Category Archives: Cataloging

The Constant Cataloger

You’ve heard it before.  From Heraclitus.  “The only thing that is constant is change.”

Despite all the conventions and standards of cataloging, it is essential to approach our work with a constant affirmation that libraries are changing; access to information is changing; and, search behaviors are changing.

Especially vexing is the realization that change is happening faster than ever.  There are many minds with inspired ideas. More information is being generated than ever before. Technical innovation is flourishing, and, communication methods are transforming.  So, for a cataloger, it’s a challenge to sustain a historically rich and meaningful database of library records that will be utilized in a relevant way.

Persistently bringing this challenge into the cataloger’s everyday workflow is a necessary practice. It means always looking forward and establishing priorities.  It means staying engaged, informed and energetic.  It means sharing cataloging practices, both general and local. Decisions must be made mindfully. It’s a lot.

But remember, “the sun is new each day.”  Also, Heraclitus.

Fortunately, there are some especially bright days ahead, that you won’t want to miss!  This year, the OLC Convention and Expo will be held September 25-27, 2019, in Cincinnati. It promises to be a great opportunity to be invigorated.  Also, you can look forward to the 2020 OLC Technical Services Retreat next spring. Details will be forthcoming.

Rise and shine!

Gayle Martinez, Toledo Lucas County Public Library

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The Fine Art of Tweaking not Twerking Your Catalog

I don’t know about you, but I find it very frustrating when we run reports on books that are not circulating in our collection. Somehow, certain items never make the report but are always on the shelf. My “OCD” or “CDO” as I like to call it at times, sent me on a seek and find mission in our catalog. Oh what a fun challenge that was!

I wasn’t even sure where to begin. There are many reasons why our catalogs can become a real challenge. First of all, changing from the Galaxy system to the Polaris system caused issues because we were going from old school technology to new and improved online cataloging, which was a huge upgrade. Secondly, throughout the years there have been a few different catalogers working on records which can be like having too many cooks in the kitchen. In our defense, we are always striving to meet the needs of our patrons and staff. Sometimes that includes making new call numbers to satisfy new areas of interest or displays we are using.  Another issue occurs when people make changes to call numbers without going back and updating old ones. Without unification across the board, it causes confusion when running reports. I would like to share a couple of the things I am working on to update our catalog and make it more patron- as well as work-friendly.

The first thing I did was to check what call numbers were being used and do a lot of item bulk changes as well as adjusting bibliographic records to match each other. For example, we had holiday books two ways (E HOL FIC and E FIC HOL). These differences can make such a difference when running reports.

Sometimes that space bar can be a tricky little devil! If you bump it one time too many ….oh no! There’s an extra space added to the call number. I found this extra space will also throw off the reports.

Remember our job as catalogers not only entails entering the items, it also includes keeping the catalog current and easily accessible for our patrons! So I would like to challenge you to put on your headphones, twerk to some good jams, and tweak your catalog! See if you can find a way to improve your catalog!

-Kristi White, CPLS

Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County

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RDA, LRM, and Agents in Wonderland

Illustration by John Tenniel

RDA Toolkit, the paid online portal to the Resource Description & Access standard, is undergoing its first major redesign and enhancement since the website debuted in 2010.  The RDA Toolkit Restructure and Redesign (3R) Project was first announced in October 2016, with rollout of the revamped site originally slated for April 2018.  But as can happen, “unexpected obstacles” have pushed the target date back to June 13, 2018, at the time of this post.

Beyond retooling the look and feel of the site, the 3R project is also expected to incorporate elements of IFLA’s Library Reference Model (LRM) into RDA standards.  One proposed LRM change gleefully anticipated by catalogers at my public library concerns the treatment of fictional characters.  Since 2013, RDA has permitted the names of fictitious and legendary characters to be used as “creator” access points in bibliographic records, a practice patently discouraged under AACR2 “main entry” guidelines.  In addition, under current RDA guidelines new and existing fictitious characters are established (or can be converted) in the name authority file in the same manner as real persons, using MARC 100 field rather than 150 with no special qualifier, to facilitate use of their names as descriptive access points.

While a welcome change in certain cases—think Geronimo Stilton—this has also resulted in lots of inconsistent copy cataloging and massive amounts of bibliographic and authority file maintenance to change entries.  One recent, dubious example was a change to author tracings for the popular “Dear Dumb Diary” series:

100  Benton, Jim [real guy]
650  Kelly, Jamie (Fictitious character)

was changed to:

100  Kelly, Jamie
700  Benton, Jim [despite the fact that Benton is still named prominently in the works]

In a nutshell, our best understanding in LRM-speak is that, come 2018, only “agents” may be authorized as creators, and only real human beings/persons can be agents.  (This relates to concepts such as “nomen,” “res,” and other Latin terms I swear we were trying to stop using…. )  There’s also speculation that authority records modified under RDA may need to be updated yet again, to ensure that a fictitious character is clearly identified as such somewhere in the authority record if they’re not a real human being.  Job security!

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to look forward to unwrapping the shiny new RDA Toolkit promised in 2018, and trying to figure out whether Bain or Fletcher really authored the “Murder, She Wrote” books.  Happy solstice!

