Hi, my name is Jo and I'm a newly qualified librarian working in several academic libraries in Cambridge.

I originally created this blog as an electronic learning journal whilst participating in an extended shadowing programme prior to starting the MA in Information Services Management at London Metropolitan University.

The views expressed here are entirely my own.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Extended Shadowing Programme: Session Eight - Cataloguing and Classification

Yesterday morning I was given a brief introduction to cataloguing and classification by the Subject Librarian (Arts & Letters). When I was comparing Masters courses, I was surprised to find that many of them no longer cover this area in any significant depth as these tasks are now largely automated and many library schools believe that specific classification schemes can be picked up on the job.

It is, however, apparent from looking at advertisements for jobs in the information sector that cataloguing and classification skills are still in demand. I was therefore careful to pick a course with at least one dedicated core module to give me a sufficient grounding in the subject. Although I have previously done some reading in this area, I struggled to make sense of the theory without observing it being used in practice. I was therefore keen for this session to be included in my shadowing programme to make sense of my reading to date and to help me in my future studies.

The Subject Librarian (A & L) started the session by showing me the full catalogue record for an existing item in our Library Management System, Aleph, and briefly explaining the use of fields, subfields and MARC tags. Although Library of Congress subject terms are used, in the past our own subject terms were also added which lead to some duplication for older records. Although cataloguing and classification was previously undertaken by individual Subject Librarians, in a move to improve consistency, it is now the responsibility of the Assistant Librarian (Cataloguing & Metadata) based in the centralised Acquisitions Team. There are, however, occasions when catalogue records are still created and amended by the local Subject Librarians, for instance when ordering new items, adding donated items and recataloguing existing items.

Ordering new items
This process was demonstrated using the example of a book about Chinese film. Firstly, the librarian searches the database of our main supplier, Dawson Books, to check that it is in print and available to order. The database can be searched using the author's name, book title or ISBN. Once found the Dewey number given by Dawsons is noted down. The library catalogue is searched to see what other items are held on this subject. The Dewey number from the Dawsons database is amended to ensure that when the book arrives it will be labelled correctly and shelved with similar items in our existing collection. To add a new catalogue record a template is opened in Aleph and the ISBN, author's name, main title and imprint of the book are entered. This is then saved and pushed through to the Acquisitions module of the system. A message requesting the amended Dewey number is added to ensure that the spine label is correct when the book arrives. The remaining details such as the budget code, vendor's name and quantities required are added to complete the order which is then submitted. The item will now appear on the library catalogue with a note to indicate that is on order.

Adding donated items
If the library does not already hold a copy of a donated item, a catalogue record is downloaded from the Library of Congress or the OCLC (Online Computer Library Centre) database via Aleph's Cataloguing module. The record is checked and amended to delete any superfluous fields. The Dewey number is also checked and amended as described above. The record is then saved and a system generated bib number is allocated to the title. A barcode is stuck to the item and it is added to the catalogue record as a new entry. The cutter letters, collection and loan status are also added at this stage. An acquisition grid is stamped to the back of the title page and the bib no., shelf mark and item barcode are written in. The item is then set to 'in processing' and is passed on to be correctly labelled before being set to 'in process' and put into circulation.

If an item needs to be recatalogued, the librarian will firstly check how often it has been borrowed. If usage has been low and there are multiple copies in the collection then it is likely that it will be withdrawn. However, if it is the only copy and usage is low, the librarian may decide to keep it in the interests of maintaining the depth and breadth of the collection. This is where the librarian's subject knowledge and experience come into play. If the decision is made to keep the item, a catalogue record is downloaded from the Library of Congress or OCLC database, as described above. This is merged with the existing catalogue record which is then edited to add and remove fields as necessary and to amend the Dewey number. If only a record relating to an earlier or later edition can be found, a general note of the original publication date will be added. Once the catalogue record has been saved, the item is added and the cutter letters are entered. Any changes to the collection and loan status are also made at this stage. Once all the changes have been made the acquisition stamp is updated and the item is relabelled before going back into circulation. If an item needs to be added to the catalogue in a hurry, the fast add function can be used to create a very simple catalogue entry. This can then be merged with a full catalogue record for the same title at a later stage.

The nature of the subject is such that I was only able to gain a very basic introduction to cataloguing and classification from this session and so it was not practical for me to have a go at cataloguing any items myself. I am, however, confident that having witnessed the theory being applied in a real-life situation has helped to consolidate my reading and will allow me to better understand the subject when I study it more closely as part of my Masters course.

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