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Cataloging support system selection criteria

Library Systems Newsletter [August 1988]

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Concurrent with making an online catalog available, a library should have a reliable automated cataloging support system to provide an ongoing source of machine-readable records. While some small libraries with limited budgets may consider only cost in assessing cataloging support options, most libraries need to address additional factors besides. Their relative importance in a particular situation will vary, but these additional factors might include some or all of the following: the ability to get best sellers on the shelf at or near publication date; the ability to cope with acquisitions of foreign language materials, retrospective buying of materials published before 2968, and significant audio and video acquisitions; and the desire to include manuscripts and other archival materials in the data bases. The editors recommend consideration of the following criteria before choosing a cataloging support system:

  1. The system should operate online in real-time. To assure a high level of cataloger productivity, it must be possible to call up a record from the cataloging support system data base, edit it online in real-time, and download the edited record as soon as the editing is completed.
  2. The cataloging support system should have an online interface to the library's local system. A library should not have to wait for its newly cataloged records to be loaded into its local system, nor should it need to handle tapes to enter the records into the system. Such delays inhibit prompt cataloging and shelving of new acquisitions. It should be possible to transfer records online as soon as cataloging has been completed.
  3. A library should be able to treat its local data base as its primary data base, maintaining it on a current basis. The library should not have to maintain two data bases, one on the cataloging support system and another on its local library system. It should be possible to treat the cataloging support system as a resource file, drawing records from it, but not maintaining them on that file except as it might also be used as an interlibrary loan data base.
  4. The cataloging support system data base should contain a minimum of .20 million records, including Library of Congress created records and contributed records from other libraries. A library needs to keep original cataloging to a minimum to control costs and to assure that materials will reach the shelves promptly. That not only requires a large data base, but also one that is very up-to-date. The Library of Congress acquires vi tually all English language U.S. imprints and adheres strictly to cataloging standards. However, it does not place the same priority on getting best sellers to the shelves quickly, as do most public and special libraries. Therefore, it is desirable that the data base include contributions from libraries which seek to have new materials available to patrons on the date of publication.
  5. The data base should include all types of materials; monographs, serials, microforms, audiovisuals, maps, manuscripts, etc. Library collections are becoming increasingly diverse, including sound recordings, films, and videos as well as monographs and serials. And, with online patron access catalogs, users are expecting these materials to be included in the online data base. A library with a diverse collection policy needs to ensure that the cataloging support system it chooses contains records for all forms of materials.
  6. The system should provide support for the original cataloging of all types of materials. When no record is available for a title a library wants to catalog, it should be possible to call up a suitably formatted screen for data entry. Screens should be available for all materials types, including manuscripts which libraries may wish to catalog for their local history or corporate archive collections.
  7. The cataloging support system should be cost competitive with the other options meeting the same criteria. The cataloging support system selected should be one which is cost competitive, with costs compared over a five-year period. The comparison should include both start-up costs and annual operating costs.
  8. The vendor of the cataloging support system should provide onsite training and field support. The vendor of the cataloging support system should have field support available, not only for the maintenance of equipment, but also for training and to assist staff in the use of the system.
  9. The online system should be available at least 95 percent of the time between the hours of 7:AM and 7:00 PM from Monday through Friday. It should be possible for a library to be flexible in scheduling its cataloging personnel, and to rely on the availability of the system so there is little unproductive time. In many situations, the availability of the system on weekends is also desirable.
While there are a score of cataloging support systems, few meet all of these criteria. The major vendors by market share are OCLC, UTLAS, BiblioFile, RLIN, WIN, Gaylord, Brodart, Marcive, The Computer Company, and AutoGraphics. These vendors have more than 97 percent of the market. All but Marcive offer online, real-time systems, and all but Auto-Graphics, Marcive, and The Computer Company have online interfaces to most local library systems.

Technically, almost all cataloging support systems can be used as resource data bases, but the pricing of some assumes maintenance of a library's data base on the cataloging support system. For example, Brodart has no records use charges, but levies a storage charge for all of the records which have been selected for use by a library. In contrast, OCLC, RLIN, The Computer Company, UTLAS, and WLN charge for the use of a record. Most also offer a credit when a unique bibliographic record is entered into the data base. BiblioFile and Gaylord are examples of cataloging support systems which charge a subscription price for an entire resource file. Their standard systems do not offer the capability of maintaining a data base on the cataloging support system.

The only cataloging support systems that contain at least ten million records--including records from libraries other than LC--are Brodart, OCLC, RLIN, UTLAS, and WLN. The smallest is Brodart, with ten million records; and the largest are OCLC and UTLAS, each with over 17 million records. All of the major systems contain records for all types of materials, although the only ones known to have more than one million records for materials other than monographs are OCLCand UTLAS--both of which state that 90 percent of these records were input by member libraries: Several cataloging support systems offer screens for the original cataloging of all types of materials, including manuscripts and other archival materials. OCLC, RLIN, and UTLAS currently have this capability.

The only vendors that offer onsite training and field support are Brodart, OCLC, RLIN, The Computer Company, UTLAS, and WLN. However, WIN limits its sales and support to the West Coast. The only vendors with more than 10 field support personnel are OCLC, RLIN, and UTLAS. System availability is generally over 96 percent for all major vendors.

As to costs, those systems which at first appear to be least expensive may not be. For example, the online catalog support system from a vendor which offers very low per record rates, but which uses a telecommunications network which costs $25 per hour may cost much more than that of another vendor which has higher usage charges, but a flat rate for leased line access. A system with low rates, but a limited data base may force up in-house original cataloging costs. Any option which appears dramatically less expensive than the others should be examined very carefully to isolate all costs.

Each library should develop its own set of criteria, and then identify a limited number of cataloging support systems which meet all or most of the criteria. The final choice should represent the optimum balance of conformity to the criteria and five-year cost.

View Citation
Publication Year:1988
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Systems Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 8 Number 08
Issue:August 1988
Publisher:American Library Association
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Notes:Howard S. White, Editor-in-Chief; Richard W. Boss and Judy McQueen Contributing Editors
Company: OCLC
Research Libraries Group
Western Library Network (WLN)
Auto-Graphics, Inc.
Brodart, Inc.
Gaylord Information Systems
GIS Information Systems
Products: OCLC Cataloging System
Subject: Cataloging
Record Number:4462
Last Update:2022-08-07 00:48:48
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00