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Where Working Groups Break Down

Carleton and St Olaf share a catalog, so there are several working groups between the two schools designed to make this collaboration possible. I’ve been on the Public Access Working Group (which oversees the function and appearance of the catalog itself), and there are various other groups (Cataloging, Serials, Gov Docs, Etc.) that work to keep the two schools in sync as much as possible. And generally these divisions make sense. We either know what falls under our general purviews, or we know which other groups we need to work with to get a particular project done. My group, for example, often has occasion to work with the serials group and the cataloging group, since the catalog interface is fairly directly influenced by those two groups.

But every once in a while, these divisions are a little bit vexing. And no, it’s not when there’s a major issue that cuts across all of our areas of interest. That’s easy to solve: just call a mass meeting and make sure that representatives from each group are there. No, what’s vexing is when there’s a little problem, a little change, that could fall equally under the domains of half a dozen working groups. It seems like overkill to call a mass meeting, but lots of people need to know about the changes, and no one group is guaranteed to have a complete grasp on the issue.

Such is the case with a MARC field that was recently brought to my attention. It’s the 035 field, and we sometimes need it for gov docs so that MARCive records get overlaid properly. But apparently it’s recently been reassigned by the people who assign fields in MARC, so now [See comments for clarification] It’s a “system number” full of what looks to me like gobbledygook. So, already this affects the gov docs group and the cataloging group, right? Well, in our case it also affects the Public Access group because the 035 field is set to display with the label “Gov Doc #” in our catalog. (See the bottom of this record, for example, or this record for a government document.) Each group thinks it’s somebody else’s issue, so none of us are thinking about it, but it’s such a teensy little problem it doesn’t seem worth the effort of organizing a meeting of all three groups. And the catalogers who are actually working with the problem didn’t really know who to talk to about it in the first place.

It’s it funny how it’s so easy to collaborate on the big issues, and so thorny to try it with the little ones?

6 thoughts on “Where Working Groups Break Down

  1. Actually, field 035 has always been “System Control Number”–at least since the early 1980s, and I’m pretty sure since it was defined.

    Yes, records created by GPO contain (DGPO) followed by the GPO number in 035–because that’s GPO’s System Control Number. But that’s not the definition of the field, and as far as I know it never has been. MARBI is VERY careful about maintaining backward compatibility…

  2. That’s entirely possible, Walt. I may have misunderstood the cataloger-speak I was hearing. Perhaps what they meant is that out catalogers are using the field differently now? Who knows. I suppose I should brush up on my MARC a little.

  3. You might investigate why the 035 is being displayed as a “Gov Doc number” anyway. Many years ago the GPO number appearing here matched the entry number in the printed Monthly Catalog, but that stopped being the case in the early 1990s, and the printed MoCat is no more, anyway. The 035 is a repeatable field meant to contain control numbers.

  4. I served as chair of our consortium-wide cataloging committee (straight out of grad school, first cataloging job, because no one else volunteered) for two years, and the thing I still remember about that work is how many little exceptions to standard practice blew up into huge, complicated, swampy problems when there were more than 15 libraries with their own individual little exceptions that conflicted with everyone else’s little exceptions.

    And NO ONE ever thinks that it’s THEIR problem. :)

    You have all my sympathy. Cooperative systems have a lot of benefit, but they’re hard work.

  5. 15 libraries!!! Yikes. I enjoy having no more than 2 libraries working on a single catalog. And two libraries that are only 3 miles apart, at that. And until this fall, we’ve shared a single phone system. And even so… stupid 035 field…

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