Russian Monographic Records in the OCLC Database: A Crisis in Shared Cataloging

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Russian Monographic Records in the OCLC Database: A Crisis in Shared Cataloging

Academic libraries increasingly are relying on the OCLC Online Computer Library Center or other bibliographic utilities for cataloging copy, and the Slavic field is no exception. In recent years, however, the quality and timeliness of Russian-language records in the OCLC Online Union Catalog (OLUC) seem to have significantly decreased.

To study this, I conducted a survey of OCLC bibliographic records for all new Russian-language monographic imprints received by the University of Texas at Austin General Libraries during the five-month period between December 5, 1989, and May 5, 1990. All monographs were published in the Soviet Union, most of them in 1989 or 1988, and very few in 1987. Older imprints, added volumes, and added copies were ignored. When duplicate records were available, only one was counted. The topics were literature (including fiction), history, sociology, economics, geography, linguistics, and art. Considering the number of books received (507 new Soviet imprints in five months translates to approximately 1,200 such imprints a year) and the topics covered, the pool was probably typical of a medium-sized Russian-language collection in the United States.


OCLC search results showed that there were no hits (i.e., no bibliographic records located, thus original cataloging is required) for 37.3% (189) of the books.

For 62.7% (318) of the books, hits were made (i.e., at least one record was located). Of these, 112 (35.2%) had Library of Congress (LC) call numbers, and 206 (64.8%) did not. The hits were broken down into the following subcategories. * Full-level LC records with LC call

numbers (can be handled by copy catalogers)

were found for twenty-one

(4.1%) of the books. This represented

6.6% of all hits. * Full-level member records with LC

call numbers (can be handled by copy

catalogers) were found for 91 (18%) of

the books, representing 28.6% of all

hits. * Member records without LC call numbers

(usually handled by professional

catalogers) were found for 128 (25.2%)

of the books, or 40.3% of all hits. * LC sub-level records (minimal-level

cataloging or preliminary on-order

records), and National Coordinated

Cataloging Program (NCCP) records

without LC call numbers (usually handled

by professional catalogers). Seventy-eight

(15.4%) of the books fell

into this category, representing 24.5%

of all hits. Of the 507 monographs searched, only 112 (22.1%) could be handled by a copy cataloger, 189 (37.3%) required original cataloging, and 318 (62.7%) also needed the attention of the professional cataloger (at least to assign an LC call number).

These findings agree with the results of a much more comprehensive study described by Reid, which demonstrated that LC was responsible for only one-fifth of all new records added to the OLUC in 1989.[1]


The distinction made here between copy catalogers and professional catalogers is somewhat arbitrary. In many academic libraries, paraprofessionals are to a varying extent involved in cataloging above the level of simply editing complete records. However, a survey of forty academic libraries conducted by Eskoz in 1986-87 has shown that 65 percent of them were still using only professionals for assigning both call numbers and subject heading.[2] In any case, only highly skilled and specially trained paraprofessionals are usually involved in either of the two operations.

At present, most of the Russian-language member records are added by several libraries that are not using the Library of Congress Classification. Furthermore, many member records are plagued with certain misinterpretations of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2d. …


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