Cost Finding

Q. We've been asked to find out if it costs our library more or less than average to catalog a book.  But what is the average cost?

A. There are occasionally articles on evaluating one way to accomplish cataloging vs. another, and these can sometimes be used as a quick means to assess if your library is "in the ballpark."  However, what goes into the costs to be applied to the cataloging process--or any other library process, for that matter--varies from institution to institution depending a wide range of variables, making the comparison of one set of figures with another difficult.  The points of variation include:

  • Are materials acquired from a vendor which either does full processing or which supplies cataloging data to upload to the local catalog?
  • Does the library use a bibliographic utility
  • To what extent is copy cataloging done by library support staff?
  • What is the mix of materials acquired, as trade books are cheaper to catalog than are scholarly materials as there is more likely to be either CIP or full MARC data?
  • Is there central processing, or is each branch on its own?
  • How extensive is the authority control?
  • What are the salaries and benefits that need to be assigned to the process?
  • How is space—and other--overhead assigned?

We’ve collected some of the literature on cost finding on our Professional Tips wiki.  We would welcome additions to this literature, as the question of "how much does it cost to ...?" is a regular one.

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