Verification of headings is a "no brainer," don't you agree? I remember not too long after AACR2 was promulgated that someone did a study which concluded that about 35 percent of the cataloger's routines revolved around authority work. Yuch! True, things are a lot better in the 1990s, now that the vast majority of headings are already established in AACR2 form. Also, I should hasten to dispel the notion that I don't believe that choosing the form of a new heading and its cross-references are an activity which can be intellectually challenging. Far from it! No, the tedious or mind-numbing work I refer to is that of the initial "looking up" of all of those headings in the authority file. Can't this process be automated? Some kind of system validation, maybe?
Having read about OCLC and library/information school experiments at semi-automation of various cataloging, classification, or catalog maintenance routines, last November (1996) I was very pleased to receive some software to try in my own system. It is called CLARR --The Cataloger's Toolkit. CLARR was developed by Gary Strawn of Northwestern University Library for catalogers using NOTIS in the MS Windows environment. (For more information, see the CLARR User's Guide: http://www.library.nwu.edu/Clarr.
It should be noted that the NOTIS system still in use at many law libraries is no longer being marketed, having been supplanted in the Ameritech scheme by an ILS called Horizon. (Horizon is not a mainframe system.) Nevertheless, the CLARR programs are valuable to NOTIS catalogers in the interim (until their libraries migrate to another system). Perhaps, what is more important, the CLARR toolkit illustrates what is possible and, therefore, the kind of functionality we should be requesting from programmers and vendors of any of the local systems used by catalogers.
So, what does CLARR do? Well, there are many buttons on its toolbar which serve to fix some deficiencies of the original NOTIS, or improve upon other NOTIS functions. It provides an easier method for writing macros, for example. The "print" button allows the option of printing all screens of a record, and adding your own message to the printout. There's a device for setting aside a bib or authority record, and then toggling back to it later. An "elbow room" button provides a means for editing existing bib record fields that is much easier than what one must do in the "vanilla" NOTIS routine. Buttons with scissors and needle icons enable the cataloger to "cut and baste" more than one field together, even from different records, and pasted into another record. A new version of CLARR even has a button which allows NACO participants to upload a NOTIS-created authority record into an OCLC or RLIN work form, automatically converting the field labels, delimiter symbols, etc. in the process. There are other neat features of CLARR, which cannot be detailed in the limited space of this column. I'd rather focus on the headings verification program component of CLARR, since this is probably the most significant innovation.
Invoked by clicking on a CLARR button labeled "BA/M" (Bibliographic Authority/MARC), this program extracts each of the headings from the displayed NOTIS record, then searches each of those headings against the NOTIS authority records. If it finds no match on a 1xx or 4xx field of an authority record, the program then searches to see if an identical heading has been used on other bibliographic records. Depending on the number of headings and Internet response time, this process may take anywhere from five to 30 seconds. By my estimation, CLARR is at least five times FASTER than I am at doing the same searches! When the automatic searching is complete, CLARR displays a "Bibliographic Verification Report." Below is an example of one such report, showing all of the headings, as well as their MARC tags, which were searched:
0+a 440/1:0: fx=CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL
RESPONSIBILITY FOR LAWYERS
*c 651: 0: fsl=california
+n 650/1: 0: fsl=legal ethics
+n 650/2: 0: fsl=criminal procedure
# 650/2: 0: fsl=CRIMINAL PROCEDURE--MORAL AND ETHICAL ASPECTS
+n 650/3: 0: fsl=lawyers
+c 700/1:1 : fx=ginzberg abby
+c 700/2:1 : fx=kutchins a j 1951
+c 710/3:2 : fx=continuing education of the bar california
Looking at these results, the cataloger decides what action must be taken. This might be to revise the heading, to create an authority record, to correct inaccurate tagging, or to do further verification. Other buttons on this report or on the CLARR toolbar provide shortcuts for re-directing or modifying a search, and for creating authorities and cross-references.
To analyze the verification results in the record shown above, the fundamental style convention used is that any heading appearing in capital letters is one which does not match on an authority record, or, may match a 4xx (unused variant) form of heading. For complete explanation, we look to the codes at the far left of the heading, which indicate the heading's status. There is an "explain status" button for those catalogers who have not memorized the meaning of the codes. In the example above:
0+a indicates that there is no authority record for this series, but there is another bib record (coded as an AACR2 record) containing this series heading. The cataloger will have to locate a series authority to export/derive, or will have to create an original record.
