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Anne M. Mitchell and Brian E. Surratt, Cataloging and Organizing Digital Resources: a How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians–ARBA 2006

Cataloging and Organizing Digital Resources: a How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians [DRAFT]

Mitchell, Anne M., and Brian E. Surratt. Cataloging and Organizing Digital Resources: a How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians. New York, Neal-Schuman, 2005. 219p. index. (How-To-Do-It Manuals for Librarians, no.139). $75.00pa. ISBN 1-55570-521-9.

This book is not about how to select and digitize materials. The title does what it states: it gives ideas on how to organize and make accessible digital (and already digitized) resources. And it does it well.

No book of this type could be written without a discussion of the MARC record for continuing resources. Mitchell and Surratt go into great detail to illustrate the different MARC coding in the fixed and variable fields for different types of digital resources: databases, ebooks and online manuscripts, online journals, items “born digital,” i.e. those published only on the Web, items in print which are digitized, and theses. Ironically, print theses are considered unpublished; MARC records for printed theses do not have publisher information recorded. In the electronic environment, however, theses available full-text online are considered published. (The publisher information is recorded in brackets.)

At no time do the authors talk down or take a patronizing tone. They inform and do so with aplomb. Numerous examples of MARC tagging, MARC field definitions and homepages abound. They analyze what affects bibliographic control of digital resources. Numerous examples of different types of information and how to catalog such information is presented in readable (and digestable) form.

My favorite chapter (3) is “Exploring Alternatives to Cataloging.” Why catalog digital resources? Good question. There are other alternatives to entering a full MARC record into a library’s ILS. Constructing full MARC records is time-consuming, as any cataloger knows. Metadata creation is no different. Web lists are an alternative and can be much more visible and flexible. There are also companies, such as Serials Solutions, which provide an indexing and updating service for online materials on a regular basis. The drawback, of course, is that the resources are not available via subject or keyword searching, nor are they in the “one stop” ILS. Federated searching offers another way to find the resources, but some databases are not accessible to these search engines, and duplication can occur in some cases. Any choice of access offers benefits and drawbacks. The important point, the authors argue, is for libraries to adopt a bibliographic strategy with regard to the online resources available through the Web.

Each chapter has a bibliography at the end of it for more information. There is also a good index at the back of the book. The book is well-organized with good illustrations. Unfortunately, books of this type have a short shelf-life. In 2008, a new cataloging standard will be released. As of this writing, the plan is to abandon AACR for something more flexible and adaptable to multiple technological environments. Whether this comes to pass remains to be seen.

Regardless, Cataloging and Organizing Digital Resources is a valuable resource for librarians unfamiliar with the online environment and libraries just beginning to grapple with the problems of making online collections accessible.

REVIEWED BY: Michael W. Handis, Associate Librarian for Collection Management, The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

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