Saturday, November 14, 2009

Starting work, part 2

I began cataloging with very little knowledge of what was involved in the process. At the Indochina Archive where I worked, we had a classification system for our files, which can be found by clicking here (scroll down past the serials), a task I assumed after my supervisor left for Texas Tech in 1997. While I had done my share of library research in retrieving materials for the archival collection, this consisted primarily of going through serials and microfilm.

The system of cataloging books has changed greatly in recent years, with the advent of internet. Previously all library items were listed on individual 3 by 5 inch cards and placed in drawers. I don't know how much original cataloging people would have to do at that time. By the time I started cataloging in 1999, there were two main electronic databases catalogers would use to find records for books -- OCLC and RLIN. Both databases were based on the concept of cooperative cataloging, that is all member libraries would be able to catalog records and those records would then be posted in the database for catalogers from other libraries to use. Most books we received would have already been cataloged within this system.

So with a good record, the cataloger would basically have to ascertain that the record in OCLC or RLIN was an exact match for the book in hand, and secondly that the call number would fit within our library (if not the call number would be slightly modified, or "tweaked" for our library). After that, it is just a matter of inserting the barcode, writing the call number in the book, and if there is other data for our library, such as a purchase order, adding that to our record too before exporting it into our library catalog. When I first began working here, most books, excepting the Vietnamese books I worked on, would go through a few stages -- first search, often done by work-study students in which they would catalog exact matches only; then books sent to the copy catalogers; then books to original catalogers, which either had no record at all, or very low level records with major work required. Since I was the only one who could catalog Vietnamese books (when first hired), I would do all these steps, even though technically I was just a copy cataloger.

As stated at its website:
"In 1967, the presidents of the colleges and universities in the state of Ohio founded the Ohio College Library Center (OCLC) to develop a computerized system in which the libraries of Ohio academic institutions could share resources and reduce costs....n 1977, the Ohio members of OCLC adopted changes in the governance structure that enabled libraries outside Ohio to become members and participate in the election of the Board of Trustees; the Ohio College Library Center became OCLC, Inc. In 1981, the legal name of the corporation became OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Today, OCLC serves more than 71,000 libraries of all types in the U.S. and 112 countries and territories around the world."

RLIN is the database of RLG libraries, a system originally established in 1974 by three university libraries and the New York public library, and grew to include many other university and research libraries. It joined with OCLC in 2006 and hence no longer has a separate database.

When I first began cataloging OCLC was the main database used by catalogers, not many used RLIN. But I was also trained in RLIN as many Vietnamese books were in RLIN which were either nonexistent or in low record format in the OCLC system. This is because most of the Vietnamese books we receive here at UC Berkeley library were similar or the same as books received by a few other university libraries which had already created records, particulary Cornell, the University of Washington and the University of Michigan. Now all the records can be found in OCLC.

In my next entry I will discuss the basic elements of a cataloged record.

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