Life as a cataloging practicum student – Part 1

While going through my old library school files, I found the diary for my practicum at the Silver Buckle Press in the Fall of 2007. For the practicum I cataloged “medium rare” materials, mostly catalogs and small press publications.

Here is part 1 of the diary.

Week of September 4th

This week I spent talking to Jamie, from Memorial CTS, about the general logistics of the project. Jamie set up meetings with both Debi (CTS) for this week and Tracy (Silver Buckle Press) for next week. I met with Debi to go over Voyager Cataloging and OCLC at the computer I will be using for most of the project which is located in the graphics office right next to Silver Buckle. Since I already have experience with Voyager, the training with Voyager was short. One part of the training that I was pleasantly surprised to see is the use of macros through Macro Express. I had previous experience with both Macro Express and its earlier version, Keyboard Express, from my Medicare claims processing job. The use of macros was extensive at my old job, so I should have little trouble adapting to the use of macros here.

Training in OCLC wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. It turns out that the web version that the cataloging class played around with is not too different from the desktop interface that I will be using. Debi explained about the fee system in place with searches and exports from OCLC which surprised me a little that OCLC does charge a fee per search like you would see in Dialog. Searching in OCLC came back to me from cataloging class after the first search, so again, not too much trouble.

Tracy from SBP gave me a list of records that the previous student, Jessie, was able to complete at his time doing the project. The list doesn’t have many titles, which sort of suggests that this project may be a very slow process. I only had time to glance at a couple of records on the list and there are some subject headings with terminology that I didn’t recognize. Nonetheless, based on the assumption that the books already cataloged in the system are similar in subject to the rest of the collection, I’m sure that a small core of vocabulary will only be needed to be known for the subject headings.

Week of September 10th

On Monday, I went through the list of the items already cataloged in MadCat from the previous student. Out of 40+ records, I focused on around five to six for closer study. From these records, I retrieved the MARC records from the MARC option on MadCat and I searched WorldCat for the selected items to see how many other libraries hold the same item. The WorldCat search turned up records for every item and the number of libraries holding the items varied, but never beyond a low number (around 70-80 max.). I learned later on that the SBP collection is considered “medium rare”- meaning that most items in the collection may already have records from a handful of libraries that have the items. On the other side of the item records, the MARC records showed some similarities with fields and subject headings. I used the Understanding MARC website to obtain more information about fields that I was not familiar with (ex. 510) while clearing up confusion on other fields (50 v. 90).

Thursday I met with Tracy to talk about the collection and the project. She showed me the collection and what Jessie was able to finish when he did the project (around two shelves worth of books). She picked through the collection and showed me examples of what was in the collection. Most of the collection is made up of type specimen catalogs from various printing and type foundries. Other parts of the collection include books on famous printers and journals about different aspects of the printing industry. Our meeting ended with Tracy giving me a copy of Jessie’s practicum journal so I can get more of a sense what were the issues that will likely pop up while doing this project. I read the journal during the hour break before the next meeting with Tracy and Jamie. Overall, it looked like Jessie struggled through the project with the cataloging process and all the quirks and problems that he came across with the collection. He training with the CTS catalogers lasted around five weeks and I wondered if it will take that long with me as well.

The next meeting on Thursday was with both Tracy and Jamie. Jamie came down with a help sheet with subject headings. Since most of the collection is about the same in form and subject, this sheet will help immensely during cataloging. I asked Jamie about a few aspects of the project, focusing on how much original cataloging was done in the last project and the extent of cleaning up existing records. Jamie said that while most items will have a record on WorldCat, almost all the records need extensive cleanup before importing the record into Voyager. In addition to that, most of the items in the SBP collection have unique features to them. For example, one of the sample items Tracy pulled out had a bookplate on the inner cover page stating that the book was loaned to a certain printery from the branch office of the type company and had a letter from the type company to the local printery. Because of unique features like the ones described above, each record needs to have notes pertaining to that individual copy in Voyager (or in WorldCat if it can be safely assumed that each copy would have that feature). While it looks like most of the records will be found in WorldCat, the cleanup and updating required before exporting to Voyager will be extensive.

After answering my questions, Jamie and I went to the computer in the Graphics office (right next to SBP) where I will be doing most of my cataloging, and started going through the first book in the pile. A record was found in WorldCat, but it needed updating since the entries were probably copied from the LC card from the card catalog. We also ended up making an authority record in WorldCat for the type foundry since there were no records found in the authority records. We ran out of time before we were able to import the file into Voyager, so we finished the process on Friday. However, when we came back on Friday, my computer refused to input the file into Voyager. We ended up in Jamie’s office on his computer to complete the process. In all we went through five items- four monographs and one journal. While the monographs were found in WorldCat, the journal was not, prompting my first original cataloging experience. Needless to say, I did not break OCLC while creating the record. At the end of the meeting, I asked Jamie when I could start updating/creating records on my own. He said that I could do so, but the records must go through him before I replace them on OCLC and import them into Voyager. After the meeting, I went through three books on my own. Two of the books were facsimiles so I put them aside for Jamie to go through and the other book I edited the record and saved it in a temporary folder for Jamie’s check next week.

Week of September 17th

During the regular meeting with Tracy on Thursday, we debated on what should be done with the serials in the collection. There was one journal that Jamie and I came across the week before that we were not sure how Tracy wanted me to treat serials. Tracy wanted to combine both the serials and monographs collections and shelve them as one collection. When I threw out the suggestion of possibly having each collection shelved separately, Tracy expressed concern that the journals would be less used by users if set apart from the monograph collection. She also mentioned that most of the serials in the collection only have one or a few issues in each run and are not very likely to grow fast if at all. We did not come to a decision at the end of the meeting.

