Cataloging (the) blues

[updated 2010.5.25]

So, I’m cataloging a huge batch (over 1700!) of CDs donated by the family of a man who used to do radio programs on the blues.

It’s not easy, folks.

To do these properly and make them a truly useful reference for people doing research on blues music, I’m trying to make sure that every bibliographic record has (a) a complete list of the musical pieces on it (for keyword searching), and (b) a subject line for the blues artist(s) on it (for grouping by the individual artist or group under a standard entry).

That means that I need to download authority records from OCLC to our catalog, so we can have a standard authority for each person and cross-references to nicknames, aliases, etc.  It avoids variations in spelling, nicknames, etc.

Now, if you know blues names like “Muddy Waters” or “Little Joe Blue”, you might expect these would be easy to find.

Try this one (yes, it’s copied directly from a real authority record) for Robyn,  William:

SUBJ AUTH    Robyn, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Bennett, Bert, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Brown, Tom, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Conroy, Frank, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Conroy, Fred, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Crane, Thornely, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Ender, Jack, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Foster, Al, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Franklin, Fred, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Gravelle, Buddy, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Hamilton, Edward, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Hamilton, Ray, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Mack, Bobby, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Manning, John, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Norton, Walter, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Powell, Ray, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Powell, Roy, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Ray, Walter, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Robinow, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Robinson, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Robyn, Willie, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Ruban, George, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Rubin, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Rubinoff, Mario, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Rubinoff, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Scarpioff, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Scarpioff, Wolf, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Scott, Henry, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Shaw, Eddie, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Smith, Harry, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Spear, John, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Stanley, William, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Waters, Frankie, 1894-1996
SUBJ S FRM    Wee Willie, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Allison, James, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Bolton, Jamie, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Clarke, Walter, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Forsythe, Reg, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Francis, William, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Hart, Charles, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Henderson, Larry, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Henry, Lawrence, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Hillman, Bob, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Johnson, Al, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Lee, Albert, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    O’Shea, Allen, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    O’Shea, John, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Playman, Edmund, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Remick, Walter, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Richards, Edgar, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Richards, Walter, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Rickman, Eddie, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Roberts, Billy, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Roberts, Lewis, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Robin, Wyllie, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Thomas, Brian, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Turner, Ray, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Weston, Les, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    White, Jerry, 1894-1996.
SUBJ S FRM    Young, Louis, 1894-1996.
NOTE    William Robyn oral history interviews: label (William Robyn) transcript (Wolf Scarpioff, Mario Rubinoff)
NOTE    Enc. of rec. sound, c2005 (Robyn, William; b. Latvia 1894; d. Englewood, N.J., 12 Apr. 1996; tenor; born William Rubin he used more than 50 pseudonyms on recordings published by Victor, Columbia, Cameo, and approx. 50 other labels between 1919 and 1931)
NOTE    Pseudonyms on American records, c2005: p. 401 (Bert Bennett ; Tom Brown ; Frank Conroy ; Fred Conroy ; Thornely Crane ; Jack Ender ; Al Foster ; Fred Franklin ; Buddy Gravelle ; Edward Hamilton ; Ray Hamilton ; Bobby Mack ; John Manning ; Walter Norton ; Ray or Roy Powell ; Walter Ray ; William Robinow ; William Robinson ; “Wee” Willie Robyn ; George Ruban ; Cantor William Rubin ; William Rubinoff ; William Scarpioff ; Henry Scott ; Eddie Shaw ; Harry Smith ; John Spear ; William Stanley ; Frankie Waters ; Wee Willie)
NOTE    ARSC journal, v. 23, no. 2 (1992): p. 223 (James Allison, Jamie Bolton, Walter Clarke, Reg Forsythe, William Francis, Charles Hart, Larry Henderson, Lawrence Henry, Bob Hillman, Al Johnson, Albert Lee, Allen or John O’Shea, Edmund Playman, Walter Remick, Edgar or Walter Richards, Eddie Rickman, Billy or Lewis Roberts, Wyllie Robin, Brian Thomas, Ray Turner, Les Weston, Jerry White, Louis Young, Olympia Quartet (member))

He used more than 50 different names?!?!?!  (I have to wonder, was somebody chasing this guy all the way from Latvia?  Or, whose decision at the record label(s) was it to create yet another pseudonym?)  Maybe this was simply to avoid legal encumbrances made under other names, but come on!

And then we have all the short, fairly common names like “Joe Martin” or “Henry Gray” (and actually, those are relatively easy — less than ten different authority records to check to find the musician among them).

