Web Magazine for Information Professionals

CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group Annual Conference

Christina Claridge reports on the conference, held 3-5 September 2008, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland.

Cataloguers from all over Europe travelled into Glasgow to attend the conference, subtitled “Classification and subject retrieval in the 21st century: you can’t make jelly without a mould”. The conference provided sessions with talks on both wide-ranging and detailed aspects of cataloguing, combined together into seven sessions distributed over the three days. All notes of the presentations are available online. [1]

Said the spider to the fly: Identity and authority in the semantic web

The keynote address was given by Gordon Dunsire from the Centre for Digital Library Research [2]. He talked about many of the underlying ideas of the semantic web: the development of RDA (resource description access) that would allow machine processing, applications using the Semantic web such as RDF (Resource Description Framework) schema, and SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization Systems). He also spoke about new developments for subject indexing, including MELVILSEARCH, developed by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, the development of tag clouds applied by users, the tension between providing high-quality or high-quantity authority records, and how these relate to the semantic web.

At the end of the address, Gordon was awarded the 2007 Alan Jeffries Award for services to cataloguing.

The Detail of Cataloguing

MARC 21 Update

The presentations discussing the more detailed aspects of cataloguing included the MARC 21 update, given by Corine Deliot of the British Library. Details of the decisions are available online [3] . Corine discussed the work of the RDA Working Group planning the introduction of RDA, including the identification of work and expression records, new content designation (336, 337, 338 fields), and the enhancement of the 502 field for dissertations. Outlines of discussion papers relating to RDA – MARC mapping (relationship designators and the 007 field) and new authority attributes for families were also discussed.

The second half of the session concerned the proposal to render the 440 field obsolete, redefining the 490 field and tracing series through the 8XX fields. Corine outlined the arguments for and against this change, and noted that the vote was successful. The talk concluded with a brief outline of other papers proposing changes to MARC fields.

A question noted that system limitations make transferring legacy data into this new 490/8XX format difficult.

ANF Subject Codes for E4Libraries Project

ANF (Adult Non-fiction) subject codes for the E4Libraries Project, presented by Maggie Sumner, is an attempt to increase efficiency in the (mainly public) library supply chain. The subject codes, developed for BIC (Book Industry Communication) [4] work in addition to Dewey/LC, and are based on the trade data provided pre-publication. The system is flexible: a detailed scheme for larger libraries can be simplified for smaller ones.

There were many questions about this talk. Subjects included the dangers of relying on publisher-supplied information (scheme is sound, application is sometimes weak), whether the codes could be self administered (yes), direct mapping from Dewey (true for the majority), and whether this scheme is intended to replace Dewey in public libraries (no: just expand functionality of the catalogue).

The Adoption of Social Tagging in Academic Libraries: A leap of faith or a descent into the abyss?

Charlotte Smith used the examples of Flickr 5 and LibraryThing 6 to explore the utility of social tagging in her presentation. The key point of the presentation was, in general, users apply social tags for their own benefit, rather than the more altruistic motivations behind professional cataloguing. The negative aspects of this include the use of non-informational descriptive tags such as ‘Party’ on Flickr, and ‘Not read’ on Librarything, and the resulting large number of hits when trying to search by tag. There were also positive aspects of the use of tags, such as the use of users’ specialist knowledge, and the retention of a controlled vocabulary. Charlotte also looked at examples of social tagging used in various academic catalogues, including the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Huddersfield.

Questions after the presentation discussed motivation of taggers, and compared tagging to the early Internet, with the same division between ideas and technology and growing user expectations of interaction. It was also noted that tag clouds at a high enough volume evolve into standard terms, and that personal tags can be useful for other users, for example through recommendations.

The problem with place: The moulds may change but the jelly remains the same

Paula Williams, (National Library of Scotland) [7] highlighted the problems for subject headings related to place names, from colloquialism (‘Auld Reekie’), legislated changes (boundary changes or places ceasing to exist), and language (transliterated differently or misheard by cartographer). The most common ‘structures’ for containing the place name jelly – LCSH, TGN (Getty) and local schemes – were then investigated, and while each has strengths, the weaknesses of each system were also discussed. For example, the potential to conform to international standards may alienate local users of the system.

