You might wonder why, five months into the project, I am now creating a post about the project workflow for the French Revolution Collection (FRC). In part, I’m finally feeling caught up as the Project Cataloging Assistants are working rather independently, with less input from me at this point. Partly, it’s because it’s taken a while and some tinkering to arrive at a workflow that has addressed some of the bumps in the road. We’ve found the glitches, we’ve dealt with the unexpected, and we have come up with ways to handle future surprises.
The collection is already housed in the stacks, divided into portfolios containing 25-40 pamphlets, give or take depending on the size of the respective pamphlets. The portfolios are signed out of the stacks when they are brought to the department for cataloging; this will allow Special Collections to know which ones we have and which have been returned to the stacks… that will hopefully eliminate any confusion or running around if a patron requests a pamphlet or a portfolio. Because the Project Cataloging Assistants work different schedules, with some full and some part-time, we decided that the process of assigning call numbers would fall to the full time assistants. The reason for assigning call numbers in advance means that the portfolios will thus be ready to go without the risk of confusion, duplicate or skipped numbers, which would be more likely if various people had to number a portfolio’s contents each time a new one was taken to catalog. This will also preserve the order in which they were previously shelved, which may be of help especially to individuals who may have worked with the pamphlets already.
After the preliminary gathering and organizing of the portfolios, they are ready for the Project Cataloging Assistants to catalog. There are several steps to the cataloging process in terms of creating records, review, and completing any necessary revision. As we got in to the project, it became clear that there were too many pamphlets for me to review each newly created or edited record, as was our original plan. To help speed up the review process, we’ve instituted a peer review process, in which a Project Cataloging Assistant will give the complete portfolio to another assistant for an initial review. This step helped identify errors in transcription and description. Once the cataloger revised anything pointed out by the peer review, I would do a final review. This final review involved focusing on particular areas of the records that were perhaps more complex, depending on the particular pamphlet. Also, I would especially focus on subject headings at this point. The portfolios are then returned to the cataloger for any final revisions and then the records are produced in OCLC.
The final step is for the Project Cataloging Assistant to verify that the records have been correctly imported into our local catalog, after which the pamphlets receive our ownership stamp and the portfolio is labeled with the call number range for its contents. Those pamphlets are returned to the stacks, while in the meantime the process has been continuing with other portfolios… and it’s been moving along smoothly.
Another note about the process, is that I have regularly-scheduled times to meet with each Project Cataloging Assistant individually to address particular questions they have — either about the cataloging process in general, or about specific examples from among the pamphlets they are working on. These conversations have been a great way to address specific concerns of the individual, focus on training in areas particularly helpful to the Project Cataloging Assistant, as well as identify trends or situations that can be discussed together in one of the regular team meetings.