The retreat today was fun and informative, probably the best part about my day today (not counting my dinner, which will be delicious :D
Aside from being generally confused about the status of the small cart of things I decided could be weeded yesterday (if only I had procrastinated just a bit longer!), my cataloging today was filled with doubt. It wasn't any particular thing that inspired my doubt - just general doubt. Things like:
- It's the Library of Congress's practice to only record "ill." and/or "map(s)" (for the most part), choosing not to specifically say when those illustrations are actually photographs or portraits or music or charts, etc. On AUTOCAT, not too long ago, a lot of catalogers complained about this lack of specificity and talked about how it could actually be helpful to users to be more specific. Those catalogers are more specific. I follow LC's practice, because I decided I have better things to do with my time than figure out what the various abbreviations and terms are for the different kinds of illustrations. Plus, when I flip through, all I need to pay attention to is whether there any pictures or maps at all, not what any of them actually look like. Sometimes I wonder if this is a mistake, and if it would actually matter to people whether an illustration is a drawing or a photograph, or whether a book has portraits. I have no idea what the catalogers before me did, or if they even thought about it at all.
- Why do I record/check information in records that people aren't going to see and/or that isn't searchable? The answer to this is that, if it's not recorded/checked now, then if, in the future, it does become searchable (even if only by librarians via reports) and/or visible to the public, the library, our users, our collection, and the Cataloger (me or whoever) will suffer the consequences. Every time I work on catalog maintenance, I see the results of information not being recorded or checked (for whatever reason) - that's part of why I'm such a perfectionist (some might say "anal") about various record details. I understand all of that, and yet there are days when it's a wee bit depressing to enter or check information when I know it has no immediate use.
- Also, leapfrogging on the whole perfectionism thing, should I care less? If "quantity cataloged" matters more than "quality of the records" (because "quantity," by its nature, is easier to quantify for statistics than "quality") are there things I should be considering no longer doing? The things that take the most time (for book cataloging, anyway) are things like adding new authority records (the things that make sure we have cross-references in our "browse" searches) and adding table of contents information or summaries. DVDs, videotapes, and any original cataloging are also automatically time-consuming. I don't want to "skimp" on things - I wouldn't be doing them if I didn't think they were important - but I think about this kind of thing when I hear about catalogers who've been laid off, or administrators who criticize catalogers for caring too much about the details (isn't that what we're supposed to be doing?). I also think about this kind of stuff when a new project gets added to my "to do" list. Thankfully, as far as the former stuff goes, our library has a pretty "cataloger-friendly" work environment. As far as the latter...ugh.
- I don't know if you read this blog, Janie, but you might be interested to know that I flip flop between thinking that multiple formats should be on one record and thinking they should each have their own, separate record. I hate that I can't be ok with one decision or the other.