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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Book review : "Practical Cataloguing" by Welsh and Batley


The following review appears in the CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections Group newsletter, issue 94, along with many other book reviews collected together in a 'reviews special'. It can be found at http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/special-interest-groups/rare-books/Pages/default.aspx .

Anne Welsh and Sue Batley, Practical Cataloguing: AACR, RDA and MARC 21. London: Facet Publishing, 2012. 217 p., illus. ISBN 9781856046954. £44.95. pbk.

Libraries have been cataloguing with AACR for over thirty years and with MARC since the 1950s. Although this is still very much the norm, RDA is on the horizon and things look set to change.  Anne Welsh and Sue Batley did not set themselves an easy task when they chose to write a practical guide to cataloguing in this time of flux, although it was sorely needed with Bowman’s Essential Cataloguing last published in 2005 and with no mention of the new standard. The immediate reaction to this project was to question the point of writing a book which looks as though it may be out of date before long. But as we all know, things move slowly in library world and we may find ourselves cataloguing in an RDA / MARC hybrid for a few years to come.

Happily they have succeeded in putting the practicality into Practical Cataloguing. It clearly sets out its aims and its place in the cataloguing canon from the word go. They necessarily touch on the theoretical to provide the back story of cataloguing at the beginning, which is helpful to students of librarianship (and also for me, library school seems fairly distant now).  This is revisited in chapter 4 to place the theory into practical context. It is also useful as a snapshot of the state of things for those cataloguing now, and is perfect starting point for libraries that are beginning to explore what RDA will mean for them.  For those who are new to cataloguing or for those who have been cataloguing for a little while but only have experience of one library and their own house rules, the ‘Practice Notes’ scattered throughout the book provide a handy and reassuring insight into the wider state of things.

I should have liked to see a couple of extra things which may have been useful in a reference book.  A glossary may have been welcome, especially for students of librarianship.  From the perspective of cataloguers within libraries that are thinking about their move to RDA, some examples of RDA standard data formatted into MARC 21 records could have been useful. However, this is clearly a well thought-out book and doubtlessly there are reasons for the exclusion. It is also possibly a little pricy for students, but understandably, as with all specialist books, this is unavoidable.  From a rare books point of view a note where DCRM(B) supplants AACR2 may have been useful too, but probably only possible in the most perfect of worlds; in a ubiquitous guide to cataloguing this would have been irrelevant to most readers.

However, rare books cataloguing is not forgotten, there is some mention where the practice deviates from other cataloguing and perhaps more importantly states the advice regarding the implementation of RDA, i.e. to continue prioritising DCRM(B) guidelines for now. Anne Welsh explains on her blog that the authors have decided not to create a companion website to track the changes in the cataloguing landscape, however Anne will be charting and discussing them on her blog, which also covers rare book territory more thoroughly.

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