Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Metadata Update #8 - The Cataloguing Calculator

I've promised to share information about commonly used cataloguing tools.  This is the first of several posts that I am going to make on this topic.  The post includes a series of brief exercises to help you explore the different functions and information that can be accessed through the calculator. 
This link is for the cataloguing calculator.  It is found in the Cataloguer’s Desktop but it is also freely available on the web from any internet connection. It’s a tool that I used in my cataloguing class and it might be useful to have for those times when you want to quickly cook up a Cutter Number or country code and you don’t want to pull out your cheat sheets:

Here’s a few things that you can do to get orientated to using the calculator:

1.       Suppose you want to cook up a Cutter Number.  Click the LC Cutter search option then start typing the last name, title, etc (except location)you are Cuttering for and notice the amazing Cutter Number appear at the top of the screen.  The more letters you type, the longer the number it will calculate.  So, just type in as many letters as you need.  Of course, you’ll need to tweak some of the numbers but at least you’ll have a starting point.
2.       Suppose you need to Cutter for a location or maybe you wonder about cutting for location:  Type Saskatchewan or Alberta or China, etc. and click the “Geog. Cutter” button.  You’ll see the Cutter you should use for that location.  Another neat thing is that there are also cross references for some locations.  I use this quite a bit when the instructions in Classification Web give a cutter range for geographical location.
3.       Speaking of China, while “China” is still in the “find it” box, try clicking the Geog. Area Codes box and you will see a list of both cross references and codes for the various acceptable geographic area codes in use for China.  Try the same for Canada.  Likely you’ll recognize more than a few of those codes.  I don’t know if I’ve seen n-cnp—used very much!
4.       Now try searching Canada in the “country codes” (what a surprise!  I think that we have a lot of discontinued codes in the catalogue!)  Try other countries too. 
5.       Next, click the “language codes” button and search for English.  We know the “eng” but what about the other versions of English?  I don’t think that I’ve ever seen them.  Try some other languages.  You may notice that a lot of language tags have been discontinued.
6.       Next click “AACR2 abbreviations”.  While we are moving to RDA, keep in mind that we will still need to use AACR2 sometimes so this may continue to be a useful tool – especially as we use AACR2 less often.  Try typing in some common descriptive terms such as “folio” or even just “fol”, “page”, “illust”. 
7.       Next, click on the “MARC Var. Fields”.  This one can be very useful!  Suppose that you want to look up uniform titles.  Type “uniform” into the “find it” box and see what you get.  Notice all of the different options for uniform title.  Maybe you have never seen a 630 uniform title and want to read up on it.  Click on that line and a window will popup.  You can read OCLC’s technical information about that field.  I actually prefer LC’s MARC standard website but this one gives you the basic information you need to know.  In my next message I’ll introduce you to the LC MARC standard website in case you haven’t used it before.
8.       Now have a look at the field codes along the bottom of the screen. By default, this section displays the fixed field codes that are used for books.  You may not need to use or look up these codes very often but maybe you are curious about what they mean.  If you click, for example, “Ills:”, you will see that this field is for recording illustration information and the window shows you all the details about the information this field can contain.  You can try searching for other types of materials using the drop down menu labeled “enter fixed field below”.  Select “musical recordings”.  Notice that the selection of field codes changes.  Click the “comp” code.  Notice all of the different musical types that can be encoded.  If you are disoriented by these fixed field codes, keep in mind that these are codes which are typically used in fields such as the Leader, 006 or 008.  Can you imagine what sort of amazing records and searching ability if this aspect of MARC records was used to its potential.
Playing with the Cataloguing Calculator and learning more about how it might be useful reminded me of just how much information can be encoded in a MARC records and all of the different ways that the same information can be expressed.  Of course, our ILS is not programmed and/or configured to read and use all of the information or metadata that can possibly be encoded.  Even so, with the introduction of new types of software that use our records such as USearch, we keep finding out about new and interesting ways in which the existing content of MARC records can be used.  We have also been learning that if we don’t understand how the encoding of MARC records works and make poor choices about what is important or not important, the new software may not work very well.  Programmers generally assume that the MARC standard (or another relevant standard) has been applied and followed.  Searching, displaying information and recognizing duplicate records are examples of the types of things that may not work well in the new systems if there are problems with the underlying metadata.  So, taking the opportunities to learn about the standards we use, even if it is just a little snippet here and there, should be helpful in the long run.  I must be in the right job because I find this stuff fascinating.