Introduction to the catalogue audit tool

Libraries, along with other public services, are increasingly required to be more accountable to their funders and users. This has resulted in an interest in performance measurement and the definition of quality for services. Current performance indicators measure a range of activities and services to produce an overall report on a library.

The ISO standard 11620 for library performance indicators [1] has 12 groupings. Within this 'Providing documents' includes catalogue title search success rate and catalogue subject search success rate, while 'Processing documents' measures the time taken for an item to be processed - including provision of a catalogue record. The IFLA guidelines for performance measurement in academic libraries [2] have six headings, one of which is catalogue quality; the indicators for this are known item search success rate and subject search success rate.

However, measuring search success rates and catalogue record creation time does not identify specific problems within a catalogue and does not directly measure its accuracy in relation to the items it describes. Cat-Assess is a catalogue audit tool that you can use to produce a measure of the accuracy of records in a catalogue or part of a catalogue.

To use the tool requires taking a sample. As long as you can compile a sample for the required type of record, you can assess records for specific materials (fiction or children's materials or sound recordings) or records created during a specific period or created in-house or bought-in.

Items in the sample are checked against a worksheet, which is a checklist of possible errors. The errors are coded and can be input into a database or spreadsheet for analysis.

The checklist was designed for use with monographs. It can be applied to specialist forms of monographs or to non-book materials with the addition of extra check points. For example antiquarian cataloguing might require more detailed breakdowns of errors and special attention to physical description.

In its present form the tool is unsuitable for serials as many of the fields are inapplicable to serials and the checklist does not cover holdings data.

The tool looks at items in isolation. It cannot be used in its present form to check consistency between records (e.g. consistent recording of series statements).

The tool does not measure the currency of data in