Anyone mining the extensive records to be found on Catalyst, our online cataloguing system, may be surprised to know that at the end of 2017 only 75% of our collections were visible on the system. The “hidden 25%” represented older titles - acquired by the Library before 1950 - which we are in the process of transferring from our print catalogues to Catalyst as part of our Retrospective Cataloguing Project.

When the project began, back in the late 1990s, we imported close to 250,000 catalogue entries from an external database. These matched most of our holdings and we stored them in ‘suppressed’, i.e. invisible form on our catalogue. The entries are good but not perfect so up until now before making them visible on Catalyst, cataloguers have been fetching the relevant books, checking the corresponding imported entries, one at a time, to make sure they accurately describe the book in hand, and making the necessary corrections and enhancements. We have made great progress but the pace is inevitably slow.

Rather than leave the “hidden 25%” invisible throughout this period, we’ve found a way to put partial information about it onto Catalyst. We will make the remaining 120,000 suppressed entries visible over the course of 2018 and 2019 in their raw, unedited state while we focus our cataloguing efforts on the titles for which we have no imported entries that would otherwise remain hidden.

Taking this step means that in the space of a few months the visibility of our collections would shoot up to around 95%. It is important to remember that these entries are not the finished article, and while we will tidy them up a little to make them presentable before unveiling them we won’t be able to make thorough checks, so the entries will be flagged with a health warning to highlight the fact that they may contain inaccuracies.

Despite these limitations we feel that making such a large portion of our collections visible sooner rather than later will allow members unprecedented access to the riches of the Library and for this reason is worth doing. We will proceed with caution, however, releasing the entries in batches so that we can deal with any unforeseen problems more easily. The first batch, due to be released in early March, will be 11,000 records within the Literature collection. After that, other collections will be released in alphabetical order, i.e. Anecdotes, Annuals, Art, Bibliography, etc.

We will attempt to make the newly released entries as useful as possible while clearly flagging them as part of this project – we ask you to bear with some of the imperfections the entries contain and hope that the greater visibility afforded to a substantial – and previously hidden portion of our collection – will provide significant benefits to Catalyst users.