Cataloging videotapes is interesting and fun, but because of some peculiarities of the format and of the videotape publishing industry, cataloging videotapes can also be labor-intensive and time-consuming. Playback equipment is necessary to view the chief source of cataloging information, the title screens. Vital bibliographic elements such as when the work was produced, and who or what is responsible for the creation of the work can be difficult to determine if playback equipment is not readily accessible. This paper investigates one solution to the problem of not having playback equipment available in a cataloging department.
The Ohio State University Libraries (OSUL) consist of 23 physically separate location libraries on the main campus in Columbus, Ohio. The Cataloging Dept. is centralized in one location, the Main Library. The equipment needed to view videotapes is in other library locations far from the Cataloging Dept. To solve the problem of viewing videotapess for cataloging data, one suggestion was to have the staff at the site of the locations which housed the videotape collections, and who had access to VCR's, become responsible for gathering the bibliographic data. This data could then be communicated to the Cataloging Dept. so that catalog records could be constructed. The number of staff available at these sites varies from location to location. Realistically, it seemed unlikely that the librarian in charge would have time to gather bibliographic information for videotapes. In some locations, it might also be difficult for the paraprofessional staff to have the time to view videotapes. That left the most plentiful source of labor in the libraries, student assistants.
Many students at OSUL begin working in the libraries in their freshman year and may stay until completion of one or more academic degrees. As a result of their working at OSUL over the course of several years, some students become quite skilled and knowledgeable about library tasks and procedures. OSUL has trained students to process and input catalog records for theses, to edit and input records for certain kinds of foreign language materials, and to help with authority work in the online headings maintenance section. It seemed reasonable to explore the possibility of training students to gather bibliographic data for videotapes.
Gathering bibliographic data from videotapes, however, is not as straightforward as photocopying the title page, a preface, and a table of contents. Even experienced catalogers can find their first attempts at cataloging videotapes to be disconcertingly complicated. What are the problems in gathering bibliographic data for cataloging videotapes that needed to be considered?
There are cataloging problems unique to audiovisual materials which require thought and attention. Unlike
monographic printed materials, there may be multiple sources of bibliographic and content data for a videotapes, e.g., the title screens, the label, the packaging, and accompanying textual material.
AACR2 lists the chief source of information for videotapes as the title frames, followed by the container when it is an integral part of the piece (i.e., the cassette). "If the information is not available from the chief source, take it from the following sources (in this order of preference): accompanying textual material..., [the] container (if not an integral part of the piece), [and] other sources" (AACR2 1988 rev., 183) While external sources, such as accompanying textual material and a physically separate container, can also serve as a chief source, AACR2 mandates that this occur only if information is not available from the chief source itself. "Not available" means that the information does not exist on the chief source, not that access to the chief source is inconvenient because playback equipment is outside the cataloging agency (Frost 1989, 108).
Multiple sources of bibliographic data for videotapes often contain different information for the same element of description (Intner 1987, 130). That the chief source of information is the title frames, reflects an effort to avoid conflicting data that result from the publishing practices of commercially produced videotapes. The packaging materialsand the labels double as marketing devices on which titles may vary and lists of participants may be expanded or deleted according to the whims of the distributor or the artist responsible for the design of the packaging. Dates on the box may reflect when the artwork was done rather than when the work was published or created. Therefore, choosing the title frames of videotapes as the chief source of information of data to be used in the bibliographic description is meant to reduce the confusion associated with determining valid data elements, but it doesn't solve all the problems.
Many works on videotape are a collaborative effort and present complex statements of responsibility. Vidotapes containing movies, in particular, often display a list of interrelated and subsidiary production and distribution companies. From the title screens of one movie on a videotape (Olson 1991, 31):
It takes experience and judgement to determine the correct data elements to be put into the statement of responsibility and the publication and distribution areas of a catalog record.
It has also been observed that inherent bibliographic data may not convey the notion of the intellectual entity (Smiraglia 1987, 18). Catalog records need the enhancement of explanatory notes to fully inform the patron about the intellectual content of the work. Intner suggests that well-written summaries of the subject content of motion pictures and videotapes are important because similar or even identical titles for different works is not an infrequent problem (Intner 1987, 135). For libraries whose collections are not browsable, the catalog record may be the primary basis for selection of materials by patrons. The construction of contents summaries, and other notes about important specifics of the work, requires an ability to understand the intellectual content and purpose of the work. It takes some practice to skim the videotape for its intellectual content and to summarize one's observations into appropriate notes for the catalog record.