– Michael Christian-Budd

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ALAO TEDSIG 2016 Workshop — August 12, 2016, The University of Akron, Ohio

In the library technical services world, long acronyms are de rigueur, but ALAO TEDSIG is an overachiever, putting to shame NOTSL, ALCTS, and even the OLC TSD in that department. But I won’t hold it against them, because the ALAO TEDSIG is bringing Terry Reese to my library for a full day on using MarcEdit! Announcement follows:


ALAO TEDSIG 2016 Workshop

The ALAO Technical, Electronic, and Digital Services Interest Group (TEDSIG), with cooperation from the University of Akron Libraries, is pleased to announce its 2016 workshop, “Streamlining Technical Services Workflows with MarcEdit,” with speaker and MarcEdit creator Terry Reese (Head, Digital Initiatives, The Ohio State University). Registration is open for the TEDSIG Workshop (August 12, 2016) at Bierce Library, University of Akron. This workshop will be on how to use MarcEdit to streamline typical technical services workflows, especially as they pertain to cataloging, file loading, and electronic resources. This workshop’s target audience are both those new to MarcEdit, and those who are familiar with MarcEdit but need a refresher.



–Mike Monaco

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The ISBN Odometer Has Flipped …

Ah, the glorious years of the 2000s.  For the publishing world, probably the next big event on the horizon after Y2K was the introduction of the 13-digit ISBN (International Standard Book Number) on January 1, 2007.  From roughly 1970 until 2007, ISBNs were 10 digits in length, having evolved from the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code.  Since each edition or variant of a book published between that period was assigned a (mostly) unique ISBN, the supply of available 10-digit numbers was destined to run out.

The solution in 2007 was the introduction of the 13-digit ISBN, with prefix 978.  Why did we start with 978, you say?  Because the new format was meant to be compatible with the “Bookland” European Article Number (EAN), which also used 978.  And you guessed it: there were only so many 978- ISBNs to go around as well, particularly in the burgeoning e-publishing environment.

All of which leads to … the 979 ISBN prefix!  The first 979- ISBNs were actually issued in France in 2009, but my library saw its first print materials with this 13-digit format just this year.  A strange thing we noticed was that, when upgrading the MARC record in our shared cataloging “client” (ahem), inputting the 979- ISBN did not produce a 10-digit (shorter) equivalent as usual.  A little research led us to understand that this is perfectly normal: 979- ISBNs are not convertible to a 10-digit format and exist only in a 13-digit format.

So don’t be too surprised when the ISBN odometer flips for your materials.  It’s probably OK to keep driving.

— Michael Christian-Budd

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Library of Congress to cancel the subject heading “Illegal aliens”

Janis Young of the Policy and Standards Division of the Library of Congress has announced a significant revision to LCSH terminology that has been the topic of a lot of discussion in the past and again more recently.

In response to constituent requests, the Policy and Standards Division of the Library of Congress, which maintains Library of Congress Subject Headings, has investigated the possibility of cancelling or revising the heading Illegal aliens. PSD also explored the possibility of revising the broader term Aliens. It concluded that the meaning of Aliens is often misunderstood and should be revised to Noncitizens, and that the phrase “illegal aliens” has become pejorative. The heading Illegal aliens will therefore be cancelled and replaced by two headings, Noncitizens and Unauthorized immigration, which may be assigned together to describe resources about people who illegally reside in a country.

 Other headings that include the word aliens or the phrase illegal aliens (e.g., Church work with aliens; Children of illegal aliens) will also be revised. All of the revisions will appear on a Tentative List and be approved no earlier than May 2016; the revision of existing bibliographic records will commence shortly thereafter.

 For background on the history and purpose of the headings Aliens and Illegal aliens, the rationale for the revisions to LCSH, and a description of the scope of the project, please see the full announcement on the LC website at

 Questions or comments on these revisions may be directed to Libby Dechman ( in the Policy and Standards Division.

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Fifty shades of … genre terms

The Library of Congress’ work compiling a thesaurus of genre and forms terms has been a massive effort and taken years of work. Now that the terms are out, what are the best practices for using them?

The Subject Headings Manual (SHM) has instructions on using one of the first thesauri to be released (moving images and radio programs, SHM H1913 and H1969.5, respectively), and even before that, LC provided some helpful guidance for applying genre terms for fiction in SHM H1970, which refer to another thesaurus developed outside LC, the GSAFD.

But now that more thesauri have been released in recent months, instructions for using the terms will compose a distinct document, The Genre/Form Terms Manual. The first draft was posted this week at the library of Congress website,

Presumably these instructions will supersede SHM H1913 and H1969.5 (and the special provisions in H1970) and bring consistency to genre/form terms assignment across all formats. According to the Cataloging Standards and Policy Office site’s official announcement, the instructions will be adopted later in 2016; in the meantime (or at least until May 31st) comments can be directed to Janis Young (

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Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms (LCGFT)

Have you heard of the new LCGFT terms?  Genre/form terms are used in catalog records to describe what a work is, versus subject headings which describe what a work is about.  In early 2015, the Policy and Standards Division (PSD) of the Library of Congress began to approve new “general,” music, and literary genre/form terms for the LCGFT thesaurus.

Many libraries already use LCGFT terms such as Comedy films and Children’s television programs on records for videorecordings.  And even though LC hasn’t yet announced when it will officially implement the approved terms in new cataloging, catalogers have started to see new LCGFT terms being applied to records in various formats, for example:

655 #7 $a Biographies. $2 lcgft

Some links to watch for LCGFT updates from the Library of Congress:

In addition, Adam L. Schiff of the University of Washington has posted LCGFT training slides and implementation notes at, which libraries are free to use and modify.

— Michael Christian-Budd

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