Thursday, December 19, 2019

victory over circumstances

We do a kind of quick and dirty cataloging at my congregational library, partly because our cataloging program isn't professional-level and because the inputting is done by volunteers. For most of our books, the inputter types in the ISBN, the program fetches a record from the LC or other online library database, and they make changes (local subject headings and call numbers) as I've trained them, and that's it.

Tougher material I usually do myself, and that includes all of the media cataloging. Only a few of these have ISBNs, and for movies on DVD I'm mostly just looking for directors, screenwriters, and principal stars to make as entries, a brief thematic plot summary for the notes, and appropriate subject headings and (if it's a documentary) call number to go with. This is often easily enough done from the box, and I don't even have to look up an online record.

But I was faced today with a batch of Israeli films in Hebrew only, which we're taking because of increased interest as the demographics of the membership evolve. My secret confession is, I don't really know Hebrew. I know the alphabet, and I can recognize individual words I know, and I can tell if a given Latin-alphabet transcript matches a Hebrew work in hand, but outside of the words I know, I can't tell the vowels without vowel signs so I can't transcribe myself, and of course I have no idea what the bulk of it is saying.

Some of these DVD boxes have the English-language title of the movie on them. So those I look up on IMDB to get the creators' names and the summary, with help from online records at WorldCat (which often have better, i.e. briefer, summaries). But some of them don't. The Hebrew-alphabet titles are now encoded in the WorldCat records, but I lack the technical capacity to enter those letters myself to make a search.

However, there are two things most of the DVD boxes have which are in English: the name of the distributor, and the date. That's good enough. The magic of Boolean sets and of cataloging fixed fields will come to my rescue. I search the name of the distributor in Worldcat as a corporate added entry. I limit this by form DVD, date, and language Hebrew. This gives me a result of 40-50 items, and it's easy enough to scan through these and look for the right Hebrew title. That entry gives me the English-language title, and it's back to IMDB for further info as before.

I get a dozen done in one afternoon, and that's a satisfying day's work.

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