I haven’t posted here much lately. School is in session and I’m still holding down an information literacy internship that amounts to 15-20 hours a week of work, so I’m a busy little bee. My apologies for that.
I’ve got a MARC story to tell. Yes, I can hear the pitched groans out there. Anyway, at one point at work today I had to figure out roughly how many e-books our library subscribes to. All I needed was a general figure to paste into a flyer to promote the growing e-book collection, but this question posed a dilemma that required four other staff members to wrap their heads around. After speaking to our database management librarian, our systems librarian, as well as the two tech services staff who really are the experts and daily managers of the e-books as they exist in the collection, we still didn’t have a solid answer. Although we could all go into our own records and tally up the numbers, it would have been nice if the catalogue could spit out a number for us.
The problem is that, like so many other organizations, our catalogue was not designed to properly account for e-books. We can list the e-book’s format as a book and as an Internet resource in two different (but not mutually exclusive fields), and we can flag the item as an electronic resource in the 245 field under the GMD. And like so many other libraries, we also choose to list an e-book in the 655 genre/form field.
So, there are several ways for us to mark the e-book in MARC. However, without a chance to mark the simple format field as an e-book in our catalogue, it has become difficult to query the database to see exactly how many items we subscribe to at the moment. We can limit our queries to “electronic resource” in the title field to access the GMD, but this also calls up items with those words anywhere in the 245; limiting the query in a similar manner under the 655 field isn’t so great either because it then calls up many digital gov.doc serials that are also entered in the catalogue with this field
At any rate, an answer has been found. When I left work this afternoon, some of the staff were performing a common command line search to figure out the answer to the question I was wondering at 830 in the morning. I did feel bad for asking the question, since it created a little bit of work, but it was nice to see that people with the know-how on this one where up to the challenge and were determined to come to a answer by hook or crook.
It’s this sort of work that has really made me come to respect cataloguing and database management. It’s one thing to know MARC codes and indicators like the back of your hand, but it’s another to understand the reasons why certain items are flagged the way they are and what the ramifications are in the present-day and into the future. I don’t think my question, as it was posed, is going to force a major re-think of how e-books are catalogued at the library, but it was interesting to see the organization of information truly come into play on this one.