Downey City Library: Community Centered Cataloging with GPO’s Records

The Downey City Library has been a part of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) since 1963 and recently was added as one of 75 libraries in the Cataloging Record Distribution Project (CRDP). I’d like to briefly share how the Downey City Library became involved in the CRDP and how the Project is working for us, so far.

The Downey City Library is a small library with a collection of about 130,000 items that serves a community of over 110,000 people in the Los Angeles area. After many years of having a modestly sized (< 1000 items) collection of Federal documents, we began having difficulty keeping up with the receipt and cataloging of these Government publications. Due to reduced staffing in early 2005, we began the long process of deselecting all items from our profile with the intention of no longer being a depository.

That intention lasted about as long as it took for the California State Library’s Senior Librarian for Government Publications, David Cismowski, to call me on the phone and then schedule a visit to our library. David is a champion for public access to Government information. He brought to our library his quiet intensity; an extensive knowledge of Government resources and policies; and a passion for Government documents and the FDLP. Due largely to his contagious enthusiasm for the FDLP, we decided to stay in the Program and transition our library to an all-digital depository.

After altering our profile to retain a small core of items in tangible format and shifting the rest of our profile to items in an electronic format, the next task at hand was to give the public access to the online versions of the Government documents. This was not as easy as it sounded. Just go out and find about 1,000 MARC records, and import them into the ILS. Sigh.

That’s where the part about Downey being a “small” library starts to become important. With only a small professional staff, I get to do a little bit of everything; I get to wear a lot of hats. So many hats, that I never have a good hair day anymore!

I discovered quickly that I would need some help finding and updating all of these MARC records. I just didn’t have the time to use resources like OCLC Connexion or the FDLP Desktop to solve this problem. I needed a solution that required investing the least amount of time as possible. So I investigated using MARCIVE’s “Documents without Shelves” program.

For an annual fee, MARCIVE delivers to subscribing libraries MARC records for all new Government publications which have a URL or a PURL. Sounds great, right? Well, it is great! But the problem, back in 2006, was that we would have received around 300 records a month. That number has increased to around 900 records a month in 2011. That would mean adding about 3,600 records a year to an ILS that only had about 130,000 records to start with.

Well, all those hats on my head were not so tight that I couldn’t do some basic math and figure out that our catalog would soon be swamped with records for Government documents, Government documents which we wouldn’t even own, physically. As an aside, back in July of 2006, MARCIVE offered a backfile of 58,000 MARC records which could be purchased separately from the 300 or so new records coming out each month. That number has grown to over 140,000 backfile records in 2011. Ouch.

As you can see, adding all the bibliographic records which have PURLs or URLs was not an option, unless we wanted about 1 in 3 records in the catalog to be pointers to Government documents we actually didn’t even own. Even the lesser path of only adding new records with PURLs on a monthly basis would still get us into the same trouble, sooner or later.

What we needed was an option that provided the Downey City Library MARC records only for the items we had selected in our profile that best meet the needs of the community we serve. That would preserve an acceptable balance of records in our public catalog. So, when the next biennial survey came around, I made sure to add a comment asking that something be done about this problem.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one asking! It was not long thereafter that I learned about a joint project between GPO and MARCIVE called the CRDP. In this project, a participating library receives monthly downloads of any new or updated MARC records from its item profile. It wasn’t long before Downey was on-board and receiving those monthly downloads. Importing them into our catalog takes only a few minutes. Since the updates are based on our item profile, I usually don’t receive more than 40 records a month, which leaves me time to actually look at each record and re-evaluate whether it is something in which our patrons truly might have an interest.

The people at MARCIVE have been very helpful. At my request, they now add a 449 tag to each new MARC record which reads “U.S. Government Publication.” This allows our patrons to use the “bestsellers” tab on our public catalog to navigate to and browse the list of all our Government documents.

I couldn’t be happier with this service. For a larger library, the “Documents without Shelves” program is a wonderful option, but for a library with a smaller collection, staff, and budget, GPO’s CRDP is a real life-saver. It allows me to wear all those hats while making sure my community has access to the Government documents they need and want. I am excited to see where the CRDP will go next!

FDLP Connection Archive

We have sunsetted the FDLP Connection with the July / August 2018 issue and will not be publishing the Connection anymore. We’ve enjoyed bringing the FDLP Connection to the community over the years! You can still view past issues. View full archive (2011-2018).