CD-ROM Cataloging Systems: An Introduction

By Saffady, William | Library Technology Reports, May-June 1998 | Go to article overview

CD-ROM Cataloging Systems: An Introduction


Saffady, William, Library Technology Reports


The bibliographic utilities discussed in Part 1 of this issue provide timeshared access to large databases of cataloging records. Typically, the databases reside on computers that are located at the utilities' headquarters. Libraries equipped with appropriately configured workstations access the bibliographic utilities through telephone lines, the Internet, or other telecommunication arrangements. CD-ROM cataloging products, in contrast, provide databases of bibliographic records on compact discs. The CD-ROMs are distributed to customer sites for local processing by cataloging support software that operates on microcomputer-based workstations. The earliest CD-ROM cataloging products were introduced in the mid-1980s. Their characteristics and capabilities have been described and discussed in many journal articles, conference papers, and other publications. Examples include Bazillion (1987, 1987a), Beaumont (1986), Beiser (1986, 1988), Bills and Helgerson (1988), Brennan (1989), Burr (1988), Campbell (1987), Desmarais (1985, 1986, 1987), Farris (1987), Farris and Yoshikawa (1987), Fink (1988), Gartshore (1987), Herther (1987), Hoffman (1987), Irwin (1991), Jacso (1989), Johnson (1988a), Joy and Keane (1989), Martin (1987), Miller (1986), and Strickland (1988).

While they differ in detail, CD-ROM cataloging products offer similar capabilities and operating procedures. Designed to support both current cataloging activities and retrospective conversion projects, they typically include all or part of the LC MARC database on one or more compact discs. In some cases, LC cataloging data are supplemented by bibliographic records obtained from other sources, such as the National Library of Medicine, the National Library of Canada, and the British Library. Emulating the bibliographic utilities, some CD-ROM products include original cataloging records prepared by academic, public, or school libraries. Regardless of source, the records are stored on CD-ROM in the USMARC formats associated with specific types of library materials. With some products, as described below, CD-ROM databases are subdivided into English- and foreign-language components.

In addition to databases, CD-ROM cataloging products include prewritten software that permits the retrieval of bibliographic records by various parameters, modification of cataloging copy for conformity with local practices, retention of the modified records in machine-readable form, and printing of catalog card sets and labels. The software also supports input of original cataloging records, using specially designed data-entry templates appropriate to the various USMARC format.

CD-ROM cataloging products offer a potentially cost-effective alternative to those bibliographic utilities, such as OCLC and RLIN, which charge libraries for specific cataloging transactions as they are incurred. RLIN users, for example, pay 25 to 99 cents per database search, depending on the retrieval parameter employed, the number of searches purchased in advance, and the customer's RLG membership status. By contrast, CD-ROM customers pay a fixed annual subscription fee of several hundred to one thousand dollars or more, depending on the product and the subscription option selected. The annual subscription fee provides unlimited database access without additional transaction charges. Thus, CD-ROM cataloging products are particularly attractive for high-volume current cataloging operations or retrospective conversion projects, where a low unit cost for cataloging transaction can be achieved. Saffady (1989) provides detailed cost calculations and comparisons between CD-ROM cataloging products and bibliographic utilities.

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