Dissertation | Abstract < Introduction > Literature review

Auditing catalogue quality by random sampling

1. Introduction

The aim of this dissertation is the design and evaluation of a technique for auditing the quality of records in a library catalogue. It is envisaged that the audit will be applied to online catalogues, but it should be capable of adaptation for card catalogues. The intention is to create a simple tool that libraries can use for self-assessment of their cataloguing, either retrospectively or as part of ongoing quality control, and not necessarily limited to technical services. It should ideally offer a single quantitative measure which will allow comparisons over time or between different institutions.

The technique is intended to fulfil the desire of UKOLN (the UK Office for Library and Information Networking) to pilot a scheme for self-assessment of library catalogues and was initially developed by Chapman (2000). A complementary tool is being developed for higher-level description of cataloguing (Trickey 1999). In many libraries, cataloguing is one of the most expensive processes, and money spent on purchase and processing is wasted when an item cannot be found on the shelves or in the catalogue. When browsing is impossible, because the collection is stored in closed stacks or in the case of distance learning, the catalogue becomes the only link between readers and books. An inaccurate or inconsistent catalogue compels readers to perform repeated searches either to find the item they seek or to find everything of interest, violating Ranganathan's law, 'save the time of the reader'. Even minor inaccuracies cast doubt on the quality of other records and give a bad impression of the rest of the library's services.

The audit will use random sampling. It is entirely possible to gain an impression of overall quality by browsing through records without a rigorous sampling technique; since both methods fall short of examining every record in the catalogue, neither can guarantee to represent the true situation. The advantages of sampling are that it allows the inaccuracy of any statement about quality to be quantified and justified and that it can be seen to be objective.

The following chapter reviews the literature on errors in databases, specifically in library catalogues, and sampling methods in librarianship. Next, the technique to be piloted is presented in brief, followed by an extensive discussion of its implementation. The results of a pilot in the University of Bath are reported and analysed for their implications for the design of the technique and a revised version is presented.

1.1 Aims and objectives

To reiterate, the overall aim of this work is to formulate a technique for auditing the quality of a catalogue, in terms of the accuracy of bibliographic records, rather than the friendliness and speed of the user interface or the appropriateness of the classification. The specific objectives are:

Dissertation | Abstract < Introduction > Literature review

Owen Massey McKnight <owen.mcknight@worc.ox.ac.uk>