Cataloging: A Manifesto

This is a long post, and you don’t necessarily need to read it, but you do need to pay attention to these three main points and then decide if you want or need to read the rest of it.  Here are the three main points:

  1. This year I intend to aggressively clean up/standardize/improve our district union catalog.
  2. This post describes the specifics of what I am doing, including some changes to how we catalog and the reasons for those changes.
  3. If you have questions about cataloging or have some new thing you need or want to do, please talk with us before just doing your own weird thing.  We can help you, and a little patience up front can save everyone a lot of time and effort down the line.  (By “us” I mean Cindy Dunn, Cindy Moyle, and/or myself).

Thank you for reading those three points.  And now, I present the Cataloging Manifesto, complete and unabridged, authored by yours truly.



This year I intend to aggressively clean up/standardize/improve our district union catalog.

However, I don’t want to be passive-aggressive about it, so here is an update on the changes that are coming.  Some of these changes are big, some are small.  Some are brand new, and some are things we’ve been talking about for a long time.  Some are things that I do on my end, and some of them are things that you would need to do.  Almost all of these changes are extremely incremental.



If you have searched for anything in the catalog or have tried to add new titles, you’ve probably seen that there is a lot of weird stuff going on out there.  I’ll admit that some of it is even my fault.  However, most of it happened long ago, before many of us were even here.  But I’ve learned the hard way that we have to just let some it slide for now.  Whenever I have started trying to fix any and all mistakes that I come across, the catalog quickly reveals its true nature as a massive black hole that sucks me in and crushes me.   I spend hours and feel I have accomplished nothing.  I’ve researched and toiled at strange, incorrect titles, only to realize they are tied to some obscure, old items at one school that probably should just be weeded from their collection.  I’ve spent hours and hours meticulously copying cataloging information from the National Library of France, only to slowly come to recognize that I am creating titles for books that will not even be circulated, but will sit on the shelf of a single teacher’s classroom in a single school.  Meanwhile, the entries for titles that are used every day by virtually every school sit in confusion.  With the limited time that I have, I’ve realized that a re-ordering of priorities is in order.  There may be some things that I/we (mostly me) will have to let go for a while so that we can focus first on the most commonly used sections of our catalog.

I’ve determined that my first priority for this year is to work through the fiction sections (both elementary and secondary), standardizing series tags and merging duplicate titles, and possibly adding some Lexiles where lacking.  Easy, Nonfiction, and graphic novels would come next, but I’ll underpromise and say that it could take all year just to get the fiction sections in some semblance of order and uniformity.  I hope that’s an underpromise.  Equipment and kits would be third tier on the priority list, and unusual school-specific collections will be prioritized lowest, because I can’t justify giving all my time to one or two schools.

Of course I will continue to catalog your new books that don’t show up in the system. But if your “new books” are 250 titles in Arabic that are going to sit in a teacher’s closet, then we will need to have a talk and find another answer.




Here are the changes/updates to our cataloging standards.  Most are very minor, but there is one big one, which I will list first.


  • Fiction Series – As I started to look in detail on fixing our series, I felt like something was lacking in how we designate them.  I did some research into cataloging and MARC standards for series, looked at what some other school districts are doing (most notably Canyons), and came up with a significant modification to our current method.  This new method will cause series to show up grouped together and in proper order in search results.  It also falls much more closely in line with traditional cataloging standards for parts of series than the awkward hybrid method we have been using the past couple of years.  So, here is the new gold standard for cataloging series in our district.  It essentially involves using the series title as the primary title (245 a tag) and listing the volume number and the title of the individual book in the series in the 245 n and 245 p fields.  Right now, the primary examples of this new gold standard in our catalog can be found if you search the district for author “Abbott, Tony” or author “Ness, Patrick.”  These were my main test cases, and I liked what I saw when I was done with them.  I think it’s very satisfying to see those series lined up in order.