And THREE, count ’em, THREE different Howlin’ Wolf guys.   There’s J.T. “Funny Paper” Smith a.k.a. the Howling Wolf, and Chester Arthur Burnett, and neither of these should be confused with “English rhythm and blues singer Howlin’ Wolf”.  Go figure.  So, I’m paging through each little CD notes booklets to figure out which one is playing on this specific CD….

This is why Hollywood makes each performer have a slightly different name, to avoid this kind of confusion.  Good thinking!

Anyway, it will be a useful and valuable collection when I get it cataloged.  But it is going to be a long, slow, very picky job.

And that’s what catalogers have to be good at doing.


Having griped about William Robyn, I find that his pseudonym Eddie Shaw is not even the correct Eddie Shaw!  Turns out that Eddie Shaw 1937- is the blues musician I needed.

Catalogers got the right to sing the blues, all right….

(Thanks to the person who emailed me with the alert to check this!)


Followup on the new website

More on the website revision, in part to remind myself what I did and why, and perhaps something here will be of use to others.

So, I’ve been converting our Innovative Interfaces catalog pages on our libcat server to a format as close to the new server pages as possible.

I’ve wanted all along to make the transition as seamless as possible — ideally (IMHO) most users won’t realize they’re moving back and forth from one server to another.

Due to the wiki template set up on the campus website (and therefore the old library pages), however, we elected not to do that and allowed variation on the catalog pages.  Now, with the new server, I’m striving for identical looks.

Little things crop up in the process, of course.

Date Script

JavaScript for date in the header is one I borrowed some years back for use in the catalog.  We are finally able to use it on the regular home page now that we are on a server that allows it.  I like it because it specifically states what today is (day of the week and date) and the hours today only.  There is also now a link to all our hours on a separate page.

When we’re closed, it says so for that day, but I wanted the ‘closed’ message to remind people that online services are still available: “Closed Today (Online Services Still Available)”.  The catch was, I had that message on one line replacing the ‘hours’ text for that day, and it’s a much longer piece of text.  It threw everything off in the header — kicked everything right off that over and some of it wrapped onto additional lines, which looked terrible.  So, I broke the text display for the ‘closed’ message into two lines and it works neatly now: “Closed Today<br />Online Services Still Available”.

III uses “tokens” which are shortcuts to scripts in their system that handle certain tasks.  These work somewhat like SSI (Server Side Includes).

For example, for much of the top header in catalog pages, I can use “toplogo” which calls up a separate HTML partial file to fill in a stock header.  Same for “botlogo” which fills in a stock footer section.  Very handy.

So, I linked the toplogo section in the catalog to run the same JavaScript for the date/hours info from the library server, so I only have to change it one place to update it (changes in hours, holidays, etc.).  Very handy.

Advanced Searching

The catch to the above is, the header in ‘toplogo’ included the same catalog search box that is on all the pages.  The Advanced Searching page in the catalog, however, is one page that uses not an HTML form, but a token which calls up a form, since it’s more complex (combines terms, searches several indexes, etc.).

That called form assumes it’s the only one on the page, which conflicts with the one in the stock header.  Normally, you avoid this by giving specific names to the forms and referring to those, but when using the token to call up the form, I didn’t have the option to change the token-called script.

Trying to use Advanced Search in the proper box resulted in the form trying to get information from the box in the header search box instead (since that was the first form encountered on the page), and then telling me I needed to enter something there.

Answer: I entered the toplogo completely in normal HTML on this one Advanced Search page, instead of calling it with the ‘toplogo’ token.  That way, I could comment out the search box in the header so only this page is without that search box in the header.  Now the only working search was the one called by the Advanced Search token script.  Conflict eliminated.

If I change the header, I’ll have to remember to change this page as well.  However, the date script still works as usual, so no extra concerns on that.


CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are multiplying in the catalog.  III includes one of their own (untouchable since it operates some of their specialized functions), and we can override aspects of that and augment it with another, which we do. Now I added the one for the new style pages.

That meant that I had to make sure that adding the style sheet Joni created wouldn’t conflict with any names in the other style sheets.  Then I added that to the list of style sheets to check when a browser creates a page on the screen.

Then there was minor tweaking to get the CSS to work within our catalog server.  This included some little spacing things to allow for (as usual) Internet Explorer not working to the same standards as other browsers, but that worked out.

I commented a lot in the catalog version of the CSS file as to what I did to make it different from the version in the home version.  I may need to know all that some day.

Testing Browsers

I’m testing with Firefox 3.5 and Internet Explorer 7 and 8 (although 8 is not approved on our campus at this time as it won’t work properly with our version of some instructional software elsewhere on campus), as well as the current Windows version of Safari (since I don’t have a Mac to test) and current Google Chrome.

Progress is being made!

Evolution of a code system

Fair warning: highly technical library cataloging talk in this specific post.  May have soporific effects on non-catalogers.

