SCIS is more

By Renate Beilharz

‘The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) creates high-quality, consistent catalogue records for school libraries.’

The quote above introduces SCIS to all those who use our website. High quality means that we adhere to international cataloguing standards, ensuring SCIS records are compatible with catalogue records around the world. 

Chart showing the process by which changes to the SCIS data entry standards or heading lists are considered

These international cataloguing standards include options and alternatives that allow cataloguing agencies to create records which suit the needs of their users. In the case of SCIS, records are created to meet the needs of a very particular user group, school libraries. SCIS has documented instructions for SCIS cataloguers to ensure that international standards are applied in a consistent manner.

(An accessible version of the above chart is available for those using screen readers)

SCIS standards

How SCIS applies international standards is recorded in the document called SCIS Standards for Cataloguing and Data Entry (SSCDE). SSCDE explains how SCIS cataloguers apply the three international standards:

 SSCDE also outlines the subject vocabularies used by SCIS:

Keeping SCIS Standards up to date

The SSCDE and SCISSHL are constantly reviewed and updated. Any changes to SSCDE (or suggestions for new or changed subject headings) go through a thorough process that ensures all due diligence  is undertaken before any changes are made. The process is overseen by the SCIS Standards Committee (SSC) and incorporates input from key stakeholders.

The change process (see diagram)

  • Working papers detailing and justifying the changes are written by SCIS.
  • Responses to the working papers are sought from cataloguer forums and from the Schools Consultative Group.
  • The SCIS Standards Committee, which meets four times a year, considers the responses. The SSC makes a recommendation to SCIS management on the working paper proposal.
  • SCIS Management undertake final approval and implements any changes to SSCDE and SCISSHL. 
  • End-users are informed of changes to SCISSHL and SSCDE in the Term 1 edition of Connections.

SCIS Schools Consultative Committee

The SCIS Schools Consultative Committee (SSC) was inaugurated in August 2021 and exists to help ensure that SCIS draws from a range of perspectives when updating standards. School library staff from around Australia and New Zealand were selected to join the SSC, ensuring a range of school types are represented. The current 10-member SCC has representatives from government, Catholic and independent schools, covering primary, secondary and F–12 schools across all states in Australia plus New Zealand.

The SSC meets quarterly with an agenda that includes consideration of any working papers, as well as general discussion of  all things SCIS and school libraries. The SCIS Standards Committee has been very appreciative of the thoughtful and helpful feedback the SSC provides to the standards decision-making process. SCIS management is grateful to everyone on the SSC for their input and giving up their time to ensure that SCIS remains relevant.

Changing international cataloguing standards

In December 2020, the Resource Description and Access Toolkit (RDA), the cataloguing standard that underpins most elements  of a SCIS cataloguing record, was adapted and changed to more accurately reflect the latest conceptual model for bibliographic data, IFLA’s Library Reference Model.

A small team of SCIS cataloguers is currently undertaking the mammoth task of mapping SCIS’s existing standards against elements of the ‘new’ RDA Toolkit, with a view to rewriting chapter 2 of the SSCDE. It is envisaged that this will be available to SCIS customers and stakeholders in 2023.  To coincide with this release, SCIS is planning a series of professional learning workshops and webinars on the SCIS Standards and the new RDA Toolkit.

How you can be involved

Schools are invited make suggestions for improvements to the existing SCIS standards and Subject Headings, by emailing your suggestions to [email protected]. Please provide as much detail and justification as possible for your proposed change. This will be considered by SCIS cataloguers, and a working paper prepared if appropriate.

Any other feedback or suggestions on SCIS services and products are also welcome. I hope you enjoy reading all the fascinating articles in this issue of Connections.

Renate Beilharz

Content Manager

Schools Catalogue Information Service

Renate has worked for SCIS since 2018. A qualified teacher librarian, Renate worked in secondary school libraries for 20 years before teaching library and information services at Box Hill TAFE. She is passionate about ensuring that schools receive the quality data needed to empower information discovery for students.