Monday, July 30, 2012

MARC Records Suck: A Cataloging Rant

I spent much of last Thursday cataloging. It had been a while. Beyond the frustrations of the Voyager integrated library system, which are ever-present, I noticed that the quality of MARC records in OCLC, via Connexion seem to have declined. Drastically. This is problematic. It's bad enough that we send patrons to a depressing, user-unfriendly catalog

Names blacked out to protect the guilty
and now they'll have even less ability to find what they're looking for, unless I do original cataloging. I'm on record as having a background in technical services, and I'm competent enough to have taught other staff how to copy catalog (yes, it's a verb), but for a director with a full-time staff of two, this is frustrating. It's not an effective use of my time. I should be strategic planning, preparing for the future of libraries (links), avoiding the wrath of my peers; developing our woefully outdated print collection; promoting synergy; or any number of things. Instead, I'm dealing with this. Look at it! Worst MARC Record How is anyone supposed to find anything with that? It's barely helpful! Why does OCLC even bother? UPDATE: cataloger extraordinaire B. Campbell has found the correct record, which OCLC's Connexion did not offer us. Link that data, please!

Even more verbose records need work. I bought this book for our nursing program.
MARC Nursing Note the lack of a certain keyword. Note the lack of others. Where's "health," or "medicine!?" I know our users, and how they search. I've got to tag the 500 and 600 fields with keywords to make it easier to find. Note the too-pithy Library of Congress Subject Headings. Really? That's it?!

The main point of cataloging is to make it easy for people to find stuff, even if you'll never meet those people. It's why technical services is sometimes referred to as "the back of the house." Patrons might not see you, but they'll experience your work, for better and for worse. And in the case of MARC records, it's worse. Which means more work for us. RDA, take me away. 


  1. I would say that I found you a record that one could clone (amended to take account of any differences between the 2009 and 2010 ed.) to overlay the scant encoding level 3 record in WorldCat. By the way, you already have the record for the 2009 ed. in your system: I'd be looking to see if I actually had the 2010 ed. in hand or just another copy of 2009 ed. If the latter, mark and park. Alternatively, if you lack the time to clone and replace in WorldCat, then ask somebody with WRLC to improve record on WorldCat so you can overlay what you have. Or clone and replace locally.

  2. I was curious to see how this turned out. It looks to me like you removed the scant Elvl 3 record from your catalog in favor of making what you had in hand a copy 2. I probably would have done the same. The "DIFFERENCES BETWEEN, CHANGES WITHIN Guidelines on When to Create a New Record" (see might have supported a different decision, but without the item in hand, it's hard to say for sure. In this case, pragmatic "mark and park" (not using this pejoratively) was probably best. I wanted to alert you that your holding symbol is still attached to that Elvl 3 record for the 2010 "ed.", at least based on what I saw this morning in (see