Cataloging Log, Earthdate 1/25/10

     So I stumbled upon a Twitter post about various people who work in libraries blogging about what they do. It’s being promoted as a way to see what we are each doing in our library jobs as well as show people who want to enter the field what they do. I thought this might be fun, interesting, a way to meet other library workers, and a good use of this blog.

     I’m obviously getting into this late, so I’ll use this post as an introduction.

     Ahem. Hi my name is Christine.

     “Hi Christine.”

     I’m a Library Technical Assistant at a large state college.  Now technical does not mean I work with computers. It means that I work with the technical stuff behind the scenes at the library. In my case I work with records in the library’s catalog. You know those things that tell you the book name, author(s), publisher, pagination, date, subject, call number, etc. In particular I catalog monograph books and videos. Although I am in the process of learning serials. (More about the difference at a later time perhaps.) I work full-time, and at this time I only have a Bachelor’s degree. (To become a fully fledged Librarian you need a Masters.)

     I’ve been working in a college library since, well, college. I started with a work study during a summer helping out the Library Director, shelf reading, sorting paperwork. My work caught the eye of the people in Technical Services and I was hired in the fall. I have been cataloging at college libraries ever since. Last I checked my combined experience is around 9 years. I’ve worked at 2 state colleges, and one private college. All three have been various sizes which brings its own experiences.

     As previously stated I started off learning to shelf read. This means going to the stacks, where the books are, and examining them to make sure they’re in order. If they’re not I straightened the books accordingly. Since the top shelf was pretty high this meant bringing a step stool around with me as I worked down the aisles. When my shift to read was done I logged where I left off in a binder so the next person could pick up after me.

     After that it was processing work. I put labels on books and stamped them. Sometimes I withdrew books, marking out the library stamp. At the time my alma mater still had a card catalog. So I would go and pull all cards associated with a book, and double-check to make sure other coworkers grabbed all of their cards too. Then I started working on the records themselves. I would look at the record and verify all the details matched the book I had in hand. As long as the changes were minor, meaning not needing to make a whole new record, I corrected things as I spotted them. (Wrong number of pages, forgot a place of publication, etc.) My work was checked by my boss. If everything was okay the corrected record was saved to our database. If there were mistakes my boss pointed them out to me and explained so I could do a better job next time.

     And that is basically what I do as a cataloger. I take the item in hand, look at the record, and verify the information. Then I correct any minor details. Some major ones require a whole new record to be made, and in these cases the book gets handed off to my boss. There are rules in cataloging that tell you when you need to make a new record, and when a minor change is okay on the current one. In my current job if the record is okay I export it, add a holding’s record (that tells the system where the book is located in the collection), and add an item record that contains the bar code, volume designation, pieces of the item, etc.

     A term I’ve heard used for what I do is “copy cataloging”. Basically it means you’re cataloging using a preexisting record that’s available. You’re making a copy of that record and the corrections it needs. This differs from “original cataloging” where you make the record from scratch. The later I very rarely do. For the most part those kind of items get passed off to my boss to work on.

     And I think that’s it for now. I’ll try to post more what I do day-to-day at a later time.