Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
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Lloyd Sealy Library

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The more the merrier, or less is more?

Catalog records grow longer

From the Fall 2014 newsletter

Have you noticed that some CUNY+ catalog records are long and filled with contents and summary notes about the work, and some records are terse, with the minimal amount of information available? When a user searches CUNY+ looking for a book, the user will eventually click on a title from a list of search results, thus bringing them to the full view of the record of that book.

As a cataloger, I am seeing long records more than I used to as a user. Traditionally, an old printed card catalog that followed the rules of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) usually included the following information: author, title, imprint, physical description, and sometimes a brief note and the Library of Congress subject headings—and the most important element, the call number! All of this information would fit on to an index-sized card and be filed into the drawer.

In the 21st century, hard drives and server spaces are becoming very inexpensive. Libraries no longer worry about a long MARC record taking up too much storage space. Catalogers can supply as much information as possible into a single catalog record, making the information more complete for the user. Now we can add an extended version of the table of contents, and summary notes, such as one from the publisher and one from the book jacket.

The benefit of a long catalog record is the keyword search. When performing a keyword search, the subject, and almost all other fields in the record are searched for the keyword.

My only concern for a long catalog record is, considering the notorious short attention span of the younger generation, how much time would they be willing to spend looking at the long table of contents and summary notes to find what they need?

Jing Si Feng

More from the Fall 2014 newsletter »