Catalogers: the invisible librarians

You see their work, but when you go to the library you don’t see them. Or if you do, you can’t distinguish them from patrons like you unless you know them personally. Catalogers. I have been haunting libraries for as long as I can remember. Especially after I got to graduate school, I became very sophisticated in my ability to use the card catalog. (That should date me.) I was ABD (all but dissertation in completing a doctorate) when I got my first job working in a library. It was there that I learned to catalog. Until that moment, it … Continue reading

What else can you do with the online library catalog?

I have written several posts about finding library materials in the catalog, for instance, Online library catalogs: using them despite their imperfections. In fact, the catalog is only one component of what’s called an Integrated Library System (ILS). The acquisitions and circulation databases are among its other components. By the way, I have avoided using library initialisms and acronyms in this blog, because it’s not aimed at the people most likely to understand them. Apparently at least one library shares them with its patrons. OPAC means Online Public Access Catalog. It’s part of the ILS. Now you know some libraryese. … Continue reading

Controlled vocabulary: the key to using a library catalog

Search engines and online library catalogs differ fundamentally. The catalog is a database–a very special kind of database where all names, all subjects, and even some titles have been selected from a controlled vocabulary, or list of authorized headings. You can search a catalog using key words, but that’s not the only way to search, as it is with a search engine. Have you ever used a search engine and wondered what on earth the results have to do with what you were looking for? I remember very well the day (some time before Google) I was cataloging a book … Continue reading

WorldCat: a librarians’ tool the public can use

Libraries of any size probably rely on the various services of a company called OCLC. No one else needs to know anything about most of them, but you may have seen a reference librarian look up something for you on WorldCat. That’s a tool you can use as easily as you use your own  library’s catalog. It’s free and available from your home as well as the library. WorldCat aspires to be a universal library catalog. It hasn’t made it yet, but it shows the holdings of about 27,000 different libraries in more than 170 different countries. Even though it … Continue reading

Finding authors, or rather, names in a library catalog

[ad name=”Google Adsense 728×90″] The most basic information in any record in a library catalog is the title, subject, and author. I have to put author last, because there are several categories of books that, strictly speaking don’t have an author. An anthology has several, compiled by an editor. Other books have a corporate author. That is, one might say on the title page that it’s written by the Red Cross. We all know that a person or group of persons wrote it, but they might not be identified by name anywhere. The author of a book of court cases … Continue reading