Libraries, books, and information on the frontier

Rare Frontier

Lists, links, and dreams

Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about catalogs, description, lists, and narrative. It seems that some in rare books rooms have come to see library cataloging as somehow distinct from constructing a narrative that places objects under the public eye. Of course, many great catalogers aim to do just this, but for those who don’t understand DCRM(B) type cataloging the work necessarily seems threatening and good curators seek to create additional structures, such as web pages, which duplicate the function of the catalog. Thus, we are often in the situation of DCRM(B) type library cataloging being done once, and then library cataloging (not of the DCRM(B) type) being done again. This seems like a waste of everyone’s time to me.

To solve this, I’ve begun experimenting with methods for drawing data directly out of the MARC-based catalog and incorporating it into other documents. Zotero ( provides a facility for doing this. Yet, the existing stylesheets could not produce exactly what I wanted.

So I wrote this new one. It gives you a Chicago style citation and provides a place for an annotation in the export. You can see an example of this working for the Book History and Bibliography research guide that we are putting together-

Of course what is most important about this is not that it works, but that we now have a bridge from people who know expert cataloging and those who want to write narrative lists. My colleague, Matthew Brower, and I were able to teach a room of mixed librarians how to use the method.

So, what I wonder is whether this is a good idea. Should we be opening up expert description for reuse? I think so, but are there potential drawbacks?

One Response to “Lists, links, and dreams”

  1. Julieann Bisogno Says:

    I have to say that for the last few of hours i have been hooked by the amazing posts on this website. Keep up the great work.

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