# indicates that the heading appears to have a problem with geographic subdivision. Sure enough, on the bib record it is CRIMINAL PROCEDURE--CALIFORNIA--MORAL AND ETHICAL ASPECTS, but a check in the LCSH free-floating subdivisions tells us that the heading should be CRIMINAL PROCEDURE--MORAL AND ETHICAL ASPECTS--CALIFORNIA.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of CLARR for headings verification? Well, I definitely feel that it does save time, especially for the "no brainer" searches which only confirm that the heading is okay as it appeared on the cataloging copy. It allows the cataloger to focus time and attention on correcting errors which might have been overlooked, and on locating or creating needed authority records. However, I believe that CLARR verification is somewhat more effective with names, series, and uniform titles than it is with subject headings. And perhaps that is understandable because subject strings are "pieced" together from authorized main headings and various free-floating and/or geographic subdivisions, and we do not yet have an authority file for validating all possible combinations of these strings! Nevertheless, CLARR does a creditable job with the complicated LCSH system. Here are some of the things CLARR does well in regard to subject headings:
1) Headings that match 'see' references are identified, even those which are subdivided headings with intervening geographic subdivisions. (E.g., INSURANCE--UNITED STATES--AGENTS is flagged as a problem, because there is a reference, INSURANCE--AGENTS, see: INSURANCE AGENTS.)
2) Spelling errors in subject headings (e.g., COMMERICAL LAW, instead of COMMERCIAL LAW) are highlighted, at least by their status of not matching on an authority record.
3) Capitalization and punctuation errors are flagged with a verification code "$". For example, the bibliographic verification report will assign that status code to the subject heading "Court Administration," because it should be "Court administration." And it will see a problem with INSURANCE--LIABILITY, a heading which is valid only as INSURANCE, LIABILITY.
4) Incorrectly tagged subject headings are also spotted, when the heading matches the text of a 1xx field in an authority record, but the tags don't correspond. An example from our bib records was CATHOLIC CHURCH tagged as a 650 (topical), when it should have been a 610 (corporate name).
5) Misplaced geographic subdivisions, as in the CRIMINAL PROCEDURE--MORAL AND ETHICAL ASPECTS example shown above, are also identified by CLARR.
Despite all of these capabilities, CLARR's automated verification of subject headings does not relieve us from further manual searching entirely; nor does it allow us to eliminate machine-executed searches which may be unnecessary. For example:
1) Free-floating subdivisions are not distinguished as to category. Is it a general free-floater? Or is it to be used only under places, classes of persons, or corporate names, etc.? Or is it controlled by a pattern heading? CLARR cannot provide this level of detailed information. To illustrate, for the heading AIDS (DISEASE)--LAW AND LEGISLATION, the verification report states that the string "does not match any established heading ... the subdivision at the end of this heading seems to be free-floating." Yes, but the cataloger must check LC's Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings to learn that --LAW AND LEGISLATION is "free-floating" only under animals, chemicals, diseases, industries, plants and crops, and a few other specific pattern headings. To be fair, we should point out that the CLARR User's Guide admits that "CLARR does not attempt to determine whether a subdivision is suitable for use under a heading; it only determines whether or not the subdivision is recognized by the subject heading system." In fact, until topical-subject authority records are fully coded to show what "pattern" or other group of free-floating subdivisions may be used with them, well, CLARR is doing everything it can with the information available!
2) Every geographic heading and subdivision on a bib record is verified when the "BA/M" command is given. This means that UNITED STATES, whether in a 651 field or a $z subfield, is verified time and time again even though we know it is correct. This wastes a little time, particularly since there are more than 5000 hits. It would be nice if there were some way to "customize" CLARR by specifying some headings which can be eliminated from the searches. (So long as we don't lose the ability to identify geographic subdivisions that are not correctly positioned!--see #5 in the list above.)
All in all, it must be said that CLARR is an extremely handy and beneficial tool for the NOTIS cataloger. The important thing to remember, nevertheless, is that CLARR does not completely "automate" the cataloging routines associated with bibliographic headings. As stated in its User's Guide, "CLARR does not relieve you of responsibility for the content of your records. Instead, CLARR helps you gather the information you need to make decisions, and then carries out your informed instructions faithfully, quickly, and accurately." When working with LC or another library's cataloging copy, CLARR will only examine the headings on the record. It is up to the human cataloger to note if AACR2 has been followed as to the choice of main entry, series statement and entry, or any added entries to be traced. Likewise, subject analysis continues to be largely an intellectual activity for which the cataloger is responsible. For example, the subject heading EMPLOYEES--DISMISSAL OF--UNITED STATES looks perfectly okay to CLARR. But the heading was used on the record for Wrongful termination claims : what plaintiffs and defendants have to know (Practising Law Institute, c1997); a check in LCSH shows us that EMPLOYEES--DISMISSAL OF--LAW AND LEGISLATION--UNITED STATES would be a better subject heading choice for this book, even though there was nothing wrong with the form of the heading found on the cataloging copy.
Are any other law libraries using similar types of "headings verification" tools in their daily, in-house cataloging? I'd really like to hear about your experiences. Send e-mail messages to: firstname.lastname@example.org.