Moving Image Cataloging

Eric Jukes (Asset and Information Systems Manager, College of North East London (CONEL), UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 25 July 2008




Jukes, E. (2008), "Moving Image Cataloging", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 328-332.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Moving Image Cataloging is a rather unusual text book in that it does not attempt to tell the reader that there is only one correct way to catalogue films. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly the moving image field follows a number of different standards for cataloguing including The Anglo‐American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd ed. rev., Archival Moving Image Materials: A Cataloging Manual, and The FIAF Cataloging Rules. Depending upon the institution in which the reader works, it might be necessary to use any number of those three sets of cataloguing rules. Another issue is that the cataloguing field in general is going through a period of change, and appears to be moving in a less prescriptive direction than in the past, with much more flexibility in cataloguing, following the lead of the metadata community. Finally, many moving image collections are adopting inhouse data asset management systems where outside standards do not apply.

So, says author Martha M Yee, the text book is intended to teach the reader how to think about cataloguing and how to make effective decisions that meet the needs of the users of the reader's institution. Yee is well qualified to write this book. She has been Cataloging Supervisor, UCLA Film and Television Archive since 1983 and her doctorate dissertation was on the subject of moving image works and manifestations in 1993.

In cataloguing, the body of the description, the work identifier, and name headings are known collectively as descriptive cataloguing, which is contrasted with subject cataloguing. Chapters 1 to 5 of the book cover descriptive cataloguing. Chapters 6 to 9 deal with subject cataloguing which tells users what the work is about and to which discipline, if any, it belongs.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. Chapter 1 – “Introduction to moving image cataloging” – poses the question “What is cataloguing?” and explains that three main types of data go into a cataloguing record, namely transcribed data; composed data; and normalised headings. Normalised headings are at the heart of the cataloguing process and have been used for hundreds of years by cataloguers in order to help users deal with the complex situation created by the fact that names, titles and subject terms for particular entities vary. Chapter 1 also considers the impact of the internet on cataloguing standards. Of course, in truth the true impact is not yet known and its future can only be guessed at. The chapter also looks at differences among data content standards data value standards and a brief history of moving image cataloguing rules. The chapter ends (as do all chapters) with suggested readings, additional readings and essay or class discussion topics.

Chapter 2 is an introduction to a data structure standard; considers how to create a cataloguing record; and looks at automation complexities and OPAC searching. The chapter introduces the major international data structure standard, MARC21, as well as going through creating a cataloguing record using three different data content standards in the moving image field. One section in this chapter is “Let us catalogue a film together”, and whilst you might expect a nice simple example to begin with, this one is a Laurel and Hardy in Spanish (1931).

There are different ways in which one item might be related to another item and Yee says that demonstrating such relationships is the hardest and most expensive part of cataloguing. Unfortunately it is often not very well done in a given institution because of budget cuts, and it is also the least well‐supported by OPAC software because system designers simply do not understand the type of records that film librarians create. This issue is covered in Chapter 3 which includes an introduction to uniform titles, relationships and represented and presented works.

When the description has been created i.e. a bibliographic record, it is necessary to fit that description into the catalogue, and in that catalogue will be other films by the same director or actor, other films on the same subject, or even other versions of the same film. Whatever kind of search the user carries out, the descriptive record will need to organise itself so that the user sees the versions of a particular work gathered together. Chapter 4 is concerned with work identification and authorship, and, authority control is covered in detail in this chapter.

