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Re: [BKARTS] artists' books cataloged on OCLC

As a retired librarian and book artist, I must try to correct a few points in this discussion of cataloging artists books.

With regard to OCLC, this database is of a type which simply accumulates new records without regard to relations with existing ones. Thus, if some library somewhere catalogs your new book as a manga, that will go in along with the others and the next library wishing to catalog your book is free to copy the manga entry or whichever seems to them to best describe the book in hand. This process is, nowadays, almost never mediated by a professional librarian, much less one trained as a cataloger -- which is not to say the people who do it are ignorant, only that they don't create new catalog copy. Once an entry gets into OCLC it's impossible to get it out. Egregious mistakes can be revised by the library which committed it, but this doesn't touch the local records of those who copied the mistaken one, which you would have to write directly using the holdings list at the end of the record. Any faculty who has tried to get a record changed in their own library
 will tell you how hard it is to get this done -- much less in someone else's library.

Those who have suggested that CIP (Cataloging In Publication) is the answer to this are correct. You can write your own CIP (despite bureaucratic tut-tutting) and print it on the inside cover or wherever, but get it vetted by someone who knows how to do original cataloging or it might be disregarded as funny looking. You can also make an attempt at a classification number (again, get it vetted) but only the first half, which is universal. The second half is a local tag which is constructed locally to be sure no two items have the same number. You will need to supply both Dewey and LC. As to the need for an ISBN -- you can write the universal and local components of this number yourself, but there is a sequence in the middle which is the unique number identifying your press. Getting this ID is about as onerous as getting a web domain address. I'd say an ISBN makes the whole CIP look pukka. Moreover, all copies with the same ISBN are by definition avatars
 of the same book.

The ARLIS database is fundamentally different in that new records replace old ones if the new one is judged to be the superior description, so that the database will contain only one record for each item. The question is what's an item. Something between a Platonic universal and an avatar. This is relevant to book artists because we so often do things like put out an "edition" one copy at a time over months or years and the copies will not be quite alike. q.v. ISBN, above. 

I might add that the present web makes a mockery of the integrity of databases, and as management of information ceases to be local the result is that any corruption which emanates from "here" will pretty quickly get "over there" in the manner of that kid's whispering game. Pity the poor cataloger, whose vocation has all but vanished because that standard of perfection is no longer economic. The Google universal library project (for example) has the first effect of compounding every bibliographic description into a single melange. But then, as content comes on line, one ceases to locate "books" (so called) by their catalog description, which becomes a gesture or approximation of the platonic ideal. So what else is new? The postmodern message of absolute relativism -- semiosis all the way down -- identified this years ago as the root of contemporary malaise and learning to live under this condition as the significant intellectual/spiritual challenge of
 the day. What we would hope, for intellectual control of the family of artists books, is for some list (Drucker's, for example, or the Brooklyn museum) to acquire the authority to be taken as definitive.

Ocotillo Arts

----- Original Message ----
From: Peter D. Verheyen <verheyen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 3:32:59 AM
Subject: Re: [BKARTS] artists' books cataloged on OCLC

That information (or info like it) needs to come with EVERY book, 
regardless of when, how, through whom it is sold. Vendors will need 
it for accurate catalog descriptions, and the buyer shouldn't be 
expected to ask for it. This happens all too often unfortunately.


>Good advice. However, most of the copies of my book "Some Mountains"
>were acquired through Pyramid Atlantic back in 1988. Though I was
>asked by a couple of places to provide the information Peter
>recommends, most did not inquire and I did not know which libraries
>bought the book (I just got a check from Pyramid). I'm sure this was
>not intentional on anyone's part, but it does strengthen the case for
>controlling one's own editions. Barbara


Peter D. Verheyen
Bookbinder & Conservator, PA - AIC
The Book Arts Web & Book_Arts-L Listserv
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