September 13, 2007
Cataloguing a go-go
Andrew Coburn in Essex has not respnded to my suggestion that there is no need for his authority to re-catalogue those items which have already been catalogued by BDS (Bibliographic Data Services, one of the two national agencies who are most excellent in their work). I suggested to Andrew that his county library service could save that money and use it for more books or something of more value to the public.
This is more than just a point about cataloguing, it is also one about the mechanism for improvement for the library service. If Andrew and people in similar positions around the country tell their councils that this work is essential and cannot be done without, no councillor or senior officer is in a position to argue with him. How could they? He is speaking with the voice of professional authority and they are in no position to deny his view. The councillors are entitled to believe that such professional views are expressed within the wider framework of how money in the service is spent.
Yet CILIP argue that because they are a professional body, it is not part of their responsbility to take into account how money is spent-- merely, they say, to set the highest standards. Funding, they say, is someone else's problem and, of course, there is always a need for more. You can see from this example how irresponsible is CILIP's position. You can also see why the library service gets worse instead of better. The funding of the service lies within the hands of those who manage it.
Andrew, if CILIP and your councillors won't tell you, I will. You should stop the practice of re-cataloguing as should all your colleagues around the country. The course you are advertising and holding in Glasgow for cataloguing, in the name of CILIP, should not be for public librarians and there should be no public expenditure on it. If there is a problem with BDS, which, frankly I doubt, then your responsibility is to help them correct it-- not to spend public money in the way you appear to be
If managers of the public library service do not take upon themselves the mantle of financial responsibility, they are in no position to complain about civil servants or councillors who force them to seek random effiicency-- nor are they in a position to complain about 'cuts to the library service'
I'm sorry to spell this out in such a specific way-- but it is exactly the kind of thing that CILIP, MLA, DCMS and Mansion Polish Madge should be saying and should have been saying for a long time.
Posted by Perkins at September 13, 2007 8:58 AM
As a point of information:
I catalogue using Talisbase which contains BDS records. My impression from this is that BDS don't seem to always catalogue with the item in hand. The giveaway is that the pagination shown in the record is wrong. Often other details aren't quite right either. If anyone from BDS would care to comment, I'd be interested to know what they actually use.
Posted by: Owen Thomas at September 14, 2007 10:19 AM
Owen- in the absence of a response from BDS I might be able to offer something.
Publishers produce Advance Information Sheets (AI's) at several stages of the publishing process. These obviously contain the ISBN, title, author etc and as much bibliographic data as can sensibly be put. These AI's have two purposes- the first is to register on Neilsen Bookdata (British Books in Print) and all the other supplier various databases, the second- and more important, for a publisher, is to generate orders.
An AI therefore can contain important sales information at a stage of production when details like pagination can still be uncertain.
Some publishing houses will correct fine detail right down to the last minute-- but there are many publishers, large and small, and for most, the orders are what counts and revising AI's is not a priority.
BDS don't know how accurate and sensible an AI is until they finally see a copy of the printed book. They and Neilsen will have tried to filter out obvious errors and recycle AI's that are uninformative, but that is why you can encounter the kind of error you describe. It doesn't originate from BDS, it comes from the process, I suspect.
It is not something an individual library auuthority (or retailer) can, by themselves, improve. Recataloguing in local library authorities is a waste of time and money and should be stopped. Moreover in a small way-- the combined insistence on accuracy- - by not allowing recataloguing- would strengthen the position of Neilsen and BDS when they are asking publishers to be more accurate (which I'm certain they do)
Posted by: Tim at September 15, 2007 9:01 AM
Tim, a small but important point. It is not 'recataloguing'- they do not throw away what they have and start from scratch.
It is improving records- and in this you are right, in so far as the suppliers of bibliographic data should be doing what they can to make the data as accurate as possible.
And catalogue checking is not all that is done- there is the addition of locally useful data- such as subject headings, links to other resources- and the creation of records for items that do not come with BDS data. If that could also be done at a national level, well and good.
Posted by: Pete at September 17, 2007 9:28 AM