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A Study of Catalogers’ Perception of Cataloging Quality, Past & Present. Karen Snow Ph.D. Candidate University of North Texas Cataloging Norms Interest Group – ALA Midwinter January 16, 2010.

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A study of catalogers perception of cataloging quality past present

A Study of Catalogers’ Perception of Cataloging Quality, Past & Present

Karen Snow

Ph.D. Candidate

University of North Texas

Cataloging Norms Interest Group – ALA Midwinter

January 16, 2010


“Clearly the quality of catalogue records being added to bibliographic utilities and individual library catalogues is declining”

-- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod


What is ‘Quality Cataloging’? bibliographic utilities and individual library catalogues is declining”


“As with a person who cannot define art but knows it when he sees it, I cannot completely define a good cataloguing record, but I know it when I retrieve it”

-Levon Avdoyan


“Quality is not immutable but is rather a standard of excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

--Sarah Thomas


Charles a cutter late 19 th century
Charles A. Cutter (late 19 excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it” th century)

  • Boston Athenaeum Catalog – inherited editorship in 1870

  • Problems:

    • Inconsistent cataloging practices

    • Lack of trained personnel

    • Speed

  • Solutions:

    • Standardize cataloging practice

    • Push for cooperative cataloging


Library of congress card distribution program 1901
Library of Congress Card Distribution Program (1901) excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • Established under Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam

  • Print extra copies of LC cards and sell them at cost plus 10% (to cover printing costs)

  • Lead to establishment of LC as the leader in cataloging practice and rules

  • LC cataloging perceived to be highest in quality


Osborn s crisis in cataloging 1941
Osborn’s Crisis in Cataloging (1941) excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • A “crisis has been reached in cataloging history”

    • “Dignity of cataloging as an art” lost to obsession with rules

    • Distance between administrators and catalogers

  • Less rules, more cataloger’s judgment = better cataloging

  • Four dominant cataloging theories: Legalistic, Perfectionistic, Bibliographic, and Pragmatic


The rise of networks 1970s 1980s
The Rise of Networks (1970s & 1980s) excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • OCLC founded in 1967 & grew quickly during the 1970s

  • Luquire (1976) – quality must be sacrificed if OCLC copy accepted w/o changes – quality = local needs not met?

  • Sheila Intner (1989) – quality difference between OCLC and RLIN is overstated

  • Carol C. Davis (1989) – perception of low quality in OCLC database does not stand on solid evidence


Ruth hafter academic librarians cataloging networks 1986
Ruth excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it” Hafter – Academic Librarians & Cataloging Networks (1986)

  • Rise in interest in quality control parallels greater participation in cataloging networks

  • Greater dependence upon cataloging networks lead to more copy cataloging

  • More copy cataloging  less original cataloging & professional catalogers needed; more paraprofessionals hired

  • Deprofessionalization & marginalization of cataloging has lead to decrease in quality cataloging


Library of congress 1990s
Library of Congress (1990s) excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • Renewed efforts to tackle arrearages

  • Whole Book Cataloging Project – combined subject and descriptive cataloging divisions at LC

  • Cataloging Forum introduced in February 1990

  • “Cataloging Quality is…

    • accurate bibliographic information that meets the users’ needs and provides appropriate access in a timely fashion”


Dimensions of information quality
Dimensions of Information Quality excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • Southern California Online Users Group (SCOUG) (1990, via Tenopir): Consistency, coverage & scope, timeliness, accuracy/error rate, accessibility/ease of use, integration, output, documentation, customer support & training, and value-to-cost ratio ("11 main components that will help a professional searcher judge quality")

  • Fox, Levitin, & Redman (1994): accuracy, completeness, consistency, and currentness ("the most important dimensions of data quality")

  • Statistics Canada's Quality Assurance Framework (2002): Relevance, accuracy, timeliness, accessibility, interpretability, and coherence ("dimensions of information quality")

  • Bruce & Hillmann (2004): Completeness, accuracy, provenance, conformance to expectations, logical consistency & coherence, timeliness, and accessibility ("general characteristics of metadata quality")


Online catalogs what users librarians want oclc 2009
Online Catalogs: What Users & Librarians Want (OCLC, 2009) excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • Disconnect between users & librarians in regards to quality

  • Quality for users = more direct access to online content

  • Quality for librarians = less duplication of records

  • Users’ ideas of quality driven by their information needs & experiences using the WWW; librarians’ ideas of quality driven by work assignments


How have perceptions changed
How Have Perceptions Changed? excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • Desired characteristics of quality not drastically different from 19th to 21st century

  • Difference in technology and user expectations

  • Challenges:

    • Gain a better understanding of cataloger perception of quality cataloging – how does it influence their work?

    • How realistic is this perception in the face of increased reliance upon copy cataloging & technology, budget cuts, and decreasing emphasis on cataloging education in library schools?


Thank you! excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

[email protected]


Works cited
Works Cited excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • Boston Athenaeum & Cutter, C.A. (1880). Catalogue of the Library of the Boston Athenaeum. 1807-1871. Part IV. Boston.

  • Bruce, T.R. & Hillmann, D.I. (2004). The continuum of metadata quality: Defining, expressing, exploiting. In D.I. Hillmann & E.L. Westbrooks (Eds.), Metadata in Practice (pp.238-256). Chicago: American Library Association.

  • Davis, C.C. (1989). Results of a survey on record quality in the OCLC database. Technical Services Quarterly 7(2), 43-53.

  • Elrod, J. M. (2008). The case for cataloguing education. The Serials Librarian 55(1/2), 1-10.

  • Fox, C., Levitin, A., & Redman, T. (1994). The notion of data and its quality dimensions. Information Processing & Management 30(1), pp.9-19.

  • Hafter, R. (1986). Academic librarians and cataloging networks: Visibility, quality control, and professional status. New York: Greenwood Press.

  • Hider, P. & Tan, K. (2008). Constructing record quality measures based on catalog use. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 46(4), pp. 338-360.

  • Intner, S.S. (1989, Feb. 1). Much ado about nothing: OCLC and RLIN cataloging quality. Library Journal 114(2), 38-40.


Works cited1
Works Cited excellence that reflects the values of the individuals proclaiming it”

  • Library of Congress Cataloging Forum. (1993). Cataloging quality is…five perspectives. Opinion Papers, No. 4, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress.

  • Library of Congress Cataloging Forum.(1995). Cataloging quality: A Library of Congress Symposium. Opinion Papers, No. 6. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress.

  • Luquire, W. (1976, Aug.). Selected factors affecting library staff perceptions of an innovative system: A study of ARL libraries in OCLC. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Indiana University.

  • OCLC. (2009). Online catalogs: What users and librarians want: An OCLC report. Dublin, OH.

  • Osborn, A.D. (1941). The crisis in cataloging. In M. Carpenter & E. Svenonius (Eds.), Foundations of cataloging: A sourcebook (pp.92-103). Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

  • Statistics Canada. (2002). Statistics Canada’s Quality Assurance Framework. Retrieved January 10, 2010 from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/12-586-x/12-586-x2002001-eng.pdf

  • Tenopir, C. (1990). Database quality revisited. Library Journal 115(16), pp.64-67.

  • Thomas, S.E. (1996, Winter). Quality in bibliographic control. Library Trends 44(3), 491-506.


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