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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Cataloger

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 15, 2017


With the new state budget in place July 1, I was relieved that the Public Library Fund, which provides operating expenses for the 251 public library districts in Ohio was basically stable from the past budget year.


The PLF was less than 2016-2017, but more than 2014-2015.  Like other agencies with state funding, we now move forward two years until the next state budget is developed for 2020-2021.


Amid all the financial flurry in Columbus, the budget for the State Library of Ohio was advertised as “funded” at similar levels, but the reality was different.


The State Library of Ohio budget consists of 7 categories, as well as federal funds for Ohio within the Library Services and Technology Act.


Actually, 5 of those categories were the same as 2016-2017, and 2 categories were reduced by 14 percent.


Operating expenses was a reduced category, and I know that the State Library of Ohio staff has been reduced by 55 percent over the past 15 years so I couldn’t imagine what would now be reduced.


On Sept. 5, the State Library of Ohio released their plan to address the reduced operating expenses with the usual reduction in supplies and various expenses.  7 unfilled staff positions were eliminated, and 5 current staff positions would be eliminated.


My eye caught the position of “Cataloger – SEO Library Center,” a position that immediately impacts our local library system.


The other 4 positions will also affect libraries statewide, but the Cataloger would mean that something would happen at the Computer Center that our library system; and 92 others in Ohio use for basic operations.


When we add a book, DVD, book on CD, magazine, or whatever to the system; there must be an electronic record to link the item to in the system.


Most of those are downloaded from OCLC, Inc. in Columbus, but there are items needing “original cataloging” as well as lots of editing, merging, and corrections that are a tedious task --- and much of that was done at SEO by that Cataloger.


Individual libraries would have to take over that job somehow.  Wow, a cataloger is a kind of “lost art” as library school graduates today do web pages, and databases, and all that electronic stuff.

I wondered what our library would do for cataloging --- and remembered that I had studied cataloging in 1976 and sat in a classroom with Royal typewriters especially made for library cataloging counting out loud with 20 other future librarians the number of spaces between parts of the “record.”


I have also always had a cataloging account in the computer system, and can barcode and merge with the best-of-them --- and yes, the call came from SEO that my account had been upgraded and several sheets of instructions were attached.


The terminology was a bit different from the early days, “add a brief title wizard,” “modify a title wizard in the bib record and MARC field while editing the subfield.”


Actually the format of a cataloging record in 1976 is still the same in 2017 except now everything is, of course, in electronic format.


You know that in 1976 I could change the ribbon on one of those special Royal cataloging typewriters in less than a minute!


Anyway, so far I have edited one GMD for a Playaway unit, and after a second edit I looked just great.  (first time there was a floating “h” in the record somehow)


I also did an original record for an item that had no record --- and well, I can’t locate the record in the system except by keyword, so I guess that will need some instruction from a trainer.


You know that this is all so you at home or in your office or however and wherever you access our library catalog you can find the item in our collection.


I am sure that during deliberations of the Ohio House and Senate Finance Committee, they didn’t know how the funding of the State Library of Ohio budget would impact the Director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.