Tuesday, October 30, 2007

E-journal cataloging redux

I am struggling with how to handle the workload of cataloging our e-journals in a logical way. From what I can tell from my experience and from reading whatever I can find, there are three approaches being used:

1. Put all of them in the catalog. Make your catalog the "go-to" place for all titles. This usually entails loading batches of marc records for the titles included in aggregator databases. These batches are regularly deleted and reloaded to account for changes in coverage. Depending on the system, service, and setup, there could be multiple records for each title (one for every database where the title can be found) or they could be merged so that there is only one record for each e-title, with holdings for each database.

2. Don't catalog them at all. Rely on your A-Z list, link resolver, and/or other tools to provide access to e-journals.

3. Catalog some of them, but not all. This is what we have been doing. The rationale behind it was that we would catalog titles to which we had a real "subscription" but we would not try to include all the titles in aggregator databases.

Up to now, this has sort of worked. I loaded our print titles into our A-Z list (through Serials Solutions), and we promoted this as the most complete place to go for journals. In the catalog, we used the single-record approach, and put electronic holdings on print titles where we had e-access. The display for this is fairly clear. If a title was online-only, then we would enter a record for the electronic version. I had some basic edits I did for a title in multiple formats, including adding a 246 for the title with (Online) after it so that it would show up in a browse list.

However, when we entered into a shared catalog, I began pushing for the use of separate records, because it became obvious that we could not share hybrid records if we didn't have both versions, and because of other concerns. I pushed for this knowing that I would have to change all the ones we had already done. Eventually the shared catalog administrator made the decision to go with separate records. I have not gotten all of mine changed yet.

In the meantime, other things began happening. I fell way behind in activations of "free" online access and even where we paid for print + online, I had trouble matching what Ebso said we were supposed to have with what was really available when I went to the publisher's site. Then this past summer, we entered into some "big deal" arrangements with a consortium where we agree to maintain our current subscriptions, pay an additional modest fee, and get access to all the titles in the whole package. So do I have to catalog all of those titles? We don't really have "subscriptions" to them. Then another journal collection started adding "free" titles along with the ones we actually subscribed to. Do I add them?

Then a reference librarian asked me about a title he couldn't find in the journal list, but that was in our catalog. It turns out he got to it using an alternate title. The A-Z list does not have added entries or cross-references. (Yes, catalog records do add value.)

So now I'm in a quandary. Why should some titles have catalog records and some not? Where is the cutoff line? How can I keep up? What should be our approach?

Besides providing access for users, we use the ILS for our record-keeping: our payments, stats, department codes-- all that management data that we put in there to take advantage of such a robust and powerful (and expensive) database system. If I abandoned this and just used an ERM, I would have to duplicate everything.

I found this article recently: "Single, Separate, or Something in between: Results of a Survey on Representing Electronic Serials in the Catalog" by Abigail C. Bordeaux.
It's available on her blog at http://abigailbordeaux.net/ where she says it is in press at Journal of Internet Cataloging, modified on March 6, 2007. She focused on the single vs. separate records issue, but she did touch upon alternatives to cataloging.

One commonality among a variety of respondents was recognition that, no matter how electronic serials are cataloged, many patrons are not using the catalog in any case. As one serialist wrote, “We are beginning to accept that the OPAC is no longer the center of the universe. Most patrons access ejournals via our A-Z list or Google Scholar.”
This post is less than concise, but I'm getting my thoughts in order to post a question on this to some of the discussion lists I subscribe to. I think I need some advice.

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