My biggest priority at the library right now is to catch up on the backlog of items needing original cataloging. Currently we have approximately 15 linear feet of special collections materials, 2.5 linear feet of DVDs, and about 30 linear feet of LPs, scores, and other miscellaneous items. For the time being, I’ve decided to focus on the special collections materials and the DVDs.
I could just brainlessly catalog through the backlog one shelf at a time, but that wouldn’t be a very effective use of my time. So I assessed the situation and decided that work through the special collections materials by the oldest in the backlog (the items sitting on that shelf the longest), and cataloging the newest DVDs first. I determined my plan of backlog attack by weighing time based cataloging priorities – procedure with context.
Let’s look at the DVDs first. The items in this collection are mostly local recordings of guest lecturers and events around campus. Since they’re locally created, all the items require complex original cataloging. There is no copy and each video must be viewed to analyze its subject matter. Most of these recordings were create within the last 5 years, so the students or faculty who would be interested in viewing these items were probably around when the event actually took place. As time passes the memory of that event may fade, so it’s important to provide access to the most recently recorded items and work through the backlog to the oldest.
The opposite is true for the special collections backlog. All of these items were checked for copy in OCLC and no copy was found, so they were set aside for original cataloging. Over the years the backlog grew and grew to its current size. Many of the items have been waiting for cataloging for over 7 or 8 years, perhaps longer. In the years passed since the items were acquired and set aside, there is a very good chance that another local institution could have cataloged that item – providing excellent copy that I can use for my local catalog! So, by working through the “oldest” items in the special collections backlog, I have a higher chance of finding copy and saving myself time in in the long run.
The exception to these procedures is when something from the backlog is specifically requested. All items have provisional records with tombstone information, so they are at least somewhat searchable via the OPAC. If an item is requested by a user, it is treated like a rush and cataloged right away.
By cataloging in context I have a more efficient cataloging workflow, and therefore more a effective catalog for our users. Save the time of the cataloger and save the time of the user!