At OSUL, it was decided to try to design a form that would enable a student assistant to gather the correct cataloging data for a videotape and transmit the data to the Cataloging Dept. so that an acceptable catalog record could be constructed. Of course, librarians have been using forms in libraries for a long time. In fact, Futas says that most library forms used are in the area of technical services. She says that two considerations drive the urge to design a form. First, a form saves on repetition of instructions and, secondly, forms standardize procedures. Second, forms can establish the continuity of procedures over time and even serve as a teaching aid, as the user learns the procedures of a task as the form is filled out (Futas 1984, ix-x).
Keeping Futas' observations in mind, the Cataloging Dept. decided to try to develop a form which students could use. The form would be used to gather bibliographic data for cataloging videotapes. The data gathered would need to be consistently reliable and usable for constructing good catalog records. Furthermore, it was hoped that the form could be constructed in such a way as to take on some of the burden of training students to use the form.
It was hypothesized that the effectiveness of a form would depend on an optimal balance between the amount of textual instruction on the form and the degree of cognitive organization required to fill out the form correctly. That is, the more the form elicited, and contributed to the organization of, the information needed, the less judgement the student would need to exercise in deciding which information should be conveyed.
It was further hypothesized that the more instruction given, the more liklihood that the student would give the appropriate information, and the greater the usefulness of the information in constructing a good catalog record. That is, a teaching form was hypothesized as being the optimal tool.
A brief pilot study was done in which three different videotapes were given to three different students to view. One student was a new employee of the Cataloging Dept. with limited experience in cataloging procedures. A second student was an experienced employee responsible for the cataloging of theses. A third student was a library employee, but not in the Cataloging Dept., who was a film major. The results of the pilot study seemed to indicate that library experience was critical, but it was difficult to determine which form was most effective in gathering and conveying usable information. As the results were inconclusive, it was decided to collect more extensive data. As time and resources for conducting the study were limited, it was decided to select one videotape which would be viewed by as large a number of students as possible in order to see if patterns emerged concerning the kinds of errors and the effectiveness of the forms.
the three forms to gather bibliographic data about the same videotape. The students were divided into two groups of 15: those with some library work experience and those with none. Within each group, five students would use Form A, five would use Form B, and five would use Form C. Most of the students with library work experience had worked in non-cataloging areas of the library: circulation, the stacks, the mailroom, and in non-cataloging areas of technical services. A small subset of the students had considerable cataloging-related experience, including inputting and even editing of catalog records.
Each student was given a form and basic verbal and written instructions. The instructions included directions to the location library where a VCR was located, the name of the videotape to request, a brief description of the equipment to be used, a statement that only the form was being tested (not the student), and a request that a conscientious effort be made to fill out the form even when it was confusing or frustrating. After the form was filled out and returned, each student was interviewed informally and briefly as to the amount of time taken and as to impressions about the form used. Upon completion of the form and the brief interview, each student was paid a small stipend.
The videotape assigned was one that is above average in cataloging difficulty, but which presents content typical of videotapes in an academic library that supports film research. The videotape has three separate works on it: a preview ("trailer") of a Tracy/Hepburn film, a vintage World War II cartoon, and a Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn feature film. The videotape was housed in its original container, thus presenting several sources of information other than the title screens.
Twenty-three (twelve with library experience; eleven without library experience) of the thirty students hired returned forms and were paid. Of the twenty-three who completed the assigned task, only two students returned forms that seemed to indicate an unacceptable attitude and a
cursory effort. The rest of the forms, even forms that contained many errors, were filled out completely and often with written comments and questions indicating a serious effort to adequately complete the task. Students reported that the exercise took from 45 minutes to three hours. Those who took the most time said that they got interested in the film and viewed more than what was necessary to complete the assigned task.
Because this study had to be integrated into the regular workday, the students were not monitored or observed as they made their way to the departmental library, viewed the videotape, and filled out the form. This did, however, mimic the real conditions under which a form would be used. The intent was to see if a form could be designed to be clear enough so that adequate bibliographic information could be transmitted from untrained and unsupervised staff members to the Cataloging Dept. While OSUL is currently collecting only videotapes, the form was designed with the intent of being used for videodiscs at a later time. Only a videotape was used, however, in this study.
