Report of the Task Force on Cooperative Cataloging, May 26, 2010


The Library of Congress commissioned a study of the market place for MARC records. R2 Consulting’s report for the Library of Congress: Study of the North American MARC Records Marketplace begins with this introduction:

In January 2009, the Library of Congress (LC) contracted with R2 Consulting LLC (R2) to investigate and describe current approaches to the creation and distribution of MARC records in US and Canadian libraries. The primary focus is on the economics of existing practice, in effect mapping the “marketplace” for cataloging records, including incentives for and barriers to production. The underlying question is whether sufficient cataloging capacity exists in North America, and how that capacity is distributed (p.3).

Mary Case, President of ALCTS, requested that the Cataloging and Classification Section form a task group to review the report and identify issues that could be addressed by ALCTS or actions that ALCTS could take to further discussion within the community.

The Chair of the Cataloging and Classification Section, Qiang Jin, appointed a task force.

The members are:

Shelby E. Harken, Head, Acquisitions/Bibliographic Control, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota; Task Force Chair; ALCTS CCS Executive Committee, Chair-Elect (2009-2010)

Rebecca Routh, Catalog Librarian, University of Iowa Libraries; ALCTS CCS Cataloging Norms Interest Group Co-Chair (2009-2010)

Tatiana Barr, Catalog Librarian/Copy Cataloging Team Leader, Yale University Library; ALCTS CCS Copy Cataloging Interest Group Chair (2009-2010)

Cynthia M. Whitacre, Manager, WorldCat Quality & Partner Content Dept., OCLC; liaison to ALCTS Executive Committee

Statement of Charge

Name: CCS Task Force on Cooperative Cataloging

Charge: Review the R2 Consulting report for the Library of Congress: "Study of the North American MARC Records Marketplace". Identify issues that could be addressed by ALCTS or actions that ALCTS could take to further discussion within the cataloging community leading to recommendations for increasing the sharing of bibliographic data and expediting cooperative cataloging.

Overview of Task Force Work

Review and Discussion of the Report

The Task Force decided to begin by reviewing some questions from the report and from a presentation by Ruth Fisher of R2 Consulting. The group decided to respond to what the report tried to accomplish and chose to begin with the questions on page 33 of the report, Ruth Fischer’s questions in a video presentation, and the report’s observations.

The paragraph on page 33 begins: “The second type of question, which is directly relevant to this project, relates to the economics of cataloging.”

  • How do we as a profession understand and explain the costs and benefits of producing and distributing cataloging records?
  • Where and by whom are most original records produced?
  • What incentives exist to stimulate production?
  • What are the barriers that discourage production?
  • How does the library market assign value to the work of cataloging?
  • What is the return on any organization’s investment in producing original catalog records?
  • How does shared cataloging and free or low-cost distribution of records affect the market?
  • To what degree is market activity subsidized by LC and by the work of individual libraries?

The last slide of the Ruth Fischer video had three questions:

  • How long will libraries rely on MARC as the primary format for bib data?
  • What would be required to correct the economic structure of the MARC record marketplace?
  • What would happen if MARC record creators (and creators of other descriptive metadata insisted on recovering their costs?

The report had these observations:

  • Library of Congress cataloging continues to be widely valued.
  • The Library of Congress subsidizes portions of the market.
  • LC records are significantly underpriced.
  • Cataloging backlogs continue to grow in many areas and market segments.
  • There is adequate cataloging capacity in North America to meet the collective need.
  • Cooperative cataloging has not realized its full potential.
  • The market for cataloging records is conflicted.
  • The market provides insufficient incentives to stimulate additional original cataloging.
  • 80% of libraries edit records for English-language monographs in their local catalog.
  • 78% of libraries are unaware of any restrictions on MARC record use or redistribution.

Based on the questions above and the observations in the report, we focused on the following issues:

  • Local vs. shared edits
  • Workflows reducing redundancy of work and simultaneously increasing quality output
  • Defining what is good enough
  • The need for a clearer understanding of the cost of cataloging – for the purpose of encouraging support of sharing work, enhancing records in a shared database, and studying workflows to make improvements
  • Incentives
  • What inhibits/hems us in? What keeps us from sharing, enhancing?
  • How does the variability of the distribution of materials acquired by libraries affect the output of original work? If we all enhanced and did original for whatever we get, would the overall community see benefit?

