ARLIS/NY Catalogers Discussion Group
Minutes (14 September 1998)
Bobst Library, New York University

Attending : Sherman Clarke, Danny Fermon, Abby Bridge, Anne Britton, Carol Pardo, Peter Gammie, Shawn Steidinger, Ted Goodman, Ken Dinin, Vicky Bohm, Leslie Preston, Patricia Siska, Elizabeth O'Keefe, Claudia Hill, Everett Allgood.

1. Blurred photographs

This topic arose within the last few weeks when Sherman Clarke needed a topical subject heading describing "blurred photographs." It has not yet been forwarded to SACO and today's discussion centered upon the best way to formulate such a proposed heading. Points included:

- The need to use concise terminology for such proposed headings, and to cite sources of usage. Columbia University establishes many topical headings in addition to name headings for buildings, and they often cite either A) an expert in the field, and/or B) journal articles -- this raised the point that for article citations, print sources continue to be preferred over WWW sites/sources, primarily because of the peer review process. With many Web resources, qualitative calibers often remain quite nebulous ;

- In this instance Sherman actually spoke with an artist working in this medium who preferred the terminology "blurred photographs." Should this form of primary source take precedence? Others noted other sources for refining the terminology of a proposed heading, such as speaking with museum/gallery curators working directly with such materials, and consulting exhibition catalogs centering upon such works.

- Returning full circle, the discussion moved back to the process itself to consider how and/or if to distinguish between intentionally "blurred photographs," and those which may be unintentionally blurred. What about photographs blurred internally and those blurred after the fact by such commercial products as Photo-shop?

2. What to do when the system is down.

- At the Met, the shelflist remains in the Reading Room (though they stopped maintaining it in 1984), so when the system is down, patrons may search in the card catalog. For post-1984 searches, staff will do RLIN searches for patrons.

- Cataloging staff often group other tasks to do during downtime; there is also the distinction between downtime known of in advance and for a certain period of time (system upgrades, etc.), and when the system goes down unexpectedly and may be down for a few minutes, a few hours, or a couple of days.

- People spoke of their back-up procedures:
- The Modern has back-up disks and recently they did have a hard-disk crash -- fortunately their back-up disks worked fine. They also have Internet access for patrons as well as a G.K. Hall CD-ROM product and access to RLIN's Eureka; staff at the Modern will also do RLIN searches for patrons during downtime.
- When Bobcat is down at New York University, users are referred to RLIN to determine title and item holdings.

- Other discussions:
- Elizabeth O'Keefe raised the frustration of searching many automated authority files. Tracings to broader headings are typically in place, though those to narrower headings are not. The presence of such headings help to establish a sense of context for headings catalogers may be unfamiliar with. Jane Greenberg wrote an article on this very topic last year, though her focus was primarily upon the authority modules of various Integrated Library Systems rather than the Authority databases within the national utilities, etc. The name of the article is "Reference structures : stagnation, progress and future challenges." It may be found in Information Technology and Libraries, vol. 16, no. 3, or on the web at:

- How are institutions handling document delivery services and the issues of printing Web documents? It is interesting that in a card environment, users are quite willing to jot down information, but once a library moves to an automated catalog/interface, users expect to be able to print screens, search histories, bibliographies, and entire documents. Those present cited three prevalent responses to increasing demands for printing by users:
A) "Just say no;"
B) centralize printing operations so that users send print outputs to a common destination and pay before receipt (Columbia, NYU); or
C) give users the option of downloading files to a disk and/or e-mailing files to themselves.

3. Headings for buildings (cont.)

- Ken Dinin spoke of the need for the cleanup of such current corporate body headings as "Pergamonmuseum (Berlin, Germany)," and the "Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum." The problem with such headings is that technically they only refer to the physical structure of the building, not to the corporate bodies housed therein. Through time -- and this obviously becomes most apparent in a city such as Berlin -- through such recognizable and defined periods as Pre-1933, 1933-1945, Post- 1945, and then most recently with the fall of the Wall in 1991 and the subsequent Reunification process, the corporate bodies housed within these buildings have changed. How are we best to reflect these changes? The subdivision "-Catalogs" is currently only valid under named bodies. Should that be restricted to things in NAF, or to any named entity whether in NAF or SAF? Is the best course of action to establish individual headings for the corporate bodies housed within these buildings (on an as need basis), and then to trace their unique histories rather than coupling the physical structure with any and all corporate bodies it housed at particular moments in time?

4. Titles of works of art

- In the OPAC environment, it is often difficult/impossible to search subfield t of a 600 field for users interested in a particular work of art. A discussion followed of manners to work around this shortcoming. Some proposed solutions included changing the subfield t to a subfield x, but this was seen as less than ideal because of fundamental shift it represents for system mapping, and the subsequent strife such decisions potentially represent for the next system migration. The other proposal suggested was to enter a 430 field in the Artist/Title Authority record for the title tracing itself, so that searches on the title would also retrieve bibliographic records with the Artist/Title tracing.

5. Exhibition catalogs, loose ends, etc.

The next meeting will be held Monday 02 November at the SoHo Guggenheim, hosted by Ilene Magaras. Topics include the question of outsourcing and contract cataloging, and applying museum documentation standards to existing automated systems.

Minutes compiled by Everett Allgood, NYU