The talk concluded with the discussion of georeferencing and geoparsing, connecting items to particular coordinates, or connecting a landscape to other subjects, for example, locations in literature.

Pooling the tools: Indexing resources for a specialist subject portal in the 21st century

Anne Welsh (NHS Education for Scotland) [8] gave an overview of the information resources provided for the Falls Community [9] – people who fall and the doctors who work with them in her presentation. The members needed clear access to the information required, rather than drowning in information overload. To do this, a portal was developed which incorporated a keywords list chosen by practitioners and mapped over to subject headings produced by the librarians. Controlled vocabularies and formats were also mapped, providing quick access to different kinds of resources, such as policies, documentation or case studies. The portal also included a tag cloud, seeded by practitioners to support quick access to resources and links to people, allowing keyword searches of interests. Anne believes the success of the programme stems from good information architecture.

The Wider View of Cataloguing

The rest of the presentations looked at aspects of large-scale cataloguing, ranging from the development of a faceted cataloguing system for concert programmes, through to international initiatives between national libraries.

RDA Update and Demonstration of the Online Product

One of the more interesting and exciting presentations was the RDA update and demonstration of the online product, presented by Alan Danskin (British Library) [10] and Ann Chapman (UKOLN) [11]. They started with an overview of the work of developing RDA so far, from the start in 2005 through to the projected release of the interactive demonstration in September 2008, beta testing in January 2009 and implementation in 2010.

Alan then demonstrated the functionality of the demonstration model, looking at the ability to insert markers within the system and reminders of the local policy if necessary. He also explored the search options, including Boolean terms and the ability to search vocabulary lists. RDA will also come with workflows, task-based instructions, appendices (with examples) mapped between RDA and AACR2 rules, and the ability to create and save unique workflows.

Ann outlined the licensing and pricing of the product, which has still to be decided, and the post-release development, such as the updating of the system. Training in the use of RDA has yet to be planned.

Questions were asked about integrating RD (resource description) vocabularies, which are due to be included in the product. Another question was about incentives to replace MARC (described as complex and not used to its full potential). Since RDA has been built on FRBR principles, some RDA-based changes to MARC could provide better functionality and interfaces within systems. However, both RDA and the changes to MARC must be in place before vendors can re-design interfaces.

Multilingualism and the subject heading languages: How the MACS project is providing multilingual subject access in Europe

Patrice Landry (Swiss National Library) [12] explained that this project aims to provide multilingual, concurrent subject headings using a coordinated approach between national libraries (British, French, German and Swiss) which are each autonomous, the links being established through the concept of clustering.

Patrice outlined the advances of the works from the start in 2007, through to the hiring of 6 workers by the Germans (DNB) to work on the project, to the extension of the project to Italy, which has approximately 20,000 headings. The intention of the project is to move beyond the current four languages- Spain and Sweden both have equivalent lists to English language subject headings.

Questions covered the inclusion of non-roman alphabets - the national library at St Petersburg has contacted the MACS Project; the inclusion of geographical subject headings, which are ‘next on the list’ to be included; and several questions on the translation of languages and mapping between languages.

Classifying musical performance: The application of faceted classification principles to concert programmes

Deborah Lee (The Courtauld Institute) spoke about the neglected opportunities for the cataloguing and analysis of concert programmes in her presentation. She discussed the various arrangements possible, from archives, bibliographical and separate collections, and different arrangement theories and how they could potentially divide collections of programmes and artefacts of performance. Deborah spoke of how she used the “Event: Object: Manuscript triumvirate” to catalogue the Isolde Menges Collection, held in the Centre for Performance History, Royal College of Music [13].

Questions discussed performance recordings, art exhibition catalogues, ephemeral venues, and the difficulties of researching individual performers and groups.

Classification on the network: Machine-readable, shared, clones and hidden

Aida Slavic (UDC Consortium) [14] discussed the general tendencies of current cataloguing practice, especially as applied to a faceted classification system. She spoke about classification by concept, hierarchy and organisation by disciplines. Aida concluded by speaking about the ‘SKOS’ification of UDC, and the focus on thesauri in the development of SKOS, which ignored problems of context and phase relationships. A question was asked about mapping, referring to that already completed between UDC and Dewey by the Czech National Library.

