by Shan Martinez
Cataloging items for Special Collections is an adventure. This is because many of the items are indeed, special. They are unique, old, and sometimes in a language that the catalog librarian can not read. Never fear, this is not daunting in the slightest. The challenge begins!
First, the librarian examines the item in hand, and then proceeds through a few logical first steps. If the item is in English she is off to a quick start. Do we already have this item? Search our catalog carefully and compare the bibliographic record with the item. After confirming that we don’t have the item, then the search continues in WorldCat for a record. WorldCat is a database of information about library collections throughout the world. Librarians cooperatively contribute, enhance and share bibliographic data so that they don’t have to create a new record for every item in their library. They can use one that someone else has created and export it into their own catalog. One could search by ISBN. The first ISBN code was created in 1967, nonetheless, some books in the early seventies are missing that number, and some self-published books don’t have one either. When the ISBN is missing, a search by title and author usually leads to a list of records from which the correct record can be found. However, sometimes we find ourselves knee deep in records. Bibles, for example, can be trying. Think about it. The title “Holy Bible” often has a rather lengthy subtitle. For example, “The Holy Bible, authorized or King James version. Containing the Old and New Testament translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised.” The wording of these titles varies from Bible to Bible, but they are still long. Then add to that the many publishers, page numbers, red letter versions, sizes etc. There are a lot of details to check off. Eventually, the librarian will narrow down the best record by verifying and carefully checking all the important descriptors. The call number will be assigned and that Bible is cataloged.