Developing Judgement

September 19, 2007

Today I was pondering how people develop judgement. It takes time, but how can we create a hothouse to speed up that process?

Some people when faced with an unusual situation take an immediate wild guess and run with it.  They do not feel the need to think.  For some reason they are not concerned whether they are right or wrong, they just want to complete the task and get the thing off of their desk or virtual to do list. 

I would like to hear answers for this problem.  We will never catch all recently made problems, it would be nice if people cared about the quality of their work, but if they don’t we are left with few if any pleasant alternatives.

Other people, when faced with the unusual, go straight to an authority figure, run for help  and dump the problem on them.  This can lead to a workplace with stuff piling up everywhere and less work than you would think getting done.

 What is the solution here?

People need to know what their resources of information are.  Where they can look for an answer?  If there is a similar situation, is it similar enought to take the same solution?  Some people will always ask questions to justify their existance, but most really just want to do the right thing and when given additional steps to take will grab the opportunity to become more self reliant.

I agree that training and plainly worded procedures, and links outward will go a long way to helping people enhance their skills and everyone should think about where in their lives they need to develop better judgement because sometimes avoiding the situation or making snap decisions just don’t work.

The Economics of Cataloging

August 29, 2007

THE ECONOMICS OF CATALOGING as presented by the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control.  For the National section I excerpted the notes from the public meeting.


While bibliographic control is a service that provides a public good, it does generate costs which are borne by the institutions that provide it.  The Library of Congress is involved in a broad strategic planning initiative to provide services more efficiently and streamline costs, while at the same time remaining cognizant that its actions can have repercussions in the wider library community.

HERE:  You could say the same thing. I don’t think there is an institution around who isn’t talking about streamlining processes and increasing efficiency.  It is completely the norm.



1.       The Cost-benefit ratios noted the need to consider the total cost of bibliographic control throughout the lifecycle of a resource, from selection to digitalization or withdrawal. All of cataloging costs money.

Here: When we catalog an item that stays around forever and doesn’t change the cost is primarily a one time thing.  When this a quick copy cataloging (as is tha majority of what we do)  the cataloging cost is ten minutes of one person’s time.  Some e-resources change all the time and if we choose to chave the bibliographic record reflect the changes, this will be expensive, time consuming process if it is not automated or provided by the e-resource vendor.

NATIONALLY:  Redundant, duplicative, and unnecessary workflows all are indications of inefficiency in the bibliographic control process. They include a variety of common cataloging practices such as reviewing and/or editing bibliographic records created by the Library of Congress and Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC), seeking perfection in creating original cataloging records, creating unique call numbers for every item, and not making use of pre-existing metadata from other sources. In general, there was consensus among the speakers that these inefficiencies can be combated by not seeking perfection in bibliographic records. In some cases, that may mean accepting bibliographic records created by other stakeholders without reviewing them or editing them for minor errors, such as punctuation.  

LOCALLY :  Most records for new material are handled in bulk. The majority of the catalogers time is spent  on the holdings record, the item record and  writing the call number in the book.  Most of us gave up editing for perfection a long time ago.  Looking for Typos in a title, author or subject heading is not looking for perection, it is ensuring a bare minimum.  Some catalogers still have the itch to edit, but procedure-wise, we  don’t require it. We certainly could reexamine the workflow again,  but in a way I think the national statement just breathes life into old stereotypes

NATIONALLY : Efficiency may mean accepting records at less than full cataloging levels based on the need for expediency in making materials available, the expected lifespan of an item, and the sufficiency of the existing metadata to enable discovery.

LOCALLY: Especially for e-items, we play with the hand that we get dealt.  We use records that come, with minimal customization.  If no call number we run with it.  If no subject headings we still run with them. At this point in the National notes I haven’t seen anything groundbreaking.


The cost of original cataloging was exemplified by several speakers’ descriptions of business models with common basic features: one entity bears the cost of creating original metadata in the form of bibliographic records, authority records, or taxonomies (per Rick Lugg, creation of one bibliographic record for a monograph can cost between $150-$200), the metadata is made available for others to use, but the creator of the original metadata does not recoup the full cost of its labor from the other organizations that are sharing the benefits. The financial inequality of this practice and need for a new, more equitable business model was pointed out by speakers representing both libraries and commercial organizations. Susan Fifer Canby (Special Libraries) mentioned that the National Geographic Society library is becoming more involved in e-commerce, which may be one means of cost recovery for creating original metadata on marketable resources, such as photographs.

LOCALLY:  We are guilty of waiting for other people to catalog or provide call numbers, but then again our priority is to get the most done, not to contribute the most to OCLC.

NATIONALLY: Several speakers cited the MARC format as inefficient, often in that it is inadequate for their needs. Tthe complexity of the MARC record, specifically redundancy between the fixed and variable fields, creates a barrier to efficiency among catalogers. Lizanne Payne (Library Consortia) noted that, as an inventory system, MARC format does not easily handle identification of the physical location of materials in shared storage facilities, where items are often shelved by size, rather than call number. 

 LOCALLY: We use Core guidelines which don’t require added entries to be justified by notes.  Other duplicative fields however are still entered.  Once MARC changes we will be changing along with it.

NATIONALLY Cataloging backlogs are created by a number of factors including ILS conversions, inefficiencies in the cataloging process, and the sheer volume of materials being acquired. Backlogs of print materials are visible and, therefore, demand attention; however, digital backlogs are invisible, so that their extent is often unknown and easier to ignore. Backlogs produce costs in the labor spent managing them, in delaying resource availability to users, and in “opportunity costs.”  Stated differently, it involves freeing human resources from routine tasks in order to focus on more value-creating opportunities. Lugg identified several areas of opportunity where cataloging expertise should be exploited more heavily, include cataloging unique materials (such as special collections and archives), institutional repositories, dissertations and theses, non-MARC metadata projects, course management systems, and mass digitization projects. The cost to libraries is in the lack of involvement, or delayed involvement, as a partner or leader in projects where cataloging skills are needed, such that the need is not well met or it is fulfilled with capabilities developed outside the library community. 

LOCALLY : Currently the print backlog is almost nonexistant and could be easily vanquished should we choose to tilt at that windmill. What truely prevents us from more meaningful original cataloging contributions is all the item record creation, retrospective conversion of old books. If it ever determined that the priority of the department should be primarily the future instead of the past, then that is what we will do.  I think we are mssing out on becoming a leader both in the library and on campus in metadata provision because we are busy cleaning up the past.


initiatives that could be undertaken to increase efficiency in bibliographic control.

  These initiatives include broadening collaboration and partnerships

                                     use of pre-existing metadata

                                      repurposing library created metadata

                                       structural reorganization

                                      incentivizing creation of original metadata

                                      using automation to assist catalogers

                                      and revising and streamlining standards.

LOCALLY:  Now here is something that we should look at: repurposing metadata.  We have crosswalked MARC to DC, but I am sure there aremultiple uses for both MARC and NONMARC metadata that we haven’t thought of yet. That is worth some thought.

NATIONALLY: Sources of pre-existing metadata need not be limited to publishers. Christopher Cole noted that existing sources of metadata, such as film metadata from authoritative websites, should be drawn upon in lieu of painstakingly re-creating the metadata from the item in hand, as required by current cataloging rules.

 Christopher Cole also suggested that sourcing metadata should be a two-way street. The value of authority records and controlled vocabularies to the library community and beyond, along with the need to promote broader use of such metadata, was discussed in the two previous public meetings and reaffirmed here. 

 LOCALLY : I would be happy to accept metadata from whatever bush I can find it growing under.  I agree that we shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel over and over and over again. As long as I know that is reliable wheel.

NATIONALLY: Beacher Wiggins explained an initiative at the Library of Congress to create efficiency by restructuring the selection, acquisitions, and cataloging workflow. The goal is to supply as much descriptive cataloging as possible the first time an item is handled in the selection-acquisitions process, minimizing the number of times a record is “touched.” Technicians will have primary responsibility for descriptive cataloging, freeing professional catalogers to focus on authority control, subject analysis, classification, and digital resources.

LOCALLY: This is an area to be looked into.  Some of what is done in cataloging could certainly be accomplished in Acq with training, if it was determined to be more efficient.

NATIONALLY: Both Mechael Charbonneau and Dianne McCutcheon suggested that advances in automation should be used to help catalogers be more efficient, not to replace them. For example, automated indexing programs can suggest index terms to catalogers, who then determine the appropriateness of the suggested terms.

 LOCALLY: Incorporating automation has happened in fits and starts, but now we have been batch loading records for E-resources and for new purchases, that bell has been rung.  The key is to follow up and provide lots of support for all departmental staff so everyone feels comfortable and is knowledgeable enough to make decisions based on the latest technology.

 NATIONALLY: Changes to the cataloging landscape will incur education costs on two fronts: educating users to use our systems to full advantage and educating librarians and paraprofessionals to adapt to a changing work environment.  If other suggestions are put into practice, catalogers will need to learn to use new technologies designed to assist them, become more conversant with a variety of metadata standards, and take their skills to emerging and unfamiliar arenas where their expertise is needed. As libraries struggle with a steady decline in professional catalogers, questions of finding sufficient professional catalogers to create original metadata and the role that library and information science programs should play in educating professionals for a changing landscape in bibliographic control also were raised.

Locally I think there is an inaccurate perception that catalogers are stuck in 1950 and don’t want to change.  Some are and some aren’t, you could say the same about any group of people. The bottom line is that most people want to do what is best for themselves and for the material they are providing access to.  If that is MODS or VRA, or metadata created by Rocky and Bullwinkle, if it works we will use it.   A major concern is that we are changing just because the wind happens to be blowing in that direction.  People like to know that decisions are being driven by facts, not just an impulse to be in the in-crowd.


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August 29, 2007

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