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