Software developer from Harvard's Library Innovation Laboratory, Paul Deschner, writes about the importance of quality cataloging for the development of new library applications.
One of the primary challenges in this work is getting data describing books and periodicals (catalog records) to relate to data from non-library sources, such as data about book talks on YouTube or to NPR broadcasts of author interviews or to archival collections. It’s all about connections in the data. The barer the data, the less describedit is, the more it falls flat.
On the bibliographic side, every new Library of Congress subject heading a cataloger adds to a record creates a rich set of connective possibilities downstream for people like me. Likewise, every uniform title entry inserted into a record allows us to show users of our software another edition of a given work in the context of all its editions — a crucial feature for any discovery service in the library materials space.
No software can create these connections if the underlying data hasn’t been carefully composed into richly structured records, based on solid analysis and comprehensive description. The difference is like that between reading a newspaper consisting of headlines only and reading one which also has accompanying articles. It is dramatic.
I hope in moving forward that we don’t lose sight of the importance of this kind of quality analysis and description.
He goes on to describe the essential contribution that catalogers make to the development team:
At the Law Library, the catalogers are a few hallway steps away, and are as crucial to my being able to create smart software as anyone on my development team. I’ve spent countless hours, regularly throughout the years, with my cataloger colleagues exploring the complexities of MARC data structures, uniform title rulesets, authority record uses, holdings data locations, and much much more. Having them as a co-located resource has been crucial to my being able to get my software written.