In 2010 whilst studying at Edith Cowan University I completed two units on the theory and techniques of organising information resources for retrieval. These units, like ETL 505, included descriptive cataloguing and subject analysis, particularly the use of classification schemes, subject headings and the roles of bibliographic utilities and metadata. I received high distinctions for these units (95 and 91), so luckily I had some background knowledge before beginning this unit.
The information landscape in the digital era changes at an exponential rate and I was faced with learning Resource Description and Access (RDA). Judy O’Connell was adamant that I complete this unit when I enrolled at CSU even though I had completed the other cataloguing units. I now understand why.
Learning the fundamentals of, and theory behind RDA has been challenging, enjoyable and invaluable in keeping me up-to-date with current trends in information resource description. Many school libraries import their catalogue records from SCIS (Z39.50 access), as does my own K-12 library, so many Teacher Librarians may not be creating metadata themselves on a regular basis. Do librarians understand the subject headings in their library catalogues if they are not creating their own metadata? I also believe to truly catalogue well we need the actual resource in our hands. Even if we import records we must ensure the subject headings will meet the needs of our own users and make changes if need be to ensure full utilization of the resource.
In learning RDA I have been reminded of Cutter’s assertion that the most important subject cataloguing principle is the consideration of the best interests of the catalogue user (Drabenstott, Simcox and Williams, 1999). The implementation of RDA is designed to help libraries transition to the technological capabilities available via the Internet, provide a more rewarding search experience through the use of Functional Requirements for Bibliographical Records (FRBR) and Functional Requirements for Authority Records (FRAD), and will work with Machine Readable Cataloguing Records (MARC) records during this transition (O’Connell, 2013).
This unit has reiterated the realization of the need for teacher librarians to be fully conversant with the information seeking needs of our patrons. No matter how much money libraries spend on digital and print resources, it will be wasted if our users cannot access these resources with relative ease. They will turn to the internet.
It is imperative that libraries remain relevant in today’s digital society. A significant challenge for libraries is the lack of standardization and protocols for effective interoperability between data (Hubbard, 2013). I am excited about the evolving changes and believe we need the next generation of library catalogues which will empower users to tag, rate, or review items as well share lists of items much like social networking sites (Hubbard, 2013).
One of the best things about this unit has been gaining a much deeper understanding of Schools Cataloguing Information Service (SCIS). I attended a SCIS one day workshop one week prior to the commencement of this unit and it opened my eyes to the value of the Subject Headings and Authority Files, not only in cataloguing but as a selection tool as well. Hider and Freeman (2009) carried out a comparison of Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT) and Schools Catalogue Information Service Subject Headings (SCISSH) to evaluate the effectiveness of these the two controlled vocabularies in quantitative terms. The results indicate they are effective to similar degrees though the cost of maintaining or downloading both vocabularies is prohibitive and one may replace the other. The authors make an important note. No matter what vocabularies are used and no matter how much retrieval systems are improved, there remains the basic need for information literacy education (Hider & Freeman, 2009).
The biggest lesson: “The convenience of the library user is always to be set before the ease of the cataloguer.”
David Allan Hubbard Library. (n.d.). xt-Generation Library Catalogs: a resource guide. Retrieved from http://infoguides.fuller.edu/print_content.php?pid=151747&sid=1560806
Drabenstott, Karen M, Simcox, Schelle, & Williams, Marie. (1999). Do librarians understand the subject headings in library catalogs? Reference & User Services Quarterly, 38(4), 369–387.
Hider, P., & Freeman, A. (2009). A comparison of ScOT and SCISSH as subject retrieval aids in school library catalogues. Access, 23(4), 14–22.
O’Connell, J. (2013). RDA for school libraries: the next generation in cataloguing. Access, 27(3), 4–6.