Consortial Cataloging: e-Forum Summary

This article was co-written by the e-Forum moderators.

The ALCTS e-Forum “Consortial Cataloging: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Sharing Data” took place February 27–28, 2018 and discussed benefits and challenges of shared cataloging in consortia. Cynthia Romanowski (Governors State University Library) and Natalie Sommerville (Duke University Libraries) facilitated. Over the course of two days and 108 posts, 33 participants contributed their expertise and experience.

Word cloud of e-Forum summary text

The e-Forum launched with a round of introductions from participants across a variety of libraries and consortia. Participants offered background on the types of libraries in each of their consortia and on shared integrated library system (ILS) environments. They began a discussion on editing of MARC records that segued nicely into a discussion about standards for shared cataloging in consortia. While there was much common ground in the use of Resource Description and Access (RDA) and OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards, related documentation at the consortium level varied from robust to limited. For many participants, training for consistency in cataloging and MARC metadata was a topic of interest and generated much discussion. Participants touched on the challenges associated with training, especially in consortia where cataloging is distributed.

Further discussion centered around shared cataloging projects and on assessing the success of shared cataloging. These discussions provided participants with information about how projects could facilitate sharing among catalogers and provide a view of what was or was not working. Participants cited usage data for electronic resources as an indicator of successful cataloging. The first day of the e-forum concluded with a discussion of the benefits of being part of a consortium that shares cataloging. Participants deemed learning from other catalogers and participation in large-scale cooperative cataloging programs, such as the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, beneficial. Benefits for discovery included better record grouping and centralized ingest of record sets.

On the second day of the e-Forum, participants responded to questions about the challenges and membership expectations of working within consortia. The autonomy that libraries possessed created challenges because each member library could have its own policies, training plans, and record input workflows; furthermore, each member library could work at its own pace. Participants mentioned the lack of consistent database maintenance duties as a further challenge. They were complimentary, though, of individual libraries and consortia that stepped in and assumed responsibility for authority control and other activities that improved the metadata.

A question about challenges of working with records provided by vendors elicited an interesting discussion. Challenges identified included:

  • responsibility for validating catalog records and URLs falling to individual libraries even when the consortium loads the records
  • varying quality of vendor-provided record sets
  • challenges with record delivery

One participant noted that vendor record sets for electronic resources created the opportunity for his consortium to load the records directly into the shared discovery system, thus bypassing the need for each library to load the records locally. Finally, participants discussed cases of a member library choosing to opt out of sharing cataloging for certain categories of resources. Though the goal in a consortium is to share resources and cataloging, some consortia omitted records for resources that have license limitations or that are meant only for local patrons to discover and access.

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