The Librarian’s View-What Lies Beneath

Without the underneath, there is nothing, Grasshopper.

John Here: When I finished Heidi Hoerman’s cataloging class at the University of South Carolina, I looked at my fellow students and said, “Hell will freeze over before I’ll be a cataloger.” That was over 25,000 bib records ago. I learned real fast that when you work in a small or one person library, you don’t have any choice, so you better learn to be good at the process. It helps to understand why cataloging matters. Sure, learning how to do everything properly is a pain in the butt, but a really decent bibliographic record accomplishes several things. It helps library patrons and librarians find stuff. It helps writers sell books (more about that in a bit), it makes finding things way easier for researchers and kids needing information for a project, but there are a couple things most people don’t know about good cataloging that are pretty cool. First, if you are a fan of a particular actor/actress, did you know they are listed in most movie records as an alternate author? That means you can use the author field and search for Jennifer Lawrence to find all the movies on DVD starring her that Maine libraries own. The other cool thing a good bib record does is relevant for music fans. The 505 field, when included, lists all the songs on a music CD. Wondering where to find The song “Through With You” by the Lemon Pipers? (One of the coolest songs to listen to with headphones ever) go to the IP address for MaineCat and select word, then type in through with you lemon pipers. All the words you searched for will appear in red. BTW, if you’re a fan of ’60s music, this CD is a great nostalgia trip.

If you are an established author, getting your stuff cataloged is something you seldom have to think about. Major vendors like Baker & Taylor or major libraries like The Library of Congress take care of that for you. However, if you are a new author, published by a small press, a self-published author, a musician with a small following or with regional appeal, you may never have your stuff cataloged. That’s where obsessive-compulsive catalogers like me come in. After cleaning up many of the bad or incomplete records at the Boothbay Harbor and Hartland libraries, I discovered I really enjoy cataloging, especially when listening to music. Several years ago, I started doing original cataloging, taking an item that the library world didn’t know existed and turning it into a record that was then freely available to any library in the world. I consider it a funky sort of creative writing. I’ve even done some barter cataloging, getting a book for the Hartland Library in return for creating the bib record. Oddly enough, my favorite type of original cataloging is music CDs. I buy a lot of them at thrift shops, selling some online and adding the rest to our library collection. We have over 2500 music CDs in our collection and probably 500 of them aren’t owned by any other Maine libraries. I really like finding and adding ones by Maine musicians because that gives them exposure where it counts.

We have a five shelf collection called Experimental that consists of a mix of fiction and nonfiction from obscure presses and self-published authors. Granted, some of it is awful, but there are some things my patrons have checked out and raved about when they returned them. Adding items like these costs me ten to fifteen minutes of free time and a little bit of postage as I get them from a book seller in Michigan who is a kindred soul when it comes to wanting books to find a decent home. In it you’ll find titles like When tomorrow speaks to me : memoirs of an Irish medium / Bridget Benson as told to Sophie McAdam, Walking together : discovering the Catholic tradition of spiritual friendship / Mary DeTurris Poust, Make love to the universe / Phoenix Desmond, and Little princes : one man’s promise to bring home the lost children of Nepal / Conor Grennan.

I thought it worthwhile to show what you see in an online catalog vs what lies beneath in the MARC record.


You see:

Author Flora, Kate Clark.

Title Redemption : a Joe Burgess mystery / Kate Flora.

Publisher Waterville, Me. : Five Star, 2012.

Edition 1st ed.

Phys Descr 365 p. : 23 cm.

Summary On his way to a Columbus Day picnic with the foster children his girlfriend Chris hopes to adopt Burgess is flagged down by two boys fishing off a pier who think theyve spotted a body in the water. Picnic canceled Burgess spends a gorgeous fall day supervising the retrieval of the body only to find during the MEs preliminary exam that he is looking at someone he knowsBurgess must find out the who and why of his lost friends death an investigation that will undoubtedly keep readers hooked until the very end.

