I had about 15 books left including several books that I had set aside. These books ranged from novels to physical reproductions of online publications. I was met with many challenges.

I cataloged about 14 out of the 15 books. One of which I thought had incorrectly cataloged because it was bound in paper wrappers, whereas the other was hard bound. I asked my supervisors about this situation. I was told that I could use the record if it met certain qualifications and augment with item specifics. It was also challenging because I was cataloging one book in particular which was printed as part of a series. I thought this book was really interesting. I am going to read this book series.

When looking for the few serials I was assigned, I tried to find records for an individual title or a main title/ run of a series. In the chance that the library is able to add to a series, the best solution is to select a record that represents the entire run of the serial. One example is the Strand Magazine published in Michigan, not London. I cataloged this item using a record that represents the whole run. I had to keep in mind some differences between monographs and serials as I was modifying the record. For example, the call number, titles, authors, current publication frequency, dates, of publication, and lack of binding note.

Along with cataloging, I learned about the Book Industry Subject Group and the BISAC subject headings. These are useful as other access points. It is interesting because there many different thesauri in use. They can add tremendously to a record.

Oh, Chicago in the winter: Attending ALA Midwinter Conference

Skyline Supreme

Chicago Skyline

Library school has been a succession of firsts: first time I lived outside my home state; first time I visited Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio; first time I worked in a library; first time I saw the Gutenberg Bible, medieval manuscripts and hundreds of thousands of books; first time visiting Chicago; and the first time I attended a professional conference. Professional conferences are as much about networking as learning about different areas in your profession and exposure to the current happenings, research and professional development opportunities. American Libraries Association’s Midwinter Conference was an excellent way for me to learn more about the organization as a whole, as well as its specialized divisions. I also chose Midwinter to be my first conference because of its size and proximity. ALA is the “oldest and largest library association in the world,” so I knew that the conference would be astonishing and overwhelming. After the first day or so, I began to settle into the routine of the conference. The conference had a cast of events for all types of librarians at any stage of their career. Unlike some other conferences, ALA is multifaceted with all of the different layers within the organization. I was able to individualize my schedule to fit my interests.

ALA Midwinter was a chance to learn about my varying professional interests and meet some incredibly intelligent people who come from and are traveling on distinct paths. Conferences are an exciting mixture of fun and professionalism. I anticipate that I will attend many more conferences throughout my career. As I ponder on my time at Midwinter, I have compiled a list of some takeaways that I learned:

Be open to possibilities

Conferences can be hectic with all the events that are planned and the ad hoc ones that spontaneously appear. There are a multitude of events such as: workshops, discussion groups, meetings, and panels; all of which are beneficial. Create a list, digital or handwritten, to help you plan out your days. Even though you might make a perfect schedule without any overlapping events and you are able to fit everything in, something might crop up and make you change your plans. The most common possibility that is presented at conferences is networking. There are plenty of times where you can walk up to fellow attendees and start a conversation. Moreover, take advantage of the social events advertised by the different sections.

Be flexible

Somewhat similar to the former advice, I learned that I must be flexible because rooms change and times change. Events at conferences are not fixed, so as we think about our schedules, one  must select some alternative events to attend in case of a change.  I think this is one of the most important takeaways especially when attending your first conference. Since you might be on your own, with friends, or an assigned mentor/buddy, you have to go with the flow and be ready to deal with obstacles.

Take notes

Keeping a note book, of some medium, to write thoughts, questions, names, projects, and anything that comes to mind is essential. During conferences, you are going to meet a great number of people and learn about many different areas, so in order to remember all of these things, writing notes is a useful tool. In addition, take notes about the people you get business cards from because it will help you recall them later. These notes will help preserve some context of the conference for later review.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when attending a conference. Conferences can be overwhelming, but breathing and being in the moment will help you remain focused and excited about this wonderful opportunity.

“Ten Commandments for Special Collections Librarians in the Digital Age” by Jackie Dooley

Dooley’s article was inspired by the 2008 Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Preconference, “Rare and Special Bytes: Special Collections in the Digital Age.”  She espoused ten principles or commandments that will help special collections librarians in a digital environment. She encourages the adoptions of digital ways of creating remote access to collections and digital copies for preservation reasons. This article is 13 years old, but it still holds substantial importance for the field.

In the main body of the paper, Dooley address the ten steps a special collections librarians can enter into the digital world. The commandments are: “Embrace the technological continuum of the book,” “Rediscover yourself,” “Digitize with abandon,” “Educate yourself,” “Make your work economically sustainable,” “Follow the archivists’ lead,” “Be promiscuous with your metadata,” “Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate,” “Revere the innovative ideas of the young,” and “Proactively define our collective future.”

All of these topics are still discussed in current literature. Special collections libraries are still trying to develop their strategies for implementing these commandments. I think they are very essential for keeping special collections relevant and for outreach efforts. I found this article to be useful because it was introduces these topics and how to gain experience in these areas.

*Dooley, Jackie. “Ten commandments for special collections librarians in the digital age.” RBM 10.1 (Spring 2009): 51-59.

Subject heading and genre forms and exact copies! Oh my!

