Books are getting lost. When they’re lost people don’t check them out. When people don’t check them out, we think people don’t like them. When we think people don’t like them, we sometimes weed them (if we can find them). Why is this happening? Bad cataloging, especially in books written in non-English languages. What’s going on, and how is rampant copy-cataloging making the problem worse?
Recently, [researcher Joyce] Flynn checked Harvard’s less-than-25-year-old computer-based catalogue system, and discovered that many – perhaps most – of the Gaelic and Irish books with Na … titles are miscatalogued and so, in this odd way, are half-missing. That catalogue system is now the only way the public can access titles in the Harvard College Library collections.
“The issue goes beyond just Harvard’s Widener Library,” Flynn says. “Because Widener is often the first North American library to acquire and catalogue an obscure foreign language title, Widener’s cataloguing data frequently become the standard for libraries that acquire the book later.