3 Mar 2016

Problem solving in the workplace: 10 easy steps to catalogue Korean books

Guest post by Helena Byrne

Over the years the Library at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin has collected a number of Korean language donations but they had no way to process them.  I was tasked with cataloguing this special collection as I have beginner level Korean. At first this seemed like an impossible task as the Library had no resources to deal with these texts, such as a Korean keyboard and the LMS software didn’t recognise the Korean alphabet when searching external bibliographic databases. Some of the books had ISBN or ISSN numbers, which made sourcing MARC records from OCLC (WorldCat) and RLUK (COPAC) easier, but most books could not be found in these databases during the initial search.  However, by applying a number of workarounds I was able to find records for most of them and created basic records for the remainder. Although this post focuses on Korean texts the principles of the strategies I employed during this project could be applied to other texts that don’t use the Roman alphabet.

An interesting thing I learnt while working on this project is that Korea has its own classification system and when you look up different books on the Korean National Library catalogue they give you both the Korean classification number and the Dewey Decimal Classification number. The ALA also has set rules on transliterating the Korean alphabet, as some Korean letters could be spelt using more than one English letter. For example, the capital city is commonly spelt as Seoul but according to the ALA rules it should be spelt Sŏul.

Here are the ten easy steps to sourcing records for Korean books:
  1. Korean Language – In order to download Korean bibliographic records all you need to know is how to read the Korean alphabet and have a good working knowledge of Korean names and place names. The Korean alphabet has only 24 letters and as they are phonetic it’s easy to learn how to read. Here is a link with a pronunciation guide and another more detailed video for writing A good way to get familiar with Korean names and place names is to watch Korean films, see for example the listings on IMDb.
  2. Use an online Korean keyboard – If you search Korean Keyboard you will get a number of hits. I went with the first one by branah.com and was very happy with it. When it’s open on your screen you can use the keys from your keyboard to type or you can click on each letter on the screen keyboard using the mouse.
  3. Translating the title – You don’t need to do this but sometimes it’s helpful as it can give you a feel for what the subject matter might be. I used Google Translate a lot but sometimes the translation didn’t feel accurate. Naver is a Korean search engine and most people find its translations more accurate than Google’s.
  4. Finding transliterated titles – OCLC’s WorldCat interface does recognise the Korean alphabet so once you have your title typed up you can search for it using the search function on the website. The records usually have all the important information transliterated so it is easy to copy them into your LMS to search external databases or create a basic record.
  5. Copyright Information – Copyright and publication information for Korean books is generally at the back. They sometimes include a short bio of the author with key dates from their career. It will always tell you when the book was first published and subsequent years it was reprinted or updated. Most of the WorldCat records date from the original publication but the books at Trinity were usually reprints from a later date. For example “2 쇄” means that it’s the second printing of the publication.
  6. Translated books – The most challenging books to match were those that were translated from another language into Korean. It was hard to tell which text they translated the book from so it was assumed that it was from the original edition. In total there were three translations from German, English and Russian. It was easy to find the record for these publications in the original language so this record was copied and edited with the relevant content from the Korean edition of the book.
  7. Author vs Translator – Most books seem to follow the same format of adding author (지음/chiŭm) or translator (옮김/omgim) after the name/s of the people involved in the publication. If the author is an institution they don’t include this.
  8. Transliterating Korean names – There were a few times when I had to create a basic record from scratch. As I wasn’t accustomed to the ALA rules on transliteration even the Romanisation of Korean names could be very time consuming. However, Hyoungbae Lee, the Korean Studies Librarian at Princeton University developed a Creative Commons Korean Names Romanizer that follows the ALA rules. It is very simple to use and doesn’t require any installation. Once you download the app it’s ready to go.
  9. Transliterating publication information – Most books at Trinity were published from just a few publishers. So when I had to create a basic record from scratch I would look back at a previous record I had created or downloaded and copy the relevant information.
  10. Hybrid Records – For most of the books I found records for on the LMS system there was usually just one or two results. Some of them even though they were classified as a high quality record had very basic information and needed a lot of editing. However, a large number of the records were a hybrid mix of AACR2 and RDA which required a lot of editing to bring it up to RDA standard.
Other Korean books in Trinity:


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