When the Library here first got OCLC, we were assigned 4-character codes for types of materials.  OCLC used these codes (in part) to assign the ‘above the call number’ indicators like “REF” for Reference materials, or “VIDEO” for videocassettes, to show where materials were shelved in the building, so they could print catalog cards for us.  (Yes, I’m that old.)

The codes looked like asza, aszb, aszc… you get the idea.  Those codes were for Nonfiction (circulating), Fiction, Reference, and on.  In time, we had to add more codes for new materials that hadn’t existed earlier, such as Compact Discs and DVDs and websites.

Years went by, we automated, then we changed automation systems.

Once we got the Innovative Interfaces Millennium system, we assigned codes more or less in line with these.  We had codes for bibliographic records and codes for item records (among others).  If a book had a CD inside, for example, then the bibliographic record had a book code, and there was one item with a book code and a second item with a CD code.

I had wide categories (Books, Serials, AV Media, etc.) in the BCode1 group (here called BGeneral) in the bibliographic records.  Item records (1 per barcoded item) were attached to bibliographic records.

The location codes in the item corresponded to the OCLC 4-letter codes (asza meant Nonfiction – 1st East, meaning 1st floor east side, for example).

We had BCode2 (a.k.a. here as BType) and, in item records, ICode2 more or less matching it.  For example, we needed to have a BType of just Reference, but the item records ICode2 (and locations) had to be divided into Reference and Reference Oversize as separate locations.

We had codes scattered along the alphabet as they evolved.  If you wanted all the audio-visual media, you had to ask for this OR that OR that OR that OR that OR… it was a chore to set up a search.

Then I recently learned from the IUG (Innovative Users Group) elist that the symbol for ebooks, which Innovative had some years back designated as “@” (at) was now a problem with their newer software, which didn’t read the @ but considered it punctuation and therefore equal to blank.  This meant the Preferred Searches function couldn’t handle ebooks.  I needed to change the symbol for ebooks in BType and ICode2.

And while I was at it, since it was July and we were starting a new fiscal year and statistics, if I wanted to change the codes, this was a good time to do it.

Result: I revised the codes, and the codelist.

First, I lined up all the existing codes in a spreadsheet, and got the BType codes and ICode2 codes all matched up.  Some codes (such as ICode2 for Ref Oversize and Indexes) didn’t exist separately inside BType for Reference (they all just got coded BType for Reference), and didn’t need to be created.  Some ICode2 codes such as Scores and Microformat Books didn’t exist separately and didn’t need to be created, and so on.

In Millennium, we mostly use ICode2 codes to take counts for inventory purposes.  Since we don’t need to barcode ebooks (for example), we don’t bother to create item records for them, unless we need an item record to function within the EReserves system (if an instructor put an ebook on his/her Reserve list, we would need to create an item record — without barcode — just to attach to the instructor’s list, but not to count on inventory).  So, ebooks are counted by the BType for ebooks rather than an ICode2.

Then along came the titles where we had both paper and ebook formats.  So, we put the ebook code in BType (where ebooks are counted) and the paper type in the ICode2 of the item record containing the barcode (where the paper copy is counted) so both versions are counted in their respective material types.

Anyway, I wanted to group the codes better, so that instead of “this OR that OR that OR that” I could search for codes in the range “this to that” and have an easier time setting up a search.

I also cleaned up a few odd problems, fixed a few records with wrong codes, and separated our ebooks into fiction and nonfiction.

I created a file for each code that was going to change and used names with “btype= w > d” to indicate that code w was going to become code d.

Then I revised the codelist, the web manual pages, the saved searches in Millennium, the saved templates for records in Millennium, etc.

Someday I’ll probably have to do it all over again, but for now, I think this arrangement will work for us a while.  If anyone setting up a system finds anything useful in this, that’s nice, too.

Ebooks and other bib types

What seems logical to librarians (ebooks from publisher A have one bibliographic record, ebooks from publisher B have another record, another type of format has a different bibliographic record, etc.) doesn’t necessarily make it easy for the average user.  Most people just want all the options in one place to consider, without having to switch records.  I don’t blame them — it’s easier.  On the far end, that is.  For catalogers, it’s more work up front, but that’s our job — to provide convenient access, not get sticky about the purity of records.

So, when I took a poll of our librarians, the result I expected was the result I got.  Put the ebooks on the same bibliographic records as the paper editions they represent, so they display in the catalog with all the options together.

However, nothing is as easy as it looks.

First, we just got 300+ ebooks from Credo.  That’s a manageable number that I can deal with, and convert.  Going back over thousands of netLibrary ebooks, on the other hand….