Analysis of the Conclusions in the Report

The Task Force recognizes that reciprocity in a cooperative cataloging system is an ideal at best. A relatively small number of catalogers are providing the bulk of the copy for little payback. Many small libraries or libraries with general collections are not in a position to contribute equally to the shared pool. There are several factors affecting this, including hours a cataloger has time to spend on cataloging compared with other duties, and the need to address local or digital collections. However, if a cataloger even contributes to some extent, there is an assumption that their contribution is still of value to the whole. The diversity of libraries and library needs impacts the choices made both by catalogers and administrators in obtaining records and contributing to the cooperative database. It also affects in what capacity any one library can participate in the cooperative effort. The Task Force notes the stipulation by the R2 group that there is enough cataloging capacity but argues that cataloger expertise is not distributed in the same way the materials are received. In general, libraries are likely to do what is cheapest and easiest. The rewards for the extra work of sharing updates or enhancements are not enough to compel a change.

Changing the marketplace is not within the purview of this Task Force, although some of the Task Force recommendations could have some impact on addressing the shared capacity within the cataloging community. We are working in a time of change when OPACS need to improve to help library catalogs remain relevant, when the rules are changing (RDA), the MARC record is likely to evolve and there are many new initiatives with Open Source technologies that utilize our cataloging metadata. Yet, as the R2 report points out, there remain strong arguments for use of standard cataloging principles – controlled vocabularies, classification, subject analysis, and authority control – packaged in a consistent format. We are at a time when attitudes and the culture of cataloging need to change. The Task Force strongly agrees that action is needed at this time to optimize the tools, skills, programs, and knowledge that already exist in our cataloging community, exploit new ideas and technologies, and work to improve the culture of cataloging as a whole in order to inaugurate a new cooperative venture that will continue to improve service to all our patrons.

The Task Force’s work resulted in a set of recommendations for action. Also included are programming and training ideas that, to a certain extent, explicate the recommendations.

Recommendations for ALCTS Action

  1. Advance the vision of shared cataloging in a large shared database (e.g. OCLC).
    1. Develop strategies for enhancing records, changing workflows, training staff appropriately for the iterative process*, incorporating external resources (book jackets, social tagging), in a widely shared database (e.g. OCLC) which augments the information and the value of the database for all users
    2. Assist libraries in evaluating or assessing their own workflows to identify redundancies and develop better workflows to increase creation of records
    3. Publicize and offer training on efforts like OCLC’s Expert Community to allow catalogers to enhance records to assist the wider community
    4. Encourage reuse of metadata from other sources (publishers, vendors, etc)
    5. Inform the larger library community in regards to the importance of cooperative cataloging
    6. Inform the cataloging community of the big picture as described in the R2 report

      * Bibliographic and authority records are dynamic products of the iterative, additive process that enhances or upgrades bibliographic records as the metadata begins with the publisher and progresses through to the local library.
  2. Understand the market value of original cataloging
    1. Review the anticipated response by the Library of Congress to the R2 report to explore the future role of the Library of Congress in the larger picture of cooperative cataloging
    2. Follow up on the expected report from the “Big Heads” Interest Group task force that was created to identify measures of the cost, benefit and value of bibliographic control and assess it for further action relative to cooperative cataloging
    3. Educate the cataloging community to think more about the market value of cataloging – the economics of cataloging.
  3. Incentivize the cataloging community to focus time on original cataloging (including upgrades of minimal or less than full copy) rather than copy cataloging
    1. Inform the cataloging community about the imbalances and inequities present in cooperative cataloging as identified R2 report
    2. Create an environment that encourages increased BIBCO participation, including financial or other incentives
    3. Encourage timely original cataloging and discourage the practice of waiting months for copy to come from someone else
    4. Persuade administrators to encourage and support more original cataloging (verbal incentives, rewards in annual reviews, administrative recognition, etc.) in recognition of the contribution catalogers make to the greater enterprise
    5. Identify changes needed in cataloging unit policies to guide managers in supporting the cooperative enterprise
    6. Develop modalities that encourage cooperation, e.g. encourage libraries to identify special subject areas, languages or formats in which they can intensify their efforts in original cataloging, develop cooperative agreements, identify cataloging mentors, etc.
  4. Discourage “tweaking” of copy that does not improve access
    1. Promote the BIBCO Standard Record (BSR) or standards such as CONSER’s Standard Record (CSR) for “good enough”
    2. Highlight the advantages of shelf-ready services
    3. Offer opportunities to copy cataloging staff to expand their skill set and further career development by training them to perform original cataloging as well as other digital metadata work.
    4. Identify best practices and cataloging norms to assist cataloger decision-making
    5. Foster an environment in which good quality cataloging records can be identified and trusted as being authenticated
    6. Discourage unimportant “tweaking” of copy, identifying the difference between data that does not improve access vs. data needed for local library service or practice
  5. 5. Look at new data models for future catalogs
    1. Explore options to replace MARC in library systems
    2. Provide educational opportunities for librarians to compare MARC to other possibilities
  6. 6. Work to overcome technical barriers to cooperative cataloging
    1. Work with the publishers and cataloging vendors to improve their compliance with standards
    2. Work with library system vendors to encourage features for sharing and enhancement of cooperative cataloging (import/export, templates, statistics, etc.)
  7. Provide training via forums, webinars, tutorials, etc.

