Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Online Catalog Maintenance: The Role of Networks, Computers, and Local Institutions

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Online Catalog Maintenance: The Role of Networks, Computers, and Local Institutions

Article excerpt

This paper stresses the importance of maintaining the accuracy and currency of the information in an online catalog. The first section discusses aspects of online catalog maintenance that can be accomplished cooperatively, through cataloging networks, or automatically, by computer programs. The second section describes procedures followed at Washington State University, utilizing the Western Library Network, to maintain the local online catalog.

Catalog maintenance is, in many ways, easier in an online catalog than it was in the traditional card catalog. However, online it is more obvious when maintenance work is left undone, and the capabilities and restraints of an automated catalog require more accurate, thorough, and detailed maintenance as well as some new and different maintenance procedures. This is in part due to the fact that most online catalogs do not function solely as catalogs; they also serve as the basis for other linked functions such as circulation and serials control.

Maintenance of the card catalog included the following functions: filing cards, shifting cards, preparation and maintenance of authority files, maintenance of guide cards, replacement of worn and missing cards, withdrawals, added copies and added volumes, and maintenance of location stamps, cards, and sleeves.[1] The purpose of these activities was to maintain the currency and accuracy of the bibliographic, authority, and holdings information in the catalog. This was done so that users could locate as many of the appropriate items in a collection as they needed or wanted. Unfortunately, the intensive labor involved in many of the activities listed above made it too expensive and time-consuming for most libraries to undertake full-scale maintenance of their card catalogs.[2]

While the labor-intensive activities of card filing, pulling, and shifting can, mercifully, be relegated to the past, the move from a card catalog to an online catalog does not eliminate the need for catalog maintenance. In fact, it becomes even more necessary to maintain the currency and accuracy of the information in the catalog when it is online. Mistakes tend to be more noticeable on a computer screen, and typographical and other errors are more important because of the negative effect they have on keyword access and the computer's ability to sort data. A human can overlook errors and inconsistencies when filing cards, but a computer processes everything literally. This means that errors in data entered into the computer result in "misfiled" records, because the computer does not have the ability to recognize and compensate for such errors.

Librarians and library patrons seem to expect more information, and more up-to-date and accurate information, from computer catalogs. To some degree such expectations are valid, because the fact that computer records are more flexible and easier to manipulate than cards makes much of online catalog maintenance easier than card catalog maintenance. More is also expected of online catalogs because they serve as the basis for other automated functions such as circulation, shelflists, and serials control. However, online catalog maintenance, although different, can still be labor intensive, especially if all of the work is done in-house.[3] Nevertheless, online catalog maintenance need not be an unmanageable task if librarians fully explore both the possibilities of shared catalog maintenance beyond the local level, via the cataloging networks, and maintenance procedures that the computer can be programmed to do automatically.

This paper explores some of these possibilities based on experiences and studies undertaken at Washington State University (WSU), utilizing the Western Library Network (WLN).

SHARED CATALOGING

AND CATALOG MAINTENANCE

Shared Cataloging

The use of cataloging networks has prompted much discussion of the pros and cons of shared, cooperative cataloging. …

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