Book Review: Cataloging and Managing Film and Video Collections: A Guide to Using RDA and MARC 21

Cataloging and Managing Film and Video Collections: A Guide to Using RDA and MARC 21. By Colin Higgins. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2015. 225 p. $85.00 paperback (ISBN: 978-0-8389-1299-7).

The change in cataloging standards to Resource Description and Access (RDA) has had most catalogers stocking up on physical and digital resources to aid in the interpretation and implementation of this new standard. Higgins’s contribution to these resources, Cataloging and Managing Film and Video Collections: A Guide to Using RDA and MARC 21, aims beyond RDA guideline interpretation and MARC field help by seeking to fill gaps in knowledge of film creation and distribution. His premise is that for catalogers to successfully describe and provide access to film and video collections, the cataloger must understand the various rolls of filmmakers, means of film distribution, and technical aspects of film and video formats. The book also covers aspects of film and video collection management, which support Higgins’s comprehensive approach to the topic.

The book is organized into nine chapters. The chapters that contain cataloging instruction include RDA guideline references and inline examples of the MARC fields that help solidify the bibliographic instruction explained within the context of the chapter content. Each chapter concludes with a list of references. There is also a section at the end of the chapters of resources that expand on the topics covered in the text, including resources on film, cataloging, and collection development. Sample MARC records for film and television recordings in DVD and Blu-Ray formats are included in an appendix, and an additional appendix explains the symbols found on disc surfaces and their cases. An index is also included. The organization of the chapters is arranged based on the author’s holistic approach to understanding video cataloging and management. This means that although the guide covers RDA elements encoded in MARC fields, it is not arranged by MARC field order.

The first chapter covers a brief history of film and film formats. It is in this chapter that Higgins introduces the video formats present in most library collections. Several formats for videos have emerged over the years, from U-Matic to Blu-ray, and the author covers the history of each and explains the technology behind them.

Chapters 2 through 4 contain the bulk of the descriptive cataloging instruction with the focus on DVD and Blu-Ray disc formats. These chapters explain the rolls of individuals involved in making films, from the producer to the dolly grip, as well as the corporate entities involved in the production and distribution of films, the artistic and intellectual content in films, and the technical features of DVD and Blu-Ray discs. These are the chapters where the cataloger learns how to make decisions on data to include in the bibliographic record, and the author does a good job of relating the filmmaking content to the record creation.

There is a separate chapter devoted to material produced on television. This chapter includes a brief history of television, popular formats of television on optical discs, and the cataloging instruction that differs from the material covered in the previous chapters. The next two chapters look at past formats and cataloging standards. Recognizing that library collections may include non-DVD or Blu-Ray formats, chapter 6 provides instruction for cataloging films in older or unusual formats. Chapter 7 is a very brief chapter on MARC 21 and AACR2 cataloging instruction that can be used to help edit copy cataloging records in AACR2 or to create original records for libraries that have not yet implemented RDA.

Management of the film collections is addressed in chapter 8. This chapter provides resources for purchase decisions, classification of film collections, storage and handling of different formats, and some of the issues and legalities of owning, copying, and making film collections available to patrons. Chapter 9 looks to the future of DVD and Blu-ray discs in the wake of streaming media, the collection management issues in providing streaming services to library patrons, and cataloging instruction of streaming video and the respective MARC encoding for this format.

Throughout the text, Higgins’s approach to the topic supports his initial argument that a lack of understanding of films leads to inadequate description and access. Cataloging and Managing Film and Video Collections contains the content to fill in the gaps in understanding films and knowledge in providing descriptive cataloging using RDA guidelines in a MARC environment. This knowledge translates well to creating better bibliographic records that will help patrons access library video collections. However, the organization of the book as a cataloging how-to guide may not be as accessible as other resources, and full MARC record examples for different video content is lacking. Additionally, the collection management content fails to address in any real detail the issues of copyright and reproduction at a time when many libraries are concerned with the preservation of their VHS collections.

These omissions aside, as an obvious film lover (his blogs include Libraries at the Movies), Higgins produces sound content and enough passion and film references to make this a good read for anyone who wants to learn about all that goes into, and onto, the video being added to the library collection. This short and approachable text could also be easily incorporated as reading material for cataloging courses.—Lucy Ingrey (, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California


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