Training and Programming Ideas

The ideas outlined here could take the form of interest group discussions, ALCTS programs, ALCTS forums, webinars, and e-Forums, as well as workshops. Training could be in a variety of modalities and for a variety of materials. Offerings need to include training for mindset, self-discipline, knowing what’s good enough, and how to work in this environment to improve cooperation.

Value of Cooperative Cataloging

Discussions/programs by ALCTS addressing the value of cooperative cataloging IN a large database (e.g. OCLC) - both for catalogers, managers, and administrators

Iterative Cataloging and Enhancing in the Big Picture

Discuss/encourage more enhancement work and realize that cataloging is an iterative/additive process. This can be true in the local library or in the publication processes or in the large shared database (e.g. OCLC) where it will benefit other users of the records. Highlight and publicize the results and value of the Expert Community project. Spotlight the broader picture of ONIX and vendor records. Show how the iterative process, incorporating external resources, reviewers, publishers, book jackets, social tagging, linked data, etc. in a widely shared database (e.g. OCLC) augments the information and the value.

PCC Participation

Address standard record developments. Discuss criteria for joining BIBCO and how to participate in light of PCC evolving practices for training and participation that will make it easier to join and participate.

Best Practices, Cataloging Norms, and the Economics of Cataloging

Examine why we make the choices we make, balancing and understanding costs of cataloging, addressing patron needs, and cataloging responsibly. The cataloger’s perception of quality is what often is at issue. Address “good enough” and the various “core level” records. Who can edit what needs to be clear. Address the principles, guidelines, and best practices which lead to good decision-making while cataloging.

Editing for Value

Offer workshops or webinars to show what editing is important for the collective and what is necessary for local library management. Consider how to revise workflows to address the enhancements first, and then apply the local policies. Elucidating the difference between tweaking and editing for the purpose of enhancing user access must be made clear. Focus more on the use of the record (FRBR find, identify, and others) rather than on following every rule.

How Can System Software Help Cooperative and Copy Cataloging?

Support discussions with vendors to encourage creation of tools in library system software to assist in the enhancement and sharing process to facilitate cooperative cataloging (export), reduce work (like using LC’s authorities directly), provide statistics, reports., etc. and interfaces that reduce system editing and therefore allow more cataloging.

Identify Redundant Work

Create checklists or other methods to assess and identify a library’s redundancies and ways to share in the cooperative effort. Develop worksheets or questionnaires to assist libraries in evaluating or assessing their own workflows to identify redundancies and develop better workflows to increase enhancement of records or original cataloging. Identify ways to ensure that all staff, professional and paraprofessional, are performing at their appropriate level of expertise, that professionals and well-trained paraprofessionals are performing enhancements and original cataloging as circumstances permit, while other appropriate levels of staff are handling more routine work.

Our Conclusion: Unequal Sharing

Not all catalogers have equal opportunity to enhance copy or to create original records. Depending on the breadth and depth of a library’s collections, the degree of time spent on original cataloging or enhancing of copy (vs. copy-cataloging) will vary. The goal would be to see library administrators attach greater priority to such activities over copy-cataloging. Contributions of cataloging from libraries to the cooperative whole should be in proportion to the size and depth of their collections. Materials in foreign languages, special formats, special subject areas, local or regional history are all good candidates for priority cataloging. Addressing and achieving success in improving cooperative cataloging is an opportunity for catalogers to pool their collective knowledge and experience and be heard as a community.

Link Related to the Report

Study of the North American MARC Records Marketplace