Cataloging Log, Earthdate 1/26/10

     This post continues my Day in the Life of a Library wiki contribution.

     So the morning starts out with my alarm going off at 5:15 in the morning. As I suspect many people go through, I struggle to wake myself up. Sometimes I hit the snooze, sometimes I manage to sit up for a bit. I can tell you that a warm bed with cats snoozing doesn’t help matters. The rest of the morning is the usual routine. I get up and go to my study/room down the hall, turn on lights to help myself wake up, check the weather, pick out clothes from the closet, etc. Then it’s downstairs to put together my breakfast, lunch, and snacks to see me through the day. If I’m lucky I’m finished by 6 am. Then it’s down to the car and off to work.

     I drive several miles, part back road part highway, to go to a MARTA train station. Today traffic was the usual with the same old spots where traffic builds up. The only thing different than usual was me noting on the back roads how a driver a few cars ahead of me insisted on blaring their horn once the light turned green at two lights we stopped at in a row. It’s things like this that makes me ponder that whole ‘southern hospitality’ thing. (I’m not a native of GA, I grew up in CT.)

     When I arrive at the station I notice I just missed a train headed downtown. No matter, I sit in my warm car and listen to the satellite radio I have. They’re discussing a book that was just released called “Healing Hearts: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon” by Kathy Magliato M.D.Trying to time my departure from the car right, I wait and watch the clock on the dash. Finally I semi-reluctantly get out, it was a good chat with the author, and make my way to the entrance.Fortunately my timing was perfect as not even a minute passed after I got to the platform that I saw the next train was arriving. (The platform is open to the air and elements, so you’re exposed to wind, sometimes rain, chilly weather, etc. It’s covered, but not protected on the sides.) So I get on, find a seat, and wait until the train gets to the station I need to get off at. As the train nears that stop for work I notice I’m early for work, definitely a nice surprise. Then it’s de-boarding, going up some stairs and exiting. It’s a walk across 3 streets until I reach the area of my workplace.

     After finally working my way into the building, on the right floor, and to my desk, I put down my things, turn on the PC and various electronics, and unlock storage areas. As my computer boots up I take my small book truck and go to the other book trucks of new book arrivals and load a shelf of books onto my truck. Then it’s carting it back to the desk, logging in, getting my breakfast together, and reading emails.

     Once as the morning routine is done cataloging begins. I take the first book off the truck and search for the title on the software called Voyager. The record that contains information about the book loads up. I confirm things like date, if it has an index, a bibliography, images (and what kind), etc. Then it’s going through double-checking the rest of the info is correct, like title, author(s)/editor(s), publication, pagination, good call number, etc. As stated before I fix minor changes, like correcting the pages, adding a place of publication that was missed, etc.

     The bunch of books I get actually goes fairly well. Most of the books have a 050 00 field call number. That means the call number was assigned my the Library of Congress (DLC initials on the top of the record.) This is good as we automatically accept these call numbers without having to double-check them. There are a few 050 field and 090 field call numbers that are assigned by another library, these I temporarily put aside. Books without call numbers but have subjects get put in another pile. Books that don’t have a full record, like just the title and author and publisher, get put aside in a third. The three piles are placed on my right. The farther the stack is away from me, the poorer the record is. So to clarify, I have one stack of 050 and 090 field books (non DLC), one stack of books without call numbers, and one without call numbers and subjects (or incorrect records).

     Near the end of the books I picked up I notice a problem right away. Some of the pages at the beginning are damaged. The first three or so were ripped at the top, bend backward a bit, and glued to the back of the cover of the hardcover book. The next few pages all have rips on the top. Damaged books call for a walk to Collection Development to ask them if they believe the book should be returned, or is it worthwhile to repair. In this case I was told that most likely it would be returned for a better copy.

     This is one of the things I have to watch out for as I catalog, the literal physical condition of the book. Even a newly arrived book may have rips in the pages, pages still stuck/bound together at the edges, pages that are upside down, bad printing jobs, pages out-of-order/sequence, extra pages that should have been bound in the next copy of the book, an upside down cover, etc. All of these I have seen myself during my career as a cataloger. Sometimes it’s just a shaking of the head and wondering how some of these mistakes got by inspection.

     Once I am done cataloging the DLC book records, I work on my piles. I start with the one nearest to me. I load up OCLC software and look for newer records on-line. Sometimes I’m lucky and a former book not cataloged by the Library of Congress now has been and has their call number. I download the record to an export file that will be used with Voyager, and place the book nearest to my left. Any books that do not have updated records go in a pile to the left of that. (Again books with poorer records are placed further away from me.) If a book still has a very minimal record, just title and author and publisher, I write a note on a sticky and place it on the book. These books go to my boss for complete cataloging.

     After that’s done I log off OCLC and begin working on the pile nearest to me. I return to Voyager, input the new record, and overlay it onto the old record. Again I do the usual verification of the information. If the call number is 050 00 I do not need to worry about checking it. Anything else and I have to verify the call number. I have to make sure the call number location matches the subject heading(s). Then I have to look up the call number in our local catalog. I make sure no other book has the same call number, and that the book falls at the right spot. (If the book call number is cuttered by the author, I have to make sure the authors are in alphabetical order in that area of the shelf.) Some tweaking/adding of the cutter is sometimes required to make the book fall into the correct place.

     Sometimes the call number and subject headings don’t match. Then it’s a matter of looking up the subject heading and seeing what call numbers are usually used for that subject. I find the one best suited to the book and add (or change) a 090 field with the corrected call number.

     Again that’s basically the gist and structure of my day at work. Looking up records, correcting them, cataloging them, adding holdings, adding bar codes, etc.

     By the time I get home it’s 12 hours after I left, thanks to my long commute. Then it’s unwinding, getting dinner, and of course writing this up.

     I think I’ll end this entry here. It’s getting late for me after all.