Have you used any cataloging lately?

Oct 27, 2005

Not many years ago the catalog that greeted you when you entered the Library consisted of tall cabinets with hundreds of wooden drawers full of cards. Now, those cabinets are gone, and one of the first things you will see when you enter the Library's website page is the phrase "Library Catalog." If you want to find out what the library has, whether it is a book, electronic journal, thesis, CD or DVD, the library catalog is a good place to begin. This information is the product of work done by the staff of the library's Cataloging Department. Every year, the catalogers add about 35,000 new items and update information for over 20,000 items in the catalog.

The description of an item that is developed by the catalogers is called a cataloging record. It includes such information as the author, title, edition, publisher, size, notes, call number, and subjects, formulated according to national cataloging standards. The records in the catalog are linked to the overall library system, allowing users to see when materials are on order or in process, at the bindery, checked out, and what was the most recently received issue of a serial. The online catalog software determines how information in the records is indexed and displayed.

Most of the nineteen Cataloging Department staff members have worked in the library for at least fifteen years and have been active participants in the conversion of cataloging records into a computerized format. Six have master's degrees in library science, and create the original records as well as assign call numbers and revise cataloging records that need the most modification. They have faculty rank and tenure, and spend up to 10% of their time on research and publication related to cataloging and access issues. Most of the other catalogers have bachelor's degrees, helping them handle a wide variety of subject matter.

Since 1977, the library has been part of a national library network called OCLC (now meaning Online Computer Library Center), which, among other things, provided a means for libraries to share cataloging information with each other online. Some effort is required to use the records of other libraries because they may need modifications such as the addition of call numbers in order to be useful in our catalog. We also need to catalog over 2,000 titles a year that have not been cataloged by any other library, and we share these original records in OCLC.

With a great deal of information now available on the Internet, the catalogers are spending more time cataloging items for which there is no physical object to describe and for which standards are still being developed. Cataloging records for these items include web addresses on which you may click and go directly to the online item. The catalogers create and update records in order to allow you to find what you need in local print and online collections, and the catalogers' work helps link you to library resources in your home or office twenty-four hours a day.