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Automated Access Level Cataloging for Internet Resources at Columbia University Libraries

Article excerpt

The explosive growth of remote access electronic resources (e-resources) has added to the workload of libraries' cataloging departments. In response to this challenge, librarians developed various ways of providing access to electronic collections, but few dealt with the processing of free remote access e-resources, such as electronic books, Web sites, and databases. This paper will consider the various approaches taken by cataloging agencies to process Internet resources in all formats. It will then go on to describe Columbia University Libraries' approach to cataloging free Internet resources using a combination of selector input data, an automated form able to convert the information into MARC records, access level records, and cataloging expertise.

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The cataloging of remote electronic resources (e-resources) has become a fact of life in the cataloging units of most libraries. Since the emergence of the Internet and remote e-resources in the 1970s, cataloging rules have had to be continuously adjusted to accommodate new developments. The increasing demand for access to online resources via library catalogs or library Web sites has also added to catalogers' workloads. This paper contains a literature review describing libraries' approaches to provide access to online collections, and introduces Columbia University Libraries' (CUL) solution for handling the cataloging of free Internet resources. The CUL approach combines selector input, an online request form with underlying programs converting data into Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC 21) format, access level records, and a final review by cataloging staff.

The New Cataloging Environment

In the 1990s, with the growing popularity of the Web, more and more individuals and corporate bodies created their own Web sites and made their publications available online in addition to, or even instead of, their print counterparts. Publishers saw a marketing opportunity and quickly began to create and publish documents in electronic format. Commercial vendors promoted online over print counterparts either by using a pricing model that made continuing print subscriptions extremely expensive, or by discontinuing the print version entirely. Users and public services librarians then clamored to see remote e-resources in libraries' online catalogs, and technical services staff had to find ways to keep up with this new and growing workload.

This challenge is likely to increase even more in the future. On October 10, 2005, the BBC reported: "In its October survey, Netcraft [a monitoring firm] found 74.4 million Web addresses, a rise of more than 2.68 million from the September figure." (1) Also in October 2005, the "Six Key Challenges for Collection Development" presented at the Janus Conference outlined two goals that, if implemented, would impact e-resources cataloging immensely: the digitization of all holdings of North American research libraries retrospectively as a national project, and the shift to purchasing electronic-only items when acquiring new publications. (2) As enormous amounts of information become available online, either free or through paid subscription, librarians have to tackle the ever growing task of how to select, provide access to, and manage all of these resources.

The number of cataloged non-serial remote access e-resources in Columbia Library Information Online (CLIO), the online catalog of CUL, jumped in just one year (2004 to 2005) by 359 percent, from 45,492 to 208,680. Although this number includes purchased records as well as those cataloged in-house, it nevertheless illustrates the growing demand for bibliographic access to information in electronic form. A substantial backlog of national and international online government publications existed, and the catalogers could not begin to analyze large sets of e-book collections or databases that contained other valuable resources. Selectors requested cataloging for free Internet resources using an online request form, but the requests often took a long time to fill. …