Differences of opinion

Catalogers do not always agree. Frankly, much of the time we don’t agree. But that’s what cataloger’s judgment is all about. Three people can see at least 5 different ways to catalog the same thing. We all work in different environments and while we all ultimately have the same goal to make things findable for our users, our users are often very diverse and different, so we catalog things in different ways to accommodate that. Variety in local practices can be astounding, but exist to serve a specific set of users’ needs. What the users of an art library need will be very different than a set of elementary school students, which will be different still from undergraduates, who are different than researchers, etc. You get the idea.

This is where the “play nice with each other’s records” clause comes into the guidelines for cataloging in a shared utility environment. Unless it’s flat out wrong, you don’t change it. Edit your records locally (by all means!), but do not edit the record in the big shared database. Local practice is just that, LOCAL. And just because you don’t like the way someone phrases their notes is not a reason to change it, even if you’re editing something else in that record. You only change it in the shared database when it’s wrong/outdated or you are adding new/additional information. Additionally, you don’t delete things that aren’t wrong, even if they are from previous cataloging rules and no longer part of our most recent set of rules (which, by the way, are going to be changing again in the next few years). They aren’t “wrong,” just no longer used. So leave it alone, I don’t care if you don’t like it or it looks “ugly.” Play nice, people, and edit locally to your heart’s content.

These differences of opinion can become a problem when one cataloger is the reviewer of another cataloger’s work. It can become a serious issue when the cataloger and their reviewer don’t agree on things like note phrasing. Some of the differences of opinion are downright pedantic. My institution uses *this* phrasing but their institution uses *that* phrasing. Both options are correct because it’s a free-text NOTE field, people! Yes, there are guidelines for notes, and books of example phrasing, but even within such guides and books there is stunning variation.

So why oh why do I have to phrase my note the way you want me to? Oh yeah, you’re reviewing my records. And until I phrase things the way you want them phrased, I’m doomed to continue to having my records reviewed. Never mind that as soon as you turn me loose I’m probably going to phrase my notes the way I see fit. And that’s OK, because both of us are correct.

Don’t you just love cataloger’s judgment?


About slmcdanold

I’m learning to laugh at myself on a daily basis. I’m a librarian (cataloger) and I love it. My job involves all things metadata related in any and all formats. I have been known to cause a ruckus when necessary (aka troublesome cataloger) and make no apologies for it. I have a passion for continuing education and teaching. I’m a newbie coder (still learning). I like to cook. I’m a fan of rugby (go Australian Wallabies!) and ice hockey (go Detroit Red Wings!). I’m car-free and bike/walk a lot. I’m learning to love running one stride at a time. I own (and love) a very mouthy cat with a punk attitude and a slightly neurotic rescue mutt.
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