~February 24th-27th~

Subject heading are excellent access points for students and catalogers. Catalogers utilize subject headings to identify the themes, names, geographic and other identifiers. They can link to outside data that bolster the catalog record. Library Congress Subject Headings are most commonly used set of terms, but there are others used for specific types of materials such as GND.

The next thing I was started researching and learning about. I was looking at index terms such as genre and form terms, which are entered into the 655 field.  I was introduce to LCGFT, a genre heading controlled vocabulary. This is a thesaurus that describes what is a work versus what it is about, and it also combines both genres and forms.

On Friday, I came across a book that the Lilly already had a copy of. I asked my supervisor to walk me through adding a other copy to an item record. When adding an item to an existing record, select the title record to ensure that it is the correct record. I also found the already cataloged copy  to compare it to the other book to make sure that there are no variations or characteristics that are different. I believed this to be the exact copy. I chose the Add Item tab to make an addition to this record. I amended by typing in the Item ID and the home location of this item. I added copy specific information about this item to the 500 and 591 fields.

For this week, I cataloged 15 to 20 books. In addition, I altered the records that I had made mistakes on. I met with my supervisor to discuss the readings and if I had any questions.

Mystery Writers of America Collection

~February 17th-20th~

Over this week, I cataloged more Mystery Writers of America books. I cataloged 11 books over the two day I worked. I left early. I created new call numbers for books that had PZ LC Classification because even though the authors write primarily in one genre, they might some day write another books with a different classification. This way if the author writes in multiple genres, then the books can be grouped in one section.  I am still cautious when creating call numbers because I want to to make sure I am accurately representing the book.

Moreover, I learned more about AACR2 and RDA rules. I learned more about different fields such as 521 which identifies the target audience. I find it helpful to use the OCLC MARC resource. I also asked my supervisor about pagination and for a more detailed expectation.

I read over the some more readings. I also had my supervisor check over the catalog records I created. I read over the notes and corrections. After that I made the fixed my mistakes. I have be progressively learning more and more about how to catalog and structure it the record.

“Progressing Toward Bibliography; or: Organic Growth in the Bibliographic Record” by James P. Ascher

Ascher introduces cataloging by discussing the touch-it-once mentality as well as its affects on the completeness and accuracy of the bibliographic record. He argues against the touch-it-once mentality for special collections because these materials typically “differ between manifestations and are primary source for research that informs their descriptions” (Ascher 95). As an option to minimal-level cataloging, Ascher proposes progressive bibliography which, in essence, means starting with a basic record and then proceeding to a fuller description by enhancing the knowledge represented with the help of scholars and the natural changes in knowledge. He points out that catalogers do not know everything about a book or special collection item at the time of cataloging, which is a common dilemma.  Many of these materials are in need of “more substantive bibliographical research” (Ascher 95). To advance his idea, he looks to digital tools and modern information theories that can help make this process more streamlined.

Anatomy of an AAS Catalog Record

This is an example of a catalog record of a 18th century book.

This article is overrun with ideas about cataloging and the methods that should be considered. In the literature review section, his research is deep and rich in this subject area. For a novice cataloger, the bibliography for this article is an excellent resource to learn the history and development of cataloging. It helps to frame the discussion of what level should special collections materials be cataloged, should catalogers create records with the bare essentials just so the item is visible, and do catalogers have time to do progressive bibliography?

After reading this article, a few statements and sections stood out to me as being important or interesting. Ascher quotes Falconer Madan, a librarian at the Bodleian Librarian, who said, “The idea is that different periods of printing and different classes of books should meet with correspondingly varying treatment” (Ascher 98). Madan splits time into different periods which each require a different level of description dependent upon the discretion of the cataloger. I think this is a guiding principle in special collection libraries. As catalogers, we also should be aware of the hidden collections, so that we can try to temper the obstacles affecting our ability to catalog or digitally represent these materials. Another sentence that I found interesting was:”The cataloger is no longer the judge, jury, and executioner of the records of the material of the rare book room, but a gatekeeper and ally to the whole Gutenberg galaxy of information, ideas, and connections” (Ascher 100). I feel myself on a fence when confronted with questions of how to write, describe or label a characteristic of a book. Cataloging is subjective, like so many other things, but they are not set in stone so we can change and improve the record. A catalog record can reflect one institutions policies on cataloging or a general type of description. The notion of knowledge always developing and growing is a key theme for Ascher. I agree that the present and future research will help cataloger create descriptive records. One way this can be applied to cataloging is linked data.

Before writing this blog, I spoke with my internship supervisor who told me about the realistic nature of special collections cataloging. I thought the article impressed that this idea of progressive bibliography cataloging was the best solution, but it is the ideal that unfortunately cannot be achieved in libraries. With shrunken library staffs and an ever growing collection, the work of librarian is to identify the most useful information for bibliographic records and to represent the material accurately. This does not mean that they will be providing minimum level description, but that they will not spend time research a modern book printed by Simon & Schuster.  I think there is always going to be discord between how much time full description catalog records take and the number of book and materials in the backlog and the newly acquired materials. But it is the role of the rare book cataloger to create, maintain, and update records that furthers research and knowledge.

*Ascher, James P. “Progressing Toward Bibliography; or: Organic Growth in the Bibliographic Record.” RBM 59.4 (2009): 95-110.