Minutes of Sept. 22, 1997 meeting of the Catalogers Discussion Group
Submitted to Liz O'Keefe, Pierpont Morgan Library

The announced topic, "The Perfect Library System (and the IOLS from Hell)," clearly struck a chord -- about thirty people turned up for the meeting held at the Pierpont Morgan Library. The discussion began with a survey of library systems in use by attendees. Innovative was the system with the largest number of installations: the Watson Library (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Bard College, and the Frick Art Reference Library are current users, and the Goldwater Library at the Met will soon be contributing records to the Watson's database. The New York Society Library and the Bobst Library at NYU use GEAC Advance. Dynix is used at Pratt, MOMA has Endeavor, and Columbia has Notis. The Morgan and the School of Visual Arts are planning to acquire systems (not yet chosen) in the not too distant future; the Whitney has been looking for about 4 years, but made no decision. The Brooklyn Museum of Art Library is interested, but raising money for renovation is the institution's current prioriy. The Guggenheim has no system for the library or the museum, and is assessing its information needs.

Catalogers tend to prefer a Windows interface, but several people noted that mouse use can slow you down, as well as bring on an attack of that occupational hazard, catalogers' wristlash (caused by excessive cut and pasting between the authority and the bibliographic files). The ability to run several sessions simultaneously is a plus; the downside is how much operations are slowed, unless you have tons of memory (each of the MOMA computers on Endeavor's Voyager system has 32 MB of memory.) The Catalogers Desktop, when networked, is very slow.

GEAC's hot key to the authority file is great; not so its vertical format subfields ("easier to read," says GEAC-but serial records take up lots more screens). Users of Innovative had some complaints about its full-screen edit and prompts, but said verification of authority-controlled fields was very good. Librarians concerned about confidentiality issues should be aware that systems which feature a history of searches may allow reader Y to view what reader X has been looking up, if the first user does not sign off before leaving the terminal. Be warned, if you are sending your bibliographic records to Blackwell for authority validation, that they have problems with 440's that begin with "The" -- they make the field a 490 and add an 830.

Interestingly, all of the RLIN libraries with online systems represented at the meeting are continuing to do their cataloging into RLIN, and then passing the records into their local systems (as opposed to downloading a record from RLIN into the local system, doctoring it up, and then FTP'ing the records back to RLIN) . Opinions differed on why libraries have not altered their work flow: some said that the Windows version of RLIN is more cataloger friendly than their own local systems, others said that the RLIN documentation for FTP'ing was "daunting." Someone noted, though, that at Columbia's Law Library, they cataloge into the local system and then send the records to RLIN. Catalogers at Pratt also would prefer to catalog into OCLC, but are moving into working more on the local system, because it is cheaper.

The data catalogers miss most from their records is the local notes and the contents notes recorded on old catalog cards, but alas, very often not transcribed as part of the recon process (it was cheaper not to-false economies, how are you?). Someone noted that librarians are often asked whether a book contains col. ill. , and how many of them (LC, are you listening?). A few kind words were even to be heard for "Addresses, essays, lectures" as a standard ild at the printers. So now the user has to go through a search result, marking each record for printing. Another example: most systems break the link between the bibliographic record and the patron record as soon as the item is returned; but special collections want a permanent record of who looked at what. If you can, try to persuade the vendor to offer the enhancement as an alternative rather than as a replacement.

Catalogers have had to take on more and more of the roles of systems librarians, coping with hardware, software, telecommunications, etc. Needless to say, no increases in pay accompany this phenomenon. But as systems get more complex, some institutions are biting the bullet and acknowledging that they need to add systems librarians.

Liz O'Keefe