Music Description and Access: Solving the Puzzle of Cataloging. By Jean Harden. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2018. 354 p. $100.00 (ISBN 978-0-89579-848-0)

Note: The reviewer has known the author for over twenty years, regularly interacting with her at national music library conferences. The reviewer will strive to provide as impartial review of the book as possible.

In 2013 the rules for solving the puzzle changed with the implementation of Resource Description and Access (RDA), bringing new opportunities for providing improved access to information. As with any major change, people need assistance in understanding and incorporating new rules. This can be especially true when dealing with special formats, like printed or recorded music, where the basic rules do not always seem pertinent to the “puzzle” before you. This brings us the aptly titled new book Music Description and Access: Solving the Puzzle of Cataloging by Dr. Jean Harden. Harden is a long-time practitioner and educator in the field of music cataloging, and has been recognized nationally for her contributions to the profession. In her latest work, Harden attempts to solve the cataloging puzzle.

Harden describes her book as “both a textbook for students and a handbook and reference source for practicing catalogers” (back cover). The book is broken into two main parts: “Setting the Stage” and “Practical Cataloging.” Part 1 begins with an introduction to concepts of cataloging, a description of the various musical formats currently available, and concludes with a brief history of cataloging in general and music cataloging in particular. Probably the most important section of this part centers on a discussion of what Harden refers to as the “Functional Requirements (FR) Family” (12). This is a collection of documents created by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) that includes Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD), and Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data (FRSAD). These documents, especially FRBR, are what RDA was based upon and basically make up the organizational structure for the remainder of this book. As Harden states, “FRBR is concerned with entities and attributes, plus the relationships among them, that are currently recorded in bibliographic records” (13). There are three groups of entities in FRBR, but this review focuses on those of Group 1 (Work, Expression, Manifestation, Item). Group 1 entities are listed in order of most abstract to most concrete. A practical example of these entities is Harden’s book itself. The Work is the idea she had for the book, the Expression is the actual draft of the book, the Manifestation is the published book itself, and the Item is the copy of the published book from which this review was created. While all four entities are important in terms of cataloging, the reviewer believes that the most important are Manifestation and Item as they deal with the real-world items that we face on a regular basis.

Part 2 makes up the majority of the book and consists of eleven chapters. There is a final chapter on archival description by guest author Maristella Feustle. Harden issues a warning that catalogers should always have a copy of RDA and the appropriate best practice documents on hand and consult them regularly. This book should not be treated as a replacement for these works, but rather a supplement to them. Chapters 3 through 6 are used to identify the object being cataloged. Chapters 3 and 4 cover the transcription (copying the data exactly as it appears on the source) of information from an object, and the sources from which to take said information. Chapter 5 deals with the recording (adding the data but not in the same form as it appears on the source) of information, particularly in relation to the object’s carrier (e.g., the physical format). Chapter 6 reiterates what was covered in the previous three chapters but couches it in terms of the Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) encoding standard. I believe that Dr. Harden chose this arrangement because the RDA content standard was created independent of any specific encoding schema, and in this manner readers can use the book with whatever encoding standard they choose to work. However, MARC is the schema currently used by the majority of libraries, and it makes sense to demonstrate how RDA appears when using it. Chapter 7 describes the work(s) and expression(s) present in this object, while chapter 8 looks at the persons or groups responsible for said object. Chapter 9 looks at the access points for all the entities present in an object, and chapter 10 discusses their relationships to one another. Finally, chapter 11 deals with classification and subjects. The book then concludes with appendices on MARC coded fields and online cataloging resources, a glossary, and a select bibliography.

Harden’s recommendations are easy to follow and replete with numerous examples. Part 1 and the many historical asides that appear throughout part 2 provide a context as to the where and why cataloging evolved in its current state. One problem the reviewer sees is that he wished it was available electronically—either as a whole, or at least the second part that addresses practical cataloging issues. Like many catalogers, the reviewer operates in an almost completely digital environment. The reviewer recommends this book to anyone who catalogs music materials on a regular basis.—Robert Freeborn (rbf6@psu.edu), Penn State University


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2021 ALCTS