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  • Writer's pictureNoni Harrison

Behind the Curtain

Updated: Jan 2, 2021

At a theatre production, the actors on stage present the audience with all the information they need to devour the show. All the while, the stagehands are in the dark, busily working away to organise, categorise, and synchronise all the instruments needed to ensure the audience experiences the performance at its peak. Cataloguing runs a little the same way. Librarians ensure resource metadata is effectively entered into the system to enable library users to efficiently retrieve resources and build knowledge. This is the background work that is integral to a smoothly running library.

While my experience with FRBR, RDA, ScOT, SCIS Subject Headings, and Dewey Decimal Classification was like learning a new language, the value of this knowledge for teacher librarians (TLs) is unquestionable. TLs may not often create metadata but understanding the inner workings of the catalogue, and thus the collection, allows TLs to better serve their communities (O’Connell, 2013). These standards and systems can be used as advisory tools, collection management and development tools, analytical tools, and as a way to better understand the information seeking behaviours of library users. The benefits are obvious.

Holy acronyms Batman!

In terms of a catalogue that reflects user search behaviour, this explanation from SCIS sums up FRBR in a beautiful way:

“Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) FRBR (sometimes pronounced fer-ber) is the ‘fairy godmother’ of RDA (Welsh and Bately p. xv). FRBR enables search results to be displayed in a simpler, clustered format making it easier for the user to locate the item required. This can be best explained using an example. Currently library management systems are based on catalogue records for individual items; that is, there is a separate record for each format of a work. A search for The Hobbit will list a number of format versions of the work, which must be scrolled through. Using a ‘FRBRised’ catalogue, all work titled The Hobbit will be clustered under one heading which can be expanded into formats (eg audio, print, ebook) and then further into editions and holdings. NLA’s Trove discovery screen is, what the NLA call, FRBR-like (National Library of Australia n.d.). A search for The Hobbit in Trove will initially bring one result, with the option to view all formats and editions. A library management system that embeds RDA, along with FRBR and FRAD, can provide a very rewarding search experience for the user.”

Education Services Australia (2012).

Personalised metadata enhances the user experience. “When the library catalogue has quality metadata, teachers and students find what they need with one or two clicks” (Educational Directorate, 2016). It can be an arduous task and costly in terms of time to originally catalogue each resource but SCIS has established data that subscribers can simply download to their catalogue. This metadata is contextualised to Australian school contexts, making it suitable for teachers and students (Chadwick, 2015; SCIS, 2018). While this system is not flawless, it is a standardised system used by schools across Australia and New Zealand. The knowledge I have developed throughout this subject has allowed me to better understand resource metadata to analyse the quality of pre-produced data and amend it appropriately where needed. This is just another reason to advocate for qualified teacher librarians in schools. Without this knowledge, the catalogue easily falls into disarray and becomes unusable for teachers and students. The flow-on effects deeply damage the reputation and usability of school libraries. In a time where school libraries are needed more than ever, to alleviate pressure from the crowded curriculum, promote and develop 21st century learning, enhance multi-literacies, and connect with communities, the expertise of teacher librarians is crucial.


Chadwick, B. (2015). SCIS is more. Connections, 92. Retrieved from

Education Directorate. (2016). School libraries: The heart of 21st century learning. Retrieved from

Education Services Australia. (2012). RDA: New cataloguing rules. Connections, 83(4). Retrieved from

O’Connell, J. (2013). RDA for school libraries: The next generation in cataloguing. Access, 27(3), 4-6. Retrieved from

SCIS. (2018). Is there life beyond MARC? Retrieved from

[ETL505 Reflection]

#teacherlibrarian #FRBR #SCIS #DDC #metadata #RDA #classification #ScOT #cataloguing

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