Pre-Publication information, or A new challenge to small & Radical publishers by Martyn Lowe

Pre-Publication information, or A new challenge to small & Radical publishers.


Martn Lowe

By way of an introduction.
Before stating anything else I should point out that I am not a cataloguer. I am however an Library Information worker, & have had a lot of first hand contact with many small or radical publishers.
So instead of looking at what could or might be done to improve Library cataloguing, I wish to raise some questions & make some points about just how pre-publication cataloguing is & will effect the provision of small, radical, or campaigning publishers works within public libraries.
Current development in publishing, & how pre-publication cataloguing effects library end users.
The publishing explosion means that there are many more books which need to be catalogued. Given just how long it takes to produce a full catalogue record, and the expense of doing so, then many national libraries view pre-publication cataloguing as a way in which their costs might be cut.
One can easily see the advantages which come with this. For libraries there is also the added advantage that a full catalogue record is available well in advance of the publication date.
Yet pre-publication cataloguing does make for some interesting issues, & can create as many problems as it solves.
A nice little earner.
All in all pre-publication cataloguing makes money, saves costs, & for the library suppliers is what we might all refer to as a ‘nice little earner’.
The important thing to keep in mind is that any pre-publication cataloguing which any publisher produces will in turn be used or sold on by the various library supplies.
By publishers making pre-publication available via any National Library or National Bibliography, they are also contributing towards the privatisation ( outsoaring ) of library services. In other words, here we have yet another fine example of information being just another commodity to make a profit upon.
A how to do, & what not to do set of guide lines, or Webpage help.
It is not my intention to give any tips or advice about how to set about producing pre-publication catalogue information for any would be publisher. I’ll just give you a webpage reference which might be of some use.
Cataloguing in Publication From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cataloging_in_Public ation
This webpage also gives webpage links to the ‘Cataloguing in Publication Programs’ of the LOC (Library of Congress ), British Library , & Library and Archives Canada .
Here take note: a quote from the British Library website, which also says something about just how our various national libraries have developed over the last few years:
‘The British Library contracts the administration of the CIP ( Cataloguing-in-Publication ) Programme and the creation of records to Bibliographic Data Services Limited (BDS). BDS is an independent, privately-owned company specialising in the creation of high-quality bibliographic data for use by libraries, booksellers and publishers.’
It might also be noted from the above webpages, that there are some restrictions upon these programs, which also means that they work in favour of the big capitalist publishers.
For example: The British Library requires that any pre-publication information is sent to them at least 4 months in advance of publication. I doubt if most small, radical, or campaigning publishers are ever going to be able to achieve anything like that !
Quality control, or wrong Dewy number means a wrong book placement upon the shelves.
There is also another set of problems which come from pre-publication cataloguing, as it might come with very little or poor quality control.
A lot of the work which is involved in processing books within public libraries is done by library workers who may never of had any training upon just how to read a Dewy number, never mind all that much cataloguing training.
If the pre-publication cataloguing is in any way wrong, library workers might just accept what they are given, & so in turn the books might be placed upon the wrong library shelves.
There are also another factors which should be taken into account here.
With a greater enthuses being given to IT issues within library schools, & less time available for lessons about cataloguing, then it must in turn make for an attitudinal effect within the Library workroom.
The attitude from front line librarians & library workers being that any cataloguing work should be left to the ‘specialist’ cataloguer, which in turn means a greater acceptance or reliance upon the electronic catalogue.
I could write more upon this issue, but lets just say it is not an issue about de-skilling. It is more to do with a greater issue about how libraries are changing, & how there are more skills which librarians & Library workers have to acquire.
The challenge to small & radical publisher at present.
The introduction of more pre-publication cataloguing is going to leave small, radical, & campaigning publishers at the major disadvantage in terms of promoting there works.
Pre-publication cataloguing is as much to do with publicising ones works & ideas, as it is about getting them into bookshops & libraries.
ISBN OK, but Dewy – What’s that ?
Perhaps the most illuminating replies one can receive from small campaigning organisations relates to just how much they know about both how to obtain an ISBN, & Dewy numbers.
For many small campaigning organisations how to obtain an ISBN is already an issue which is a difficult one to resolve. For many of these organisations it is left to the admin worker to obtain or work out any ISBN which they may of been allocated. Many of these organisations might of already been allocated a range of ISBN numbers , but they may still need to work out the check digit which needs to be added to them. For even those who are both able & used to working out this check digit, they will have to learn how to do it once again with the introduction of the new 13 digit ISBN number,
So when it comes to the allocation of Dewy numbers to these publication, there is an even greater set of problems which they face.
Most admin workers would never be able to appreciate the subtleties of cataloguing rules or conventions. Just to ask them which edition of Dewy they might be using to achieve any pre publication cataloguing would have most of them feeling like they were about to undertake a very uphill task.
No admin worker can or should be expected to allocate any dewey number to pre-publication data, as it will inevitably be wrong.
That is why most small publishers will come up with the text upon there publications such as:
‘A catalogue record for this book is available from ……..( insert your national library here ).’
In other words: ‘ leave it to the experts’.
In Conclusion – Some helpful ideas.
While no one can deny that the introduction is pre-publication cataloguing is useful, we do also need to address the many issues which it raises.
Clearly there are problems here which need to be addressed within the library world, & for which there is no easy solution.
What ever solutions one might have to these issues, most of them will cost a lot in terms of either time or money.
It would be very silly to try & resolve any of these issues by establishing a new alternative pre-publication bibliography, as that would only duplicate what is being done already.
By the same token, any webpage aimed at giving pre-publication help to publishers would only duplicate what is also currently available elsewhere.
What might work is the establishment of new network of radical librarians & cataloguers who would be willing & able to do the pre-publication cataloguing work for radical or campaigning publishers.
This could be a web-based network which the publisher contacts. Some of the people within this network might just wish to help organisations which specialise upon specific types of campaigning, while others might only wish to work with publishers that promote a very specific political line. The actual details about who does what & how such a network might be organised would have to evolve with those who might be interested in setting up such a body.
If such a network was linked within the present global network of radical librarians, then it could function in a very effective manner.
The next question is whether anyone wants to take up these ideas & then work upon them?
Martyn Lowe

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