Right after the meeting, Jamie came down to check my first attempt of cataloging on my own. The book, a collection of letterheads, did have a record in WorldCat; however, the record was not an exact match. The publishing date was recorded as [1953?] even though the title page listed the date of “November Forty-One”. I took this as the publication date and changed the date in the existing record. However, Jamie was not very sure that I should change the existing record for a couple reasons:

  1. Even though the record did not have an edition listed, the item may have another edition from 1953.
  2. The “November Forty-One” date placed the book right before WWII. Jamie stated that the publication of the book may have been interrupted due to the war effort, and, therefore, a later edition may have been published after the war.

Because of the uncertainty of the date and lack of knowledge about the edition from the existing record, Jamie decided that creating a new record would be the best thing to do. Using most of the information from the existing record, I created a new record. This time, after exporting from OCLC, I was able to import into Voyager and create the records there as well.

Jamie and I then went to the two facsimile books. I found the records for them earlier on; however, I did not know how to indicate on the records that these books were copies of the originals and not the originals themselves. I only knew that new records needed to be created. The answer to my question was very simple- change one of the fixed fields to indicate the item is a facsimile. Here I thought I would have to spend hours in Cataloger’s Desktop searching for an obscure rule in the AACR2r, but I guess not. Another issue we ran into was that one of the facsimiles was not a complete copy of the original. The record that I found earlier on came in handy to see how many pages were in the original. Beyond those issues, the cataloging went smoothly.

With Jamie’s blessing, I came in on Friday to start cataloging on my own. I ended up looking at around five to seven books before Jamie came down to check my work. All the books I looked at had existing records in WorldCat and a couple in Voyager. I ended up cleaning up the subject headings for most of the records as well as making the 510 note for the catalogs that are mentioned in the Annenberg book American Type Foundries and Their Catalogs. I also took note on which books needed local notes or created a 500 note if appropriate. I did not struggle too much with the cataloging, but I did have some questions for Jamie about things I could not find instructions for in Desktop.

Jamie came down and checked my work from the morning. The biggest issues we ran into with my cataloging were deciding when to create a new record when another record already exists and AACR2r formatting, particularly with punctuation. There were also a couple times when notes were either needed or not needed, but that was not as big of an issue as knowing when to start from scratch when dealing with existing records. That type of decision-making is going to take me a while to learn. It seems like experience plays a big part when deciding to update or create another record, and experience is one thing that I lack. I do not know how long it will take me to start to get the gist of when to update or create, but I hope it is soon.

Week of September 24th

Thursday’s meeting with Tracy was short because I didn’t have any questions or issues that needed to be addressed at that time. We mainly discussed schedules for the month of October. Jamie came down after the meeting to look at the items that I had edited/created records for during the morning. There was one item in particular that presented some issues. The item, a supplement to a catalog, had at least seven to eight records in WorldCat: over half of the records had the wrong title in the 245 field (the cover title was used instead of the title page title). The other records had variations of the title on the title page. The layout of the page went as follows (rough outline):

Supplement statement

Typefaces …

Produced by this company … who has produced catalogs since 1912…

Company name

Some records started with the supplement statement while others started with the Typefaces statement. The b subfield was even more varied, with some going from Typefaces down to the “produced” section and then back up to the supplement statement or not including the supplement statement at all. I ended up with the following 245 field:

245 10 |a New type faces, borders, ornaments, brass rule : |b supplementary catalogue, produced by this company since the publication of the American specimen book of type styles, 1912 / |c American Type Founders Company.

The reason why I put the supplement statement first in the b subfield was that the fact that the item was a supplement was very important, but due to the layout of the page I couldn’t go right out and put the supplement statement in the a subfield. It was most appropriate, then, to include the supplement statement first in the b subfield and then follow the flow of the page, excluding Typefaces.

When I came across the records for the item, I thought that since all the records were incorrect in some shape and form that it would be best to create a new record. Jamie, however, thought otherwise. Creating a new record when multiple records already exist only add to the confusion created by said records. Also, there would be a greater chance that OCLC might delete the record when cleaning up the system for obsolete and duplicate records. In this case, I would have picked the record that either had the most holdings attached to it or the oldest (seniority over other records). Since the oldest record from the bunch had the greatest holdings, we edited the record with the information from my draft record and updated it.

The above item was the only item which I miscalculated when I should either update or create a record. All the other items I worked on only had minor corrections done by Jamie. Another item did present a question as to what to do with price guides to catalogs that are already in our collection. Jamie suggested that I go to Tracy to see if she wanted to catalog them separately from the catalog or keep them together and add the guide as a note. Tracy said that she wanted to keep the two together, but since the price guide is too thick to insert into the catalog itself without damaging the binding, she suggested going to Special Collections to find out options on how to keep the two items together.

Friday proved to be a challenging day for cataloging. I kept coming across items that did not have dates published in them. The items without dates included a linotype catalog, American Type Foundry catalog booklet, and type catalogs from local foundries. While a couple catalogs could be dated using Annenberg, most of them could not. After going through item after item that did not have a date I went to Tracy to discuss how to find the dates. Tracy mentioned that the dates were a major problem during Jesse’s time. A couple of options came around, like looking at the type specimens or searching printing history collections/collectors websites to see if we can date it that way; nonetheless the lack of a printed date will prove tricky for cataloging in the 300 and 500 fields.

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