The pseudonym rule changed between AACR2 (Anglo‐American Cataloguing Rules) and AACR2R (1988) requiring one writer to be considered to be two or more authors (separate bibliographic entries) if he or she writes under more than one name and the well‐known examples of Lewis Carroll/Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Mark Twain/Samuel Langhorne Clemens are cited. However, Yee takes the view that, whilst this rule may benefit some public libraries in the short term, the practice is creating problems in the case of blacklisted screenwriters. These issues, as well as the complications with names of persons in corporate bodies, are covered in Chapter 5 along with location of Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) entities and OPAC searching complications. This chapter discusses name changes, which are a particular problem in relation to moving image when librarians with serials experience look at television programmes. At first glance television programmes appear to be serials, since both are works that are open‐ended, intended to continue indefinitely, and added to continuously by means of issues. However, the chapter points out that it is not a good idea to treat television programmes as serials because archives do not acquire the latest episode week by week; they acquire what they can in lumps and often do not have complete “runs”; casts change‐over time and users are interested in episodes with particular cast members in them; different episodes treat different subjects and themes, and users are interested in these subjects and themes; issues or episodes are not necessarily identified by numbers; use of episode title is common, which is not conducive to “check‐in”; and there are no abstracting and indexing services for television programmes. The author says that at her institute, UCLA Film and Television Archives, they have chosen the earliest title approach, to keep all episodes together, since episodes can be broadcast under title, then broadcast under a new changed title. They use earliest, unless latest has become better known.

Chapter 6 begins the subject cataloguing and the chapter is entitled “Introduction to subject analysis”. The chapter begins with Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) which is probably the most widely used of many examples of controlled vocabularies. There are many good reasons for adopting LCSH, including the fact that the headings in LCSH are available free on the web at and that the entire LCSH list is distributed in the form of MARC21 authority records including the complete syndetic structure. The major disadvantage of using LCSH is cost – access is expensive, something no one likes to face up to in a world where everyone thinks they are getting information for free over the internet. Another problem is that LCSH is book‐based and the “size” of subjects tend to be determined by what subject books are written about. Newsreel stories tend to be a different “size” than books and it is obvious that LCSH was not specifically designed for visual materials. LCSH is considered in detail including the basic structure, principles, use, authority records and online aids for LCSH use.

The issue of subject analysis is complex and takes up Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 (Chapter 7 being entitled “More on subject analysis”). Chapter 7, examines pre‐coordination and there is a section on literary warrant – literary warrant referring to the practice of adding terms or categories to a controlled vocabulary system only when they are needed for an actual published work, or using terminology found in published texts as a technique for trying to match vocabulary actually used. The difficulty is that literary warrant represents the standpoint of research at a particular time in a particular culture or particular country and needs to be quoted with caution – terminology changes over time and the term by which a concept is commonly known in 1910 may not be the term by which is commonly known in 2008. The chapter contains an interesting discussion on natural language versus controlled vocabulary and the hope of applying textual automatic indexing (without human intervention) to film by indexing closed captions. This is a chapter which deals with many complex cataloguing issues including complexities of “of” and “about” such that a film that depicts Elvis Presley is a film “of” Elvis Presley, but that there are actually many ways for a work to be “about” rather than “of”. How about depicting? There is a problem of making a distinction in indexing between paintings by Degas and depictions of Degas. If Degas were a performer, the situation would be even more complicated!

Chapter 8 considers newsfilm access and OPAC searching. For newsfilm the following types of access are particularly important: place, names of persons, names of corporate bodies, names of works, events, and historical periods. These types of access are also important for access to other kinds of documentary material held in archives and in Chapter 8 these types of access are considered more deeply and in more detail than in previous chapters. It is very important for cataloguers and reference librarians to understand the various kinds of searches available in current OPACs. It is just as important for a cataloguer to be expert at searching as it is for a reference librarian. The cataloguer who is a poor searcher can waste time and create confusion by inputting duplicate records. Keyword searching is the default search in most OPACs. This chapter includes a number of screen images of searches and explains left‐to‐right in record searching which is available in some systems – it is phrase searching or adjacency searching. However, most current OPACs offer only the left to right heading search to users who choose to search headings and it is sometimes called browsing or list searching. Screen images are provided to help to illustrate this concept (Chapter 8 is the only chapter with any illustrations).