Subject Police — Maine — Portland — Fiction.

Genre Mystery fiction. gsafd

ISBN 9781594153792 (hardcover)

1594153795 (hardcover)


We see:

y 005 20110920173803.0

y 008 110920s2012 meu 000 1 eng

l 010 2011036307

i 020 9781594153792 (hardcover)

i 020 1594153795 (hardcover)

y 040 DLC|cDLC

y 043 n-us-me

y 050 0 0 PS3556.L5838|bR43 2012

y 082 0 0 813/.54|223

a 100 1 Flora, Kate Clark.

t 245 1 0 Redemption :|ba Joe Burgess mystery /|cKate Flora.

e 250 1st ed.

p 260 Waterville, Me. :|bFive Star,|c2012.

r 300 365 p. :|c23 cm.

n 520 On his way to a Columbus Day picnic with the foster children his girlfriend‚ Chris‚ hopes to adopt‚ Burgess is flagged down by two boys fishing off a pier who think they’ve spotted a body in the water. Picnic canceled‚ Burgess spends a gorgeous fall day supervising the retrieval of the body‚ only to find‚ during the ME’s preliminary exam‚ that he is looking at someone he knows—Burgess must find out the who‚ and why‚ of his lost friend’s death‚ an investigation that will undoubtedly keep readers hooked until the very end.

d 650 0 Police|zMaine|zPortland|vFiction.

d 655 7 Mystery fiction.|2gsafd


You don’t need to know what many of the tags mean. However here’s a quick rundown of the important ones:

020-this is where the ISBN goes. Now that most cataloging is done with software, it’s very easy and fast to find an existing record by using a barcode scanner to capture the number and find a record. I’m compulsive enough to have one attached to my home computer.

100-the author field

245-title, and statement of responsibility. If the item is large print, an audio book, a video, etc, you’ll see something in brackets to let you know like this [sound recording].

300-physical description, useful for catalogers in terms of helping determine the right edition.

5** Any 500 field is a notes field and because they appear in the viewing record, they can be searched by keyword. The 520 is helpful as it gives the viewer a brief summary of the item.

6** Any 600 field is a subject and since subjects are searchable, they are one of the main ways people find stuff in library catalogs.

7** The 700 fields are alternate authors, useful when there are joint authors, you are cataloging an anthology, a movie or a music compilation. It’s also helpful for movie buffs that like films by a particular director as they are usually listed along with the actors/actresses.

There you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about cataloging.

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3 Responses to The Librarian’s View-What Lies Beneath

  1. Lea Wait says:

    Fascinating, John! At least to geeks like me. I spent my high school years as a library page (someone who shelves the books patrons return) and whenever I ran out of books to re-shelve I went through the library, one shelf at a time, one department at a time, checking to make sure all the books were shelved correctly. (They weren’t. I found thousands of “lost” library books in the three years I worked there.) The Dewey System is out of style many places, but in libraries that still use it, I don’t have to use a catalog to know where to look for books I want. What you’re doing is magic! (And, yes, I’ve read I “Little Princes”!)
    Thank you, for all the authors and song writers and musicians whose work you’ve unearthed and brought to the public!

  2. I never did any original cataloging but I was “lucky” enough to be working at the U Maine Farmington library years ago when they were making the change from a physical card catalog to digital. Everyone on staff had to pitch in because the info on every one of those cards had to be typed into the new URSUS system. The terminal we worked on was huge in those very early personal computer days. As I recall, it took up a whole wall.

  3. I, too, worked at a library… my brief stint occurred during my freshman year at Hamilton College. My work study job was to man the desk and I guess I was enjoying it too much, becuase my boss demoted me to the bowels of the building with stacks of little typewritten cards. Maybe if you had been my supervisor, John, I would have understood what I was to do… instead I daydreamed and eventually got another job at the pool, lifeguarding.

    Thanks for the work you do to keep the written word alive!

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