Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Mass Management of E-Book Catalog Records: Approaches, Challenges, and Solutions

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Mass Management of E-Book Catalog Records: Approaches, Challenges, and Solutions

Article excerpt

Electronic book collections in libraries have grown dramatically over the last decade. A great diversity of providers, service models, and content types exist today, presenting a variety of challenges for cataloging and catalog maintenance. Many libraries rely on external data providers to supply bibliographic records for electronic books, but cataloging guidance has focused primarily on rules and standards for individual records rather than data management at the collection level. This paper discusses the challenges, decisions, and priorities that have evolved around cataloging electronic books at a mid-size academic library, the University of Houston Libraries. The authors illustrate the various issues raised by vendor-supplied records and the impact of new guidelines for provider-neutral records for electronic monographs. They also describe workflow for batch cataloging using the MarcEdit utility, address ongoing maintenance of records and record sets, and suggest future directions for large-scale management of electronic books.


E-books emerged in 1971 with Michael Hart's Project Gutenberg and started to capture widespread attention in 1998 with the introduction of two e-book reading devices, the Rocket eBook and Softbook. (1) In the intervening decade, Google has propelled e-books into the mainstream, a new generation of mobile devices has improved e-book readability and convenience, and content providers have offered libraries an increasingly diverse array of electronic products and service models. With e-book purchasing on the rise, many libraries have elected to make e-books available via their online catalogs. A 2007 literature survey by Belanger indicated a widespread consensus in favor of integrating e-book records into the library catalog. (2)

According to a recent National Information Standards Organization white paper on book metadata workflow, many libraries rely on vendor-supplied cataloging for their e-book collections. (3) Despite this widespread practice, cataloging guidance has continued to focus on the content of individual fields and records rather than the logistics of large-scale record handling. In the summer of 2009, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) recommended and implemented a provider-neutral record standard for electronic monographs (e-monographs). (4) The new policy represents a significant step toward the standardization of e-book cataloging practices, but it does not fully address how best to integrate large record sets from multiple providers. Practical challenges include editing bibliographic data in batch, merging records for duplicate copies, scheduling and tracking updates, and building and sustaining staff knowledge and skills to carry out these functions.

This paper describes the complexity of the e-book landscape in a research library, looking in particular at the University of Houston Libraries (UHL) and its intensive use of vendor-supplied cataloging for its collection of nearly 400,000 e-books. The paper also details UHL's current approach to e-book cataloging, including local batch cataloging decisions, techniques for using MarcEdit (an open source MARC utility), use of the SerialsSolutions MARC service for e-books, and efforts to coordinate the batch record management process. The authors discuss the impact of the new PCC guidelines on existing practices and highlight issues of ongoing concern that offer potential for future exploration by the e-resource cataloging community.

Literature Review

E-book collections are growing, and many libraries are integrating e-book records into their online catalogs for ease of access. Given the large size of many e-book packages, libraries often use vendor-supplied record sets to expedite access. A review of the literature reveals that while numerous publications have addressed issues of access and bibliographic control of e-journals, little research has been done in the area of e-book cataloging, particularly for mass cataloging and management of vendor-provided e-book records. …

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