Why Don’t More Catalog Records Have Book Summaries and Table of Contents

I’ll keep this short: It’s incredibly frustrating how many entries in Diamond are missing summaries and even a table of contents. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding an interesting sounding volume in a Diamond search, clicking it to find out more, and being left with some cryptic ISBN numbers and the oh-so alluring “includes bibliographic references.” I really hope this is fixed with the roll-out of the mysterious “Library Search” system.

Thank you for contacting us about your frustrations with the catalog information.

Since you mention having received information about Library Search, you know that the Diamond Catalog will cease to exist on June 29.

I asked our senior cataloging specialist, Carla Davis Cunningham to respond to your question about the added content to a bibliographic record and why the summary and contents are sometimes available and other times, not.

Here is her reply:

Thanks for sharing your observations about the book descriptions in the library catalog.  We’re very interested in knowing what the library’s users value.

When you see records that include summaries and tables of contents, it’s usually because the publisher has provided that information to the Library of Congress.  The Library of Congress shares all of its records for books with other libraries, so we get to enjoy the advantages at no extra cost.  However, not all publishers provide that data and not all records for books come from the Library of Congress.

At our library, it comes down to finding a balance between preparing materials for use quickly and providing the kind of enriched description you are looking for.  Our turnaround time for getting most new materials into the library catalog and available is pretty quick (if we do say so ourselves). To get those rich descriptions in all the records would take considerable added time and/or allocating additional funds to purchase this content (NOTE: There are commercial services, such as Syndetics Solutions, that sell the added content to libraries. Funds spent on these services would reduce the overall funds allocated for book purchases).

The note you mentioned, “Includes bibliographical references” can be taken as an indication that a book is scholarly in nature.  Hopefully the subject headings are of some use, but you are certainly correct that summaries and tables of contents provide much more detail.  I’m with you—I’d love to provide more descriptive information.  But like so many other things, it comes down to the cost.

The move to Library Search will not initially change anything about our descriptive metadata for books.  However, we will bring your concerns to the library administration and explore some possible ways to enrich our catalog with more of the content you’re looking for.​

Thank you again for sharing your concerns with us. As Carla indicates, I will share your message with the appropriate library administrator.

Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian
Temple University Libraries

Book Wasn’t In the Catalog But It Was On the Shelf. What Happened?

I was searching for a book from home using the Libraries’ online catalog system – I connected to it through the Libraries website. According the information I got from my search of the catalog, the book I wanted was not available – there was no record for it. But the next day I was at the library looking for another book and low and behold, the book I was searching for – the one the catalog didn’t list at all – was the first book that I saw sitting on the shelf. How is it possible that the book wasn’t in the catalog yet was there on the shelf. Something’s wrong. Can you explain this?
The next issue, with the same book, is the call number. I believe the number is incorrect. It is numbered as a book for Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs when it is actually the information gathering portion of designing a building also called programming. I think you should correct the call number.

We are grateful that you brought your problems with this book to us, and doubly grateful because finding it required some extra work on your part.  The book did not, as you say, display in Diamond (our online catalog), because at some point in the process of being checked in, or checked out,  or moved from one location to another, or even because it went missing for a while, the record for the book was removed from public view.  We are pleased to have been able to restore the information about the book to you and others who might need it.

As for the shelf number of the book: here at Temple we use Library of Congress classification, which divides subjects and genres more or less arbitrarily into an A-Z range.  The NA range is for architecture and contains a large number of topical and geographic subdivisions.  Which subdivision a book is placed in is based largely on a correspondence with the Library of Congress Subject Heading that is chosen by the cataloger.  In this case the cataloger was actually at the Library of Congress, and chose the topic—and sub-topic  “Architectural design–Data processing,” apparently on the basis of the title word “programming.”  As you mention, this involves a misunderstanding of what “programming” means to architects and other design professionals, and so the book wound up in the wrong classification. It’s worthwhile to help people looking for books on your topic by reclassifying the book.

That said, cataloging is a highly cooperative enterprise involving the work of professionals all over the U.S. The Library of Congress itself is considered the “gold standard” for cataloging.  For this reason, Library of Congress cataloging is merely given a low-level quality control check here at Temple, along with a  little physical processing.  We kept the original classification, as did the other 250 or so libraries that I can find that have the book.  In our field there is something of an understanding that all libraries that hold a book keep the original classification unless there’s some very good reason to make a change.  So when you’re through with the book, we’re going to take another look at it, just to be on the safe side.  In the end we will most likely follow your advice.


How About A Sign That Lets Me Know How To Get Help Finding A Book

Why aren’t there any signs upstairs letting people know they can go to that office on the second floor if they are having trouble finding a book? I went all the way down to the reference desk, who then sent me to the circulation desk. The circulation desk let me know that there was a stacks office so if I ever have trouble locating something there are people up there who can actually help me look for it. I went to the stacks office and was able to get help finding the book I needed. It would have been nice to know this while I was still upstairs instead of having to run all over the place.

We’re sorry to hear you got the old library run-around, being sent from one desk to another until you finally find the person who can help you. Believe me, that frustrates us as well because we know when it happens you are having a lousy library experience – and our goal is to make sure you have a great library experience. So yes, we failed. The librarian at the reference desk could have told you about the stacks office – and even called the stacks office to see if there was someone there to help you. Sending you to the circulation desk just added another layer to your quest for the book.

The reason we don’t have signs promoting the stacks office is because…well, where would we put that sign? In the stacks? Where? How many would we need? You could well imagine we’d need to have signs all over the stacks if it read “Can’t find the book you came here for? Go to the stacks office on the second floor?” And when it comes to signs, most people don’t read them. So what do we do to try to give you the help you need. Two things. First, we have service phones on the east and west sides of the upper levels. They are located in the vicinity of the stairwell doors. The phones offer a direct call to the reference or circulation desk. That way you can ask your question without having to run all the way to the actual desk. The location of the service phones is also noted on the floor maps we have in every stairwell in the Paley Library. Second, we have student workers in the stacks shelving books and they can help you too. You can spot them easily because they were bright red vests that say “library staff”. So next time you can’t find a book – take a look around for one of our student workers.

We hope this information will save you time the next time you can’t find that book.