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.