Patterns of errors associated with each form were evident upon examination of the returned forms and provided the OSUL Cataloging Dept. with enough information that a videotape cataloging workflow could be constructed that would help solve the problem of not having on-site playback equipment available. The following discussion highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each form.
The most obvious feature of Form A [see figure 1, below] is that it has definite, clearly labelled categories. This form promotes standardized use of categories. To use Form A, one has to take information in whatever form it is given on the videotape and recognize into which category the data belongs. A considerable amount of cognitive
organization of information is required to fill out this form, e.g. one must determine which entity is performing the function of a production company and which is performing the function of a distribution company. The responsibility of recognizing what goes where is upon the user of the form. If the form is filled out correctly, it should be a simple matter to create a catalog record from the information given. If the form is filled out incorrectly, it may be difficult for the cataloger to determine the errors in judgement, because the raw data has been processed and has not been communicated directly to the cataloger. ************************************************************
(Due to limitations in the format of this electronic journal, underlining and spacing present in the original forms have been deleted or condensed.)
Form A (page 1)
VIDEOTAPE/VIDEODISC DATA SHEET
Please take all information from the title frame(s). Title
frames can occur at the beginning or the end of the
tape/disc. Write EXACTLY what you see, using the same
spelling, punctuation, and abbreviations that you see.
VIDEOTAPE (circle): Beta 1/2" VHS 1/2" U-Matic 3/4" Other
VIDEODISC: Diameter in inches:
NO. OF TAPES/DISCS:
TOTAL PLAYING TIME (minutes):
SOUND ON TAPE/DISC?
SOUND SEPARATE FROM TAPE OR DISC? (explain)
PRIMARY SPOKEN LANGUAGE:
OTHER SPOKEN LANG.:
LANG. OF SUBTITLES:
CIRCLE ONE: color blk & wht mixed (col/b&w)
TITLE(S). Titles may be spread over several frames. If you are unsure about where the title begins or ends, write out the entire phrase exactly as you see it presented, in order, including punctuation.
STATEMENT OF RESPONSIBILITY. These may be spread over several frames at the beginning or end of the piece. Write EXACTLY what you see in order of presentation. Include all phrases and words associated with personal and corporate names, e.g.: written by, presented by, produced by, narrated by, host, music, editor, project director, research director, producer, choreographer, etc. Include only principal performers and/or creators. Do not include long lists of researchers, cast members, musicians, or technical personnel. ************************************************************
Form A (page 2)
EDITION/VERSION. May include the words version, revised, edition. Write what you see. Include any indication that the piece was previously issued in another format.
PUBLISHER/DISTRIBUTOR/DATE OF PUBLICATION. Check beginning and end frames. Write what you see even if it seems to duplicate or be part of the title or part of the statement of responsibility. Include place of publication as it is written on the title frames. Indicate if the date is a copyright date. (If there is no date on the piece and you can guess the year or decade, do so and indicate you have guessed.)
CONTENTS. What is this work about? Suggest key words or phrases.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS. Include here any other information about this video such as other things on the video (advertisements, etc.), if there is a mixture of black and white film, or anything else that is unusual.
Form A: the effect of library experience.
A typical response on Form A from a student from the group which had never worked in a library included a correct distinction between the distributor and the production company. Typically however, the inexperienced student would note only one date, a copyright renewal date, not the date of most importance to a cataloger. Typically, no mention would be made of the film preview or of the vintage cartoon on the videotape. In an academic library which supports research in film history, supplementary material is of interest to some patrons.
Students with library experience were more likely to mention the supplementary material on the videotape, but this information was not consistently and dependably reported. A student with 6 quarters of general experience in the library (not in technical services) mentioned the presence of the cartoon on the tape, but not the preview. She included more complete information about the dates of production and with which company the dates were listed as being associated, e.g. "1942, Loew's Inc.; 1969, MGM renewed".
Form A: problems.
The most common areas of error and difficulty for Form A, for both the experienced and inexperienced groups, were incomplete or confusing information for the primary statement of responsibility, confusion over dates of production and distribution, and missing or incomplete information about the cartoon and trailer on the video. Contributing to the difficulty of interpreting the data was the lack of any indication of prominence of the information. The cataloger, therefore, would be unable to exercise any judgement as to the importance of some of the production company information given, because the original order of presentation and the size of type used are not conveyed by this form. An additional problem is that some information was lost when an appropriate category was not anticipated and included on the form, e.g. while the word "editor" was listed, the phrase "film editor" was not.
Form B [figure 2] was designed to be a teaching tool and was hypothesized to be the most effective of the three forms. Form B has instructions on how to find and record important bibliographic information and suggestions on how to handle problems that might be encountered. ************************************************************
Figure 2 (Due to limitations in the format of this electronic journal, underlining and spacing present in the original forms have been deleted or condensed.)
Form B (page 1)
VIDEOTAPE/VIDEODISC DATA SHEET
BETA 1/2" VHS 1/2" U-MATIC 3/4" OTHER
PLAYING TIME COLOR BLACK & WHITE MIXED OTHER
SOUND SILENT (with or without music) LANGUAGE SPOKEN IN FILM LANGUAGE OF SUBTITLES
DISTRIBUTOR(S): Place(s) Name of distributor Date of distribution or copyright
(Give the following information exactly as it appears on the screen, such as "directed by Steven Spielberg" or "A George Lucas Production".)
Figure 2 Form B (page 2)
Principal actors, performers, performing groups, musicians, or other people named prominently in the film:
Give a brief summary of what the video is about:
Form B: the effect of library experience.
Students with and without library experience had major difficulties with this form. Inexperienced students followed the directions as exactly as they understood them, but the result was chaos. In one extreme example, the student conscientiously wrote each phrase on each screen and boxed each of these phrases so that the form consisted of a conglomeration of boxes of names and phrases, like an abstract mosaic of tiles. It was impossible to tell the order in which the information had been originally presented or the prominance of the information. Experienced students produced equally poor forms.
Form B: problems.
In general, for both groups, title information was adequate for the feature film, but other title information was difficult to interpret. Information for the publishing and distribution area was consistently missing or unusable. Information for the statement of responsibility area was somewhat better conveyed, but elements that were included varied widely from student to student. Data for the trailer and the cartoon were either non-existent or so confusingly conveyed as to be unusable in the construction of an adequate catalog record.
Form C was designed to be a surrogate for the chief sources of information and was hypothesized to require little or no organization or judgement on the part of the student using the form. It was postulated that this form would maximize the information communicated to the cataloger while minimizing the need for processing and interpreting that information by the student. ************************************************************
Figure 3 (Due to limitations in the format of this electronic journal, underlining and spacing present in the original forms have been deleted or condensed.)
Form C (page 1)
VIDEOTAPE/VIDEODISC DATA SHEET VIDEOTAPE (circle): Beta 1/2" VHS 1/2" U-Matic 3/4" Other (specify)
VIDEODISC: Diameter in inches NO. OF TAPES/DISCS
TOTAL PLAYING TIME (minutes) SOUND ON TAPE/DISC?
SOUND SEPARATE FROM TAPE OR DISC? (explain)
PRIMARY SPOKEN LANGUAGE OTHER SPOKEN LANG.
LANG. OF SUBTITLES CIRCLE ONE: color blk & wht mixed
The chief source of information for cataloging videotapes and videodiscs is he title frame(s). Title frames occur at the beginning of the tape/disc and contain written or printed material that is not part of the subject content of the item. There may also be information on frames at the end of the tape/disc. Check both places. Write exactly what you see on each frame, in order, including punctuation, abbreviations, and how the lines are spaced. Be complete.
FRAMES AT BEGINNING:
Figure 3 Form C (page 2)
(If there are more than 5 beginning frames, use additional paper and number the frames.)
FRAMES AT THE END OF THE TAPE/DISC (Use additional paper if necessary.)
CONTENTS. What is this work about? Suggest key words or phrases.
Form C: the effect of library experience.
Students typically took the directions on the form, to "write exactly what you see on each frame", literally. Inexperienced students often would reproduce the copyright warning statement, carefully draw the MGM lion, and then move to what the cataloger would consider to be the first title screen! Each screen would be carefully noted, e.g. "10th screen" and material would be reproduced exactly. Cast lists would be complete down to the least important player, including any dotted lines connecting the actors' names with the parts played! In general, inexperienced students produced a form that certainly included everything the cataloger could possibly want, including indications of order of presentation and prominance.
Students with library experience, particularly those with experience in cataloging departments, also produced a good form but were more selective in the data included. Typically, the experienced student would ignore the copyright warning statement but, in an effort to follow directions conscientiously, sometimes would draw the MGM lion as well as write the text on the screen ("Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents..."). Experienced students were more likely to report only the first dozen or so cast members and to leave out minor players and film personnel.
Form C: problems.
Errors on Form C included too extensive statements of responsibility information which was certainly more useful than too little information, but represented wasted effort. Information on the cartoon and the trailer was always either missing or incomplete.
Conclusions about Form A.
Each form, however, had its strengths. Casual comments as the forms were being returned indicated that Form A was the least frustrating to fill out, perhaps because there seemed to be clearly defined categories to use. In actual fact, however, the data which resulted from Form A was not the most useful because prominance of information could not be inferred and because not all categories of information were anticipated and included on the form. Students liked filling out Form A because it seemed clear and concise. In fact, however, the information conveyed was not always accurate because the categories were not always clearly understood by the students filling out the form.
Conclusions about Form B.
Form B elicited the most frustration; the instructions were not perceived as being helpful. Students came back frustrated and worried that they might not have completed
the task successfully. Cataloging information conveyed on Form B was unacceptable. One could only conclude that a form laden with explanatory information does not take the place of in-person, hands-on teaching and instruction. Students found the form universally frustrating and were forthright and expressive about their frustration.
Conclusions about Form C.
Form C provoked no comments spontaneously, and questioning produced comments only that the task was time-consuming. Form C, as a surrogate for the chief source of information, showed the most promise in that it faithfully conveyed detailed information and prominance of information. But without prior training designed to hone selectivity, this form would likely be unacceptably time-consuming and labor-intensive. In those institutions with the equipment available, printoffs of the screens would be as effective, providing it was clearly understood which screens were to be reproduced.
This study indicates that the construction of the form does impact on the nature and quality of cataloging information communicated. The hypothesis that the a teaching form would be an optimal tool as demonstrated in Form B was not validated. Explanation and instruction on the forms did not take the place of other appropriate training and was sometimes perceived as annoying and unhelpful.
The form that came closest to replicating the chief source of information conveyed, overall, the most easily interpreteed cataloging data. The hypothesis that the more a form elicited and contributed to the organization of the information needed, the less judgement the student would need to exercise was proved in part. Form C was most useful because it required little decision-making and little judgement from the student as to which data elements were to be recorded.
It is recommended that the cataloging agency first determine what kind of information is needed for its patron population. For some libraries, knowing that there are cartoons, previews, advertisements, etc., in addition to the main feature is not important. The level of cataloging needed should be determined, as well as the kinds of access points desired, e.g., the need for subordinate cast members or sound engineers and cinematographers.
Once the level of access has been determined, then any non-cataloging staff member should be given training as to how to determine which data to report. Such training could consist of selecting three or four videos that present typical problems. It could be demonstrated, among other aspects, what constitutes "title screens" (e.g., vs. copyright warning statements) and where to find them, which categories of contributors to look for (e.g., cinematographer vs. cameramen), which kinds of prefatory information to make a note about (e.g. the presence of cartoons), and where to get certain kinds of information such as playing time (e.g., accept what is on the label, time the piece on the VCR, or estimate the time) or dates of production (label vs. package vs. various title screens). This training does not necessarily have to be in person; videos could and have been successfully used as training tools. Heidi L. Hutchinson, Cataloging Librarian at the University of California, Riverside, demonstrated at the 1992 Online Audiovisual Catalogers Conference, a videotape developed in-house, which is used to train student assistants to gather bibliographic data from videotapes.
If there is to be little or no training, a form that requires the least amount of judgement and organization of data before being conveyed, that is, one that most closely replicates the title frames, results in the most easily used data. Form C, which required little cognitive processing of data by the student, was the most effective in communicating to the cataloger the information needed to construct a catalog record. It is postulated that combining Form C with training designed to help the student discriminate between extraneous data and necessary categories of data, would be the most useful practice. ************************************************************
Marilyn L. Kercher was the Non-book Materials Cataloging Librarian at The Ohio State University Libraries from 1989- 1992. She is currently a Serials Cataloging Librarian at The Ohio State University Libraries.
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