Plus, the group of Credo titles we just bought are (mostly) newer ones that are more likely to  be used and therefore should be made convenient.  We’ve had the netLibrary titles for longer.

When doing inventory, we count paper (or whatever hard physical format) by counting the item records attached to a bibliographic record, using a code in that.  Item records, after all, have the barcode in them for the specific physical item.

Ebooks don’t need a barcode, so they normally don’t have item records (unless they need to go on electronic reserves, which works with item records…).  So, we count them by what we call the BType (in Innovative terms, the  BCode2) which for ebooks = @.   So, just count all the bibliographic records with “@” in the BType field as ebooks.

Then I can just convert the paper bibliographic records to ebooks BType=@, and we’re all set.  Count items for physical materials, and bib records for ebooks.


What if you have an ebook in both a netLibrary and a Credo version on the same record?  If you count just the record, you only count 1 ebook, and you have 2.  So, instead of deleting the ebook record in such cases, I just hide it from the public catalog but leave it in the system and set my search for ebooks (which is a Saved search for the library tech’s use) so it also picks up those hidden records.

So, now I’m working my way through the Credo books.  I checked each title, used CTRL-G in Millennium Cataloging to see if the same title turned up, and found over 80 titles that need to be handled.  Some are newer than what we have, so I just arrange to withdraw the older editions.  Some are the same as existing paper copies in the collection, so I move the ebook data and link to the paper bibliographic record, and delete the ebook record.  And for the netLibrary ones that are the same, I handle that as noted above.

The location in the bibliographic record can handle multiple locations, so if I have a paper location and the location “ebook” that shows up as “multi”.  The BType becomes @ for ebook, even if there is a paper copy, so it “counts” in the inventory as an ebook, but in the item count as paper.

If I need to create an item for putting an ebook on reserve, that is in a category that we don’t inventory, so it’s never counted.

How long I can do this remains to be seen, but it looks like it will be easier on patrons, and that’s what counts.

Computer Helpers ready (more or less) to roll….

I’ve got all but the Programming tab page done, and that’s a new one I haven’t covered before.  I’ll probably use that page mostly to separate the programming languages.

So, disclaimer in place on that page, I think Computers Helpers is up and reasonably functional.  I’ll try to start changing links in the catalog over next week.

Now I have a mass of saved bookmarks to plow through, posting and linking to the right places.  But, it will be easier to do that than to keep going in and changing HTML on a standard page.

I certainly don’t claim this to be the best or whatever ranking for this type of site, but I think it might help a few people, at least here on campus.  And that’s enough.  Anybody else it helps is just icing on the cake.

Another day, another icon

We have a few titles in the catalog that are both online databases and available in paper:  Value Line, the Arkansas Code, for examples.

I had a request to come up with a new icon to show in the search results that indicated the materials available, rather than one or the other.

The problem is, we’ve maxed out on material types.  These are in BCode2 and ICode2 in the III system, and since we use ICode2 for inventory and I try to keep these the same as much as possible, I had to hunt for something I could salvage.

Fortunately, we’ve eliminated filmstrips, so I reused that code “p” and made it “Database & Books” instead.

That still left me without a little graphic for the icon to show on the right.  So, I reworked and re-named the same picture from ebooks and made it work for this.

A keyword search on “value line” will show the results.

tabs in the catalog

Working on the catalog display in Innovative (III) today and making these notes to myself.

I originally used the May 2007 set downloaded from III, with some modifications I picked up at IUG, for the version I brought out in August 2007.

The campus standard HAD been to accomodate 800×600 displays, and I didn’t want people using those to go from the campus pages to the library pages and find themselves suddenly running off the side of the screen with the catalog.

Since we are now no longer restricted to the 800×600 display (with the wide margins left and right), I’m reconfiguring the pages for 98% width (just a 1% margin on each side — I think it looks neater and less crowded than 100% across the page) of the screen in 1025×768 resolution.

That leaves a lot of stuff sort of weighing down the left side. All the tabs, for example, start on the left, and don’t go very far across in many cases.

So, I decided I needed to change the width of the tabs to spread them out a bit. The catch is, the tabs normally on mainmenu.html, for example, are using the div class “mainActiveTab” with “menuActiveTab” and InactiveTab, and those have only one size.

However, the div class “helpActiveTab” has “helpActiveTabMedium” and “Large” and seem to work just as well, so I’m replacing “main/menu” with “help” div classes. (It’s easier than adding to the CSS for “main/menu”.)

Then I changed the size to all medium tabs. Spreads further across and balances the look better, IMHO.

I’ve also taken the frame with the Quick Links and moved it over to the far right 20% of the page, and reset the percentages to 80% search and 20% Quick Links frame, now that I have the additional room. More balanced, again.

Tests okay.