Chapter 9 examines subject access to fiction and genre/form access, and begins by reviewing concepts introduced in Chapter 7 regarding the difference between expressional about and discursive about and explains that fictional materials are expressional about, but are more subjective in their relationship to the topics that they are about. In LCSH practice a subdivision “drama” is added to subject headings for a fictional film or television programme. Non‐fiction materials are discursive about, so that in LCSH practice the appropriate subject heading is added without a “drama” sub‐division. But what are scripted reality shows, game shows, and TV news? This chapter considers what to bring out and how. With visual materials it can be helpful to users to bring out things depicted on the film including, for example, types of vehicles or locations where the moving image was filmed. There are clearly many considerations. The chapter includes a brief mention of icons, so, for example, a classic film example of an icon is a white hat for the hero/black hat for the villain – a convention in some Westerns – and points out that it can be useful to provide access to icons using subject headings. Likewise, scholars of fictional materials might well be interested in tracking the depiction of various character types or stereotypes, such as femmes fatales, and outlaws. Users of moving image collections may find it useful to be able to gather together all of the films and programmes in which a particular repeating fictitious character appears, for example Sherlock Holmes. And what about historical figures that are portrayed in many films, such as Abraham Lincoln? How about themes in dramatic presentations, such as ambition, but the author does accept that it is much harder for one cataloguer to agree with another about these. Genre/form is considered further in the chapter. There are problems with LCSH as a source of genre/form terms because LCSH has been built up over more than 100 years and there are inevitable inconsistencies. Additionally, LCSH does not always use the name commonly known for moving image genres and forms, and there is a problem with the inconsistent handling of fictitious character names, with some fictitious character names showing up in the genre/form headings and some existing independently: Tarzan films versus Tarzan (fictitious character) and James Bond films versus James Bond (fictitious character). Method of distribution is considered along with the issue of the broadcast of moving image material on television. For television, the time slot is an important concept for television scholars, and needs to be distinguished from genre/form access. Some researchers are interested in studying films made by particular groups of people such as women, African Americans, etc. and that this type of access needs to be distinguished from genre/form access. Access to the intended audience also needs to be distinguished from genre/form access such as films made for children or for women (typically films of the 1940 s known as “tear‐jerkers” or “weepies”). The remainder of the chapter looks at subject versus form access, noting, for example, that a film about D‐day is not necessarily a war film, although it is about warfare, specifically a particular battle during World War Two.

Chapter 10, the final chapter, is brief in comparison with all the rest and considers digitisation and the future of cataloguing. The question has been asked as to whether editions and versions will continue to exist and whether manuscripts will continue to exist as we move into a world in which information is delivered over the internet. How will we know what edition was digitised and can there be any protection against unauthorised alteration? The preservation issue is now, thankfully, well known, even if material is still being lost. The major problem is the constant change of technology platforms for both hardware and software. And, of course what about access? Everyone is dreaming of viewing on‐demand at home, and this has already begun. But unless the problem of cataloguing these works in digital archives is solved then no one will be able to find anything. Yee poses the question of whether a computer can be a cataloguer, but concludes that, often, even a human cannot complete the necessary cataloguing tasks without doing research!

Moving Image Cataloging includes Exercise Answers; a substantial Glossary which includes chapter numbers in which a given term was discussed – this is an unusual but extremely useful addition; a Bibliography of Works Consulted – including URLs; and a Cataloging Standards Bibliography. The book is clearly laid out and printed in a good‐sized font, good quality paper, and an attractive green, white and black cover.

Whilst the Introduction claims that the book will “attempt to teach students to make effective cataloguing decisions … ”, it must be appreciated that this book is not one for those very new to cataloguing. It is a complex and important work, written by an expert and authority in the field, for those cataloguing the moving image. It leaves no stone unturned, and, having turned the proverbial stone, comes back again and again to dig even deeper! It is intended by the author that it should be a thought‐provoking book, and she certainly succeeds. Yee wants readers to think about and be critical of the standards, because, as she says, there is still work to be done to fix the standards and make them work better. She wants the reader to appreciate that the notion that human intervention for information organisation is essential to the provision of permanent access to our cultural record, is currently under attack and subject to intense debate, the outcome of which will have an immense impact on the quality of access for generations to come.

This is a book which will become a standard work on the subject of cataloguing the moving image, and it needs to be read by those involved in cataloguing in film libraries, archives, and museums, as well as library schools and the more advanced cataloguing courses.

Finally, I cannot resist quoting the marvellous dedication at the beginning of the book: “This book is dedicated to all of the cataloguers who have laboured in the vineyards of bibliographic control for hundreds of years, largely unthanked and unappreciated because, when we do our work well, it is invisible to the catalogue user.” How true!

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