Monthly Archives: June 2013

From union catalog to fusion catalog

The conference “Academic Librarian 3: The Yin-Yang of Future Consortial Collaboration and Competition” was held in Hong Kong at the end of last month. Presentations are now available, and I would like to draw your attention to one presentation about cataloging: “From union catalogue to fusion catalogue: how collaborative cataloguing might be initiated and implemented in the Hong Kong context” (PDF). Due to electronic resources and the accompanying vendor records, the union catalog, with its relatively uniform application of rules and standards, gets transformed into a “fusion catalog” with different cataloging rules and various levels of detail. This observation definitely resonates with what I’m dealing with at work right now, namely the integration of thousands of e-book records for an evidence-based selection model set up by one of the big university libraries we serve. The data comes from OCLC, in MARC (and created with a different set of cataloging rules), is subsequently converted into the German / Austrian format MAB and into the Aleph Sequential Format in order to be loaded into our catalog. They are not the “prettiest” records but this is an efficient method of offering the users a large amount of content in a fast way. One more project that brought the Austrian union catalog closer to a “fusion catalog” is the big digitization undertaking by the Austrian National Library, “Austrian Books Online”, where not only books are scanned but also catalog cards which are then OCRed, automatically transformed into bibliographic records and batch-loaded into the catalog database.

So does this new “fusion catalog” with a blended mix of standards, formats, rules and detail affect the user at all? Or is it all hidden under the discovery layer anyway? Do we still really need and can we maintain the high level of consistency of the union catalog? The conference presentation gives some aspects of the lessons learned during the transition from union to fusion catalog, that is sometimes imperceptible to everyone but catalogers:

“Past:

  • Following uniform cataloguing practices
  • Preferring a high level of consistency in bibliographic records

Present:

  • Bring in vendor records applying different cataloguing rules and various level of completeness
  • Accepting that ‘a minimal record [is more] beneficial to library users than no record at all’

Variations are inevitable

  • The ideal: Conform fully to one single cataloguing standard and to local conventions
  • In reality: different cataloguing data sets are blended together
  • Direct and immediate access to the needed library materials is more important to users than standard cataloguing records

[…]

  • When variations are accepted and catalogers are open to accepting differences in cataloguing practices”

With RDA on the horizon and with the perspective of having legacy data and new data sitting side by side, as well as data created following different RDA policy decisions for alternatives/options and cataloger’s judgments, if consortial and/or global shared cataloging is to continue we will finally have to say goodbye to our rather closed world-view and come to terms with a non-uniform, blended mixture of bibliographic information.