Copy Cataloguing and Library Collections

1Apr2010 at 11:21 am (Cataloguing) (, , )

I’m catching up on some reading and finally getting to the March issue of TSLL. TSLL is always full of great information and this month’s Classification column by Kate Wilko and Mary Whited provides a great discussion on sorting out classification discrepancies and includes some great tips which I’d recommend to all readers.

What particularly struck me though is this statement among their concluding remarks:

In each of our libraries, we must weigh the advantages of copy cataloging (following other libraries’ decisions on classification) and the advantages of tailoring the collection arrangement to the needs of our users. We must each solve that in our own fashion. In smaller libraries, it is easier to reverse decisions and create more “user friendly” arrangements. In the big libraries, we just try to keep our heads above water, the new books flowing out, and are unable to do catalog maintenance and rearrange the collection.

This is an important thing to keep in mind when developing a library collection. There are huge demands on cataloguers in larger libraries to keep pace with the amount of work coming in and as a result large portions of the cataloguing work will pass through essentially unchallenged. Especially true if the library depends on shelf-ready acquisitions and sends books directly out to library users without the benefit of any cataloguer decisions based on the library’s own collection.

Wilko and Whited mention above that it’s easier for smaller libraries to “create more ‘user friendly’ arrangements”. I think this is true on one level, but resources are thin in smaller libraries too and they will naturally rely on larger libraries to make some of these decisions for them. I worry:  if we are all struggling to keep our collective “heads above water” the possibility for errors permeating the bibliographic environment is compounded.

So the questions in my mind are:  can we continue to build library ‘collections’ or are we in danger of becoming, or have we already become, just a warehouse for books? What about something like the Open Library idea? Can a collective effort like that effectively organize resources for the specialized user group, for example, the legal community? How can we provide information that is relevant to the users of our own libraries if we’re not in touch with our own collections?

I certainly don’t know how to solve this dilemma, but I’m pretty sure it’s important that cataloguers have the opportunity to at least identify the potential relationships in their library collections.  After all relationships are an important aspect of FRBR which will start to play a significant role in our new world of RDA cataloguing.

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