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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


“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 19th 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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 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)
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 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?
  • 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!


works cited
Works Cited
  • 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
  • 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.