Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Cataloguing Electronic Sources

Jackie Hwang, Team Leader, Bibliographic Services, surveys progress so far at Information Services, University of Birmingham.

We began looking seriously at cataloguing electronic journals early this year. We already had full listings of the e-journals accessible to our users on our Web Information Services Guide, from which readers could click to the text, but we wished to improve on this by offering access via our Web OPAC. We identified a number of questions immediately: how to decide what to catalogue, out of the fast-increasing numbers of journals accessible to our users, how to create the cataloguer time necessary to do the work, how to ensure that the work was done to the correct standards, what terms we should use locally on catalogue notes to explain the nature and location of the material being catalogued, and what we should be doing to ensure that material we had carefully catalogued at one url was still there some time later. Some of these questions were more easily answered than others.

Screen shot of University of Birmingham's Information Services Gateway

Membership of the OCLC Intercat email list had been invaluable in the preceding months, enabling me to see what problems cataloguers already dealing with this type of material were encountering. Nancy B. Olson’s Cataloguing internet resources: a manual and practical guide (OCLC, 1995) was easily available through the list, and frequently quoted by contributors to it. As Talis users, we would also be contributing records to BLCMP’s database, so the other obvious route to producing acceptable catalogue records was to consult BLCMP about their preferences and standards. We were soon using the documentation supplied by BLCMP to construct a prototype record.

Decisions about what to catalogue have still to be finalised, but it seemed reasonable to begin with material for which we are actually paying. At this point, the question of how to find cataloguer time became particularly difficult to answer. We are addressing it by reorganising the allocation of work amongst cataloguers and information assistants. Three small teams, with staff from each grade, will now be tackling monographs, serials, electronic sources, and other formats in their subject areas, whereas previously all serials work would have been the responsibility of the serials cataloguer. Clearly, there are increased training requirements here, but the long term gain of being able to share this work amongst a larger number of staff will outweigh them. The majority of cataloguers also wanted the opportunity to work with the new formats, for interest’s sake and for their professional development.

We have both Web and telnet versions of OPAC available to users at present. Users of the Web OPAC are able to click straight to the journal from the catalogue record. The same record displaying on the telnet OPAC shows Electronic Journal as the location of the title, and carries a note explaining how to access it.

We shall have to address the question of monitoring the continued accessibility of material at urls given in our catalogue records, when we extend cataloguing to material other than that purchased. That is no longer the final question: since we began looking at this fast-developing area, new topics for discussion have inevitably appeared, such as the recent debate about e-journal nomenclature.

We also have a project team looking urgently at the provision of metadata to access other types of electronic sources. During the first stage, we are simply using the Dublin Core format experimentally on some internally produced documents. Similar questions to those above have to be addressed, but we see this area as one which will become increasingly important over the next twelve months.

Author details

Mrs J.R.Hwang
Team Leader, Bibliographic Services
Information Services
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT. W. Mids.
Tel: 0121-414 5814
email: j.r.hwang@bham.ac.uk