Emerging approaches to subject information

Terry Willan (Talis) [15] provided an overview of the developing areas of information searching. He spoke of the move towards “single box” searching, and aspects of relevance ranking that would refine the search results. He also spoke of methods that would refine the search if the relevance ranking was not successful: using plural words or stemming, or giving the user options to choose from, such as spelling suggestions. Terry discussed how facets allow users to narrow results, and argued that classification can also be used as a facet, by allowing the user to find related items. He also spoke about the positive aspects of user-contributed content: participation; value provided for other users; and negligible cost for libraries. However, he noted that a large scale was necessary to provide quality.

Questions discussed the legal position of social networking in OPACs, suggesting filtering and a reporting process, and the differences between LibraryThing and Amazon, which displayed successful and unsuccessful tagging respectively, arguing that this was a reflection of different purposes: people visited Amazon to buy books rather than tag books.

HILT Demonstration

The HILT (High Level Thesaurus) demonstration by Emma McCulloch (HILT) [16] showed how the HILT Project provides subject interoperability and allows controlled vocabularies to talk to one another. The results come in a SKOS wrapper, and it is up to the user how the results are shown. Emma then spoke about different aspects of mapping. Phase 4 of HILT involved developing a pilot toolkit, also offering browsable hierarchies, which was demonstrated. Examples were provided from Intute and BUBL. Questions asked about the copyright issues surrounding the use of Dewey, the expansion to local schemes, and the possibility that the toolkit could be built into a library management system.

BIB Flows Project

The final presentation of the conference was about the BIB Flows Project, a RIN- funded study being undertaken by Ken Chad (Ken Chad Consulting) [17], looking at ways to increase efficiency by co-ordinating the import of information, where the basic information would be free, and payment would only be made for value-added information.

Ken requested the audience’s help in showing what the key aspects of bibliographic information were, and how they were used. More information on the project and the workshop form can be found on Ken’s Web site.


Overall, the same themes kept recurring throughout the conference: SKOS; the mapping of terms, subject headings or keywords; and tags, especially in the form of clouds.

Social Aspects of the Conference

On the first night, the film The Hollywood Librarian was shown, and a collection of £30 was taken, destined for a good cause.

After the sessions of the second day, there was the CIG Annual General Meeting [18]. The conference dinner, and an excellent pre-dinner reception (sponsored by Coutts) were held at the Millennium Hotel, George Square. The after dinner speaker was Stuart James, followed by an informal quiz, with prizes provided by Backstage Library Works.

Accommodation and excellent food were provided by the University of Strathclyde, where the beds were judged to be soft, and the most popular item at breakfast was the porridge.

After the conference, trips were offered to the Glasgow School of Art Library, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and the BBC Digital Library.


  1. Conference Programme and Notes http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/events/CIG/2008/conf-glasgow/programme/
  2. The Centre for Digital Library Research (CDLR) http://cdlr.strath.ac.uk/
  3. MARC Standards http://www.loc.gov/marc/development.html
  4. BIC Book Industry Communication http://www.bic.org.uk/
  5. Flicker http://www.flickr.com/
  6. LibraryThing http://www.librarything.com/
  7. National Library of Scotland http://www.nls.uk/
  8. NHS Education for Scotland http://www.nes.scot.nhs.uk
  9. British Library http://www.bl.uk/
  10. Falls Community http://www.fallscommunity.scot.nhs.uk/
  11. UKOLN http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/
  12. Swiss National Library (English) http://www.nb.admin.ch/slb/index.html?lang=en
  13. Centre for Performance History, Royal College of Music http://www.cph.rcm.ac.uk/
  14. UDC Consortium http://www.udcc.org/
  15. Talis http://www.talis.com/
  16. HILT (High Level Thesaurus Project(s) http://hilt.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/
  17. Ken Chad Consulting http://www.kenchadconsulting.co.uk/
  18. CIG AGM http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/events/CIG/2008/conf-glasgow/cig-agm-2008/

Author Details

Christina Claridge
Metadata Librarian
University of Warwick

Email: c.claridge@warwick.ac.uk

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