This will begin to be rolled out through the catalog starting now, but it will be a slow, gradual transformation, one series and one author at a time.  I see this as my own project; I figure if I am going to have to touch virtually every fiction title to standardize the series tags anyway, I might as well change them to the best formatting possible.  The above-linked standards sheet does give the details on how to fix the titles to meet these specs so that you at the secondary level who do have editing rights would have the ability to change these as well. But don’t worry about it unless it interests you.  You can just continue to catalog things the old way, and eventually we will get around to modifying them.  When a new title in a series comes out it may be a good opportunity to fix that particular series, and you could email me requesting a new series title to be added/corrected if you wish.  That being said, please don’t send me big long lists of series that need to be fixed. I’m well aware that there are many, many series that need to be fixed; it’s not a matter of ignorance it is just a matter of time and priority.


  • Ebooks – We have modified the Call Number Prefixes sheet to include a new call number prefix – EB. It was brought to our attention by the wise staff of a certain school that not all ebooks are for Kindles, and we need a generic non-brand-specific call number for ebooks.  So EB is the official one. Anything like KIN should be phased out and changed to EB.  This is a change that can be done globally, and is especially easy because there are no actual spine labels to be updated.


Also, Ebooks and audiobooks need to be cataloged under separate title records from the regular book titles, so as not to confuse the holds process and so that their format is clearly defined when a student or teacher searches the catalog.  The material type for these new titles needs to be changed to “Electronic Book” or “Sound Recording (non-musical)” respectively.  In most cases the easiest way to do this is to add an A+ record for the title, save it, and then change its material type to Electronic Book.  If you have any questions about this please contact me before proceeding.


  • Periodicals – For those of you that catalog each issue of a periodical, there should now be just one uniform title* for each magazine.  (In the summer I merged thousands of title records for individual issues of magazines together to accomplish this). These uniform titles are listed as material type “Serial” rather than “Book.”  Individual issues should be added as copies to that one district-wide title, with the issue info added into the copy description fields.  If you cannot find a title for a magazine, contact me and I will create one for it.  Here are the instructions for cataloging magazines – it’s pretty simple and doing it this way keeps the catalog a lot cleaner for everyone.


*The only exception to the periodicals rule is that there are individual titles for each issue of Kids Discover and Zoobooks, and I will continue to make titles for them each month.  If you get a new issue and can’t find a title for it, just email me with the info and I will get it added, just like if you can’t find a book title.


  • Kits – This tends to elementary, but may still apply to secondary in certain situations.  For the sake of uniformity, we are moving towards only having one generic “Kit” title for any given title.  This title would serve for all the many variations of kits that occur at each school, and the specifics on your school’s kit would be noted in the copy descriptions, much like the issue info of a magazine.  For example, if School X has a kit with 6 copies of Green Eggs and Ham, School Y has a kit with 4 copies of Green Eggs and Ham, and School Z has a kit with 2 copies of Green Eggs and Ham and an audio CD of Green Eggs and Ham, all of these various kits would be added as copies to the one and only “Kit” title in the district for Green Eggs and Ham. There will be more on this later.

These instructions and standards that I linked to, along with others, can always be found at under the Librarian Resources menu > Cataloging and Processing page.  ( )


Since I’m avoiding the passive aggressive moves, I expect the same from you.  We all share the catalog and we want to make it work for everyone.  If you disagree with something we are doing with the catalog please let us know your needs and reasoning, and we’ll reconsider it.  If you have a new situation or program coming up in your library, please consult with us before moving forward. We can help you work out a good solution, and if it does require something idiosyncratic for your school we will know about it already and won’t mess with it later when we see it happening. Don’t go rogue with your cataloging; it will end up being a waste of all of our time because when I eventually get around to finding the weird or incorrect stuff that no one has consulted with us about, I will get rid of it.  Far better to just get it right in the first place.


Thanks for your time,


Joshua Whiting
Library Media / Educational Technology
Granite School District
2500 South State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84115

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2 thoughts on “Cataloging: A Manifesto”

  1. Awesome! Thank you Josh for leading us to a cleaner, more user friendly and useful library catalog. This will serve our patrons well.

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