With all the talk lately about RDA and social catalogues, many think that the role of the cataloguer will change. Of course, many small parts of the method of cataloguing WILL change. Change is ongoing. Whether it be a few new MARC tags to remember, new subject headings, changed call numbers, etc.
One thing we as cataloguers must remember though is that our ROLE remains the same. Our purpose is to provide ACCESS to the materials in our libraries, whether they be physical objects such as books or DVDs, or whether they represent remote materials such as downloadable audio and video, computer files, e-books, etc.
ACCESS means not only following the rules, but sometimes enlarging on them. Sometimes we have to make up for the idiosyncracies of our software by adding an alternate title with a different spelling. Or, perhaps you will have to make up for software deficiencies. When cataloguing a title with an ampersand, I have to offer a variant title with the word ‘and’ in place of the ampersand because patrons might search using the word ‘and’ instead and our software does not compensate for this. Then there is the difference between Canadian and American spelling…
ACCESS means using subject headings to fully describe our material. Sometimes that means going beyond the authorized subject heading and adding a locally created heading if it will provide easier access to the item.
Although rules are what we live by, we must know the rules inside out in order to break them to our patron’s advantage.
Remember the cataloguing mantra though! I WILL BE CONSISTENT! I WILL BE CONSISTENT! I WILL BE CONSISTENT! I WILL BE CONSISTENT! This is even more important when creating local headings — or in fact any time you stray from established rules. Consistency when cataloguing allows all of the catalogue users dependable sources of information. If you enter a subject genre heading under Romantic suspense novels for one bib record, and for another enter the genre as Romantic suspense fiction, you are making your catalogue murky. Now there are two places for the patron to search for one topic! A patron using the first variation will not get a complete reflection of the library’s Romantic suspense with their search. They may then miss out on the novel they are searching for! Spelling errors and typos are culprits as well. Whenever there is more than one heading for any given topic, the efficiency of your catalogue decreases and the patron’s ACCESS is diminished.