SCIS is more

By Pru Mitchell

Information about SCIS updates, or news of interest to school librarians.

RDA implementation update

Implementation of the new cataloguing standard, Resource Description and Access (RDA), has been delayed until 2015. This means that the GMD and the 260 publication field will continue to be delivered in SCIS records as well as the new RDA fields of content type, media type and carrier type. To understand more about the changes and the difference between transitional SCIS standards and RDA, check our blog post.

If you have further questions about RDA contact SCIS or your library system provider.

Cataloguing item-in-hand or with one hand tied

Play 'guess the subject heading'

From the titles of the following five works guess a) the subject of the resource, b) whether it is fiction or nonfiction, and c) the call number. Then check the answers at the bottom of the page.

  1. Close to the heel, by Norah McClintock
  2. How I met my monster, by R.L. Stine
  3. Pookie Aleera is not my boyfriend, by Steven Herrick
  4. The 1% principle, by Tom O'Neil
  5. Full of life, by Alex Cullen and Alex Hodgkinson

As this exercise highlights, the title of a resource does not always reveal much about the subject matter of that resource. Neither is it entirely obvious whether the resource belongs in fiction or non-fiction.

Why do we catalogue?

If users searching your school library catalogue are going to find, identify, locate and access material they need, it is of the utmost importance that the catalogue records you import into your catalogue are accurate, consistent and tailored to the needs of school students and teachers. If records contain errors it means the resources you have purchased may not be matched to what the learners or teachers require.

Schools are sometimes reluctant to send resources to a SCIS cataloguer and they ask why the resource can't be catalogued from the online form. Cataloguing 'blind', or with one hand tied, can present several types of problems.

What's wrong with cataloguing 'blind'?

SCIS cataloguing standards state that cataloguers should examine the actual resource to identify the relevant subjects, in order to apply correct SCIS subject headings and ScOT terms, and to build the relevant subject and discipline number from the Dewey classification system.

Other situations may also cause problems if we cannot examine the item in hand:

  • Metadata
    Elements provided by staff in a school may not be exactly what is on the resource, and may therefore be incorrect or incomplete. Even if the requesting school sends scanned images of particular parts of the resource, there is still an element of risk.
  • Series
    Inconsistencies in series titles can cause retrieval problems, especially for young readers. Even though the form of the series title may change over time, it is important to be consistent in the way they are set up.
  • Names
    Identification of the correct and consistent form of names is important, to retain clean name authority files and ensure users can retrieve comprehensive results for an author search. Cataloguers need the item to see exactly which name has been used and to check for any notes about the author. The person stated as the 'author' might actually be the editor or compiler.
  • Physical description
    Pagination that is inaccurate or which omits key information limits usefulness. Numbering of plates and the specific type of illustrations may be relevant information, such as maps in geography books.

Keeping our standards

International cataloguing standards rely upon two key tasks:

  1. transcription of critical metadata elements from the resource itself, i.e. we need to use exactly what is on the resource
  2. identification of subject content from the resource itself

These tasks apply to all forms of physical material, such as print titles, video recordings, as well as electronic and digital resources, such as, ebooks, online audio books, websites, computer software and apps.

In order to have optimal effect, these tasks rely upon cataloguing with the item in hand, or the ability to view the resource.

Retrospective corrections

While errors in SCIS records are picked up by vigilant library staff and are corrected in SCIS as soon as they have been reported, this is too late for all those schools who have already downloaded and imported these records into their local catalogue. If a record created from a cataloguing request form is later sent in from a school, and amended when the item is in hand, that double handling is taking cataloguer time away from newer resources that users are waiting for.

Some errors are not picked at all, or they are picked up years down the track.

A fond farewell

After 3.5 years, this will be my final contribution to the 'SCIS is more' page as I move on to a new position as Manager of the Cunningham Library and Information Services at the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) in July. I have very much enjoyed the opportunities to work with people across the school library sector from library staff, education jurisdiction leaders, library system providers, publishers, professional learning organisers and professional associations. Most of all I have been privileged to work with a committed and talented team of SCIS cataloguers, coordinators, system administrators, customer service staff and managers who work at such a high level of quality and service.

* Answers for 'Guess the subject heading':

  1. Fiction about a grandson wanting to know who his grandfather was: travel, murder, and adventure. F MCC
  2. Fiction about a schoolboy starting at a new school: shyness and scary friendships. F STI
  3. Australian verse (poetry) about school kids in a country town telling their stories. A821.3 HER
  4. Nonfiction about self-perception and our attempts to make changes to ensure a fulfilled and successful life: personal improvement and analysis. 158.1 ONE
  5. Videorecording, non-fiction about an unconventional nursing home changing the way we treat those living with Alzheimer's disease/dementia. 362.19683 FUL
Pru Mitchell

Pru Mitchell

Manager, SCIS

Education Services Australia