The most recent meeting of ARLIS-NY's Catalogers' Discussion Group was held on Nov. 29, 1999 at the Pierpont Morgan Library , and was chaired by Elizabeth O'Keefe of the Morgan.
The topics discussed related to standard documentation for catalogers and catalog users. Cataloger's Desktop is widely used at libraries such as MOMA, Columbia, FIT and the Morgan Library, and as such was a starting point for discussion. At Columbia librarians suffered system crashes and expressed reluctance to part with the paper version of USMARC and other cataloging tools. It emerged that learning how to use Cataloger's Desktop is largely a matter of instinct and individual trial and error for many, although librarians at Columbia noted that Cornell has developed useful in-house documentation.
With the days of LCNAF's availability via LC's telnet connection numbered, concern was expressed that authority records will only be available by searching RLIN or OCLC--it is uncertain that LC will make these available for free again. At the Frick, authority files are purchased annually, and additional records are occasionally passed onto their OPAC during the course of the year. Sherman Clarke of NYU noted that relying on RLIN or OCLC for authority control can lead to gaps in up-to-dateness. LCSH is available on NYU's Bobcat, and Sherman noted that end users often bewail finding subject headings which do no correlate with materials held by the library, though users are forewarned of this possibility in advance.
AAT was also missed as a possible component of Cataloger's Desktop--while there is a link to this posted via Cataloger's Desktop, it is not easy to use, with its confusing system of hierarchies and the absence of explanations regarding the derivations of terms. Still other links from Cataloger's Desktop were found to be obsolete.
Few present employed the LC classification scheme which is available as a separate component of Cataloger's Desktop, as local schemes are widely prevalent. Many rely on Word documents for this. Hotlinks can now be inserted to facilitate usage of these schemes, though few seemed to have employed these as of yet.
Interestingly, many catalogers are loath to relinquish their outdated RLIN cataloging manuals, preferring to annotate them or simply use with caution. The problem is that the documentation provided by RLG's website is parsimonious in comparison with its old paper format, which provided useful examples still valued by catalogers. And the constant scrolling involved at RLG's site is bothersome. Some librarians prefer to print out documentation and save the hard copy.
The second part of the discussion dealt with the documenation of cataloging procedures and work flow. Experiences varied widely. For example, librarians at Columbia use NOTIS, which hasn't had any new releases lately but rather bug fixes, etc. The librarians have compiled their own documentation, while systems people apprise them of new developments with related software. In general, word-of-mouth is still prevalent in the cataloging community where systems are concerned, although there are useful documents concerning local procedures and cataloging resources posted on library web pages. Yale and Princeton have posted cataloging resources, while the Librarian's Resource Center in Toronto also has useful links. Columbia and the Frick have posted useful documents as well. Many librarians consult Cataloguer's Toolbox.
Additionally, the listserves of vendors such as Voyager are good sources of information, though one must have a contract to use some of these. The archives of the Voyager listserv are posted at http://sparky.gmu.edu/waiscom/voy-l.html.
The third portion of the meeting concerned documentation for OPAC users. At libraries such as MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, end users benefit from the fact that librarians perform both reference and cataloging functions. It was generally agreed that compiling "frequently asked questions" tips seemed to work well, as people are more comfortable with instruction in this way than with printed guides. Some users find personalized instruction unwelcome, fearing the appearance of ignorance or invasion of privacy. However, as Janette Rozene of FIT and others noted, searching an OPAC's search history log will provide an interesting glimpse into end user behavior. Many abandon hope after deploying faulty search strategies. Some type foul words into the system in frutration. Misspellings and the inclusion of articles are common stumbling blocks. On the other hand, end users provide useful information regarding errors in cataloging, particularly in spelling. Other common complaints centered around differing locations for like items, name headings and difficulties arising from the variant spellings of words (i.e. color/colour).
The next CDG meeting is slated for January 24th, possibly at NYU's Bobst Library.
Cataloger, Reference Collection
The Pierpont Morgan Library
29 East 36th Street
New York, NY 10016-3403
TEL: 212 685-0008, Ext. 329
FAX: 212 685-4740