Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Things that go on in a library

     So, for this week's bit of curiosity: Today we received a book donation from a student. The book was nothing exciting, an ethnographic work on Eastern Europe. The reason I mention this is that when I opened the book to take a look at its content, I noticed that the book had library markings. Our library's markings, in fact. I checked the back and sure enough, there was the card pocket with the old checkout card still in it. Then I went and checked our catalog records from the back end where I do most of my work, and found that this book was declared lost in an inventory conducted back in 2000. This book's record, and others declared lost in 2000, was just sitting on our server for all this time, and it even survived a transition to a new library catalog system in 2003. Curiously, this very week I made arrangements for these orphan records to be finally withdrawn from the system. In another week, the catalogers would have found it necessary to completely re-create the record to put this book back in. 
     Now, some might argue that this is an example of why libraries should not discard the catalog records of items that go missing. Well, I think the other 1200 records in that set for which the books have not reappeared undercut that argument. Thirteen years is too long a time to have orphan records cluttering up the system. What purpose do they serve except to uselessly inflate our holding records? The orphan records have been suppressed from the OPAC for years now, so if they're gone, the students will not ever notice it. It's stealth weeding! No, the weeding happened years ago, when the books departed the library never to return. Now, with this one exception, we're just cleaning out their lockers. I will be glad to be rid of these, so I can put more of my attention toward getting books on the shelves that the students want and need.

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