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The Collation

Cataloging questions: How should we display variant titles?

Do you use Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog? Do you want to help make it better? Of course you do! This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of conversations designed to keep me from playing around with the display settings in whatever way strikes my fancy just because I happen to know the master password. First up, “Variant Title(s).” 

  1. Library of Congress-Program for Cooperative Cataloging Policy Statements (LC-PCC PS) for and Library of Congress Rule Interpretations (LCRI) 21.30J.
  2. If you want to learn how to interpret MARC, there’s a handy online tutorial called Understanding MARC Bibliographic: Machine-Readable Cataloging linked to from the MARC Standards homepage.


With electronic cataloging and retrieval, it should be possible to set up a default alternative retrieval for these sort of things. What I mean by this is that the searcher looking up “Ser, siue” automatically gets offered “Ser, sive” entries too. In fact, all searchers get irritated by electronic systems which generate multiple references to a single item, so the system should also filter so that only one reference is produced for each unique catalog reference.
This would ensure that searchers neither miss an appropriate reference nor get umpteen duplicated ones.
Cliff Webb

Cliff Webb — April 24, 2014

Fear not: that’s already the case. Whichever version of the title you search for, you just get the one record. Now we’re wondering whether the spelling variations entered by the cataloger should be visible in the record, or whether the system should “silently” bring up that one record if you use a different u/v combination in your search.

Erin Blake — April 24, 2014

My first thought is that I’d prefer either option 1 or option 2. Just knowing that that is how the system works makes both more or less equally helpful in my view. I’ve been trying to rack my brain to think of a scenario in which one would be more detrimental than another, but so far I’m not coming up with anything.

Sharon — April 26, 2014

Option 3 is clearly superior. What Erin didn’t say about the ‘1’ vs ‘3’ coding is that the technical definition of code ‘3’ is to _prevent_ display. The fact that they do currently display in Hamnet was a past choice to circumvent the meaning of the codes.

Those who do want to see all the underlying title indexes can display the MARC or Staff view and take a look.

Deborah J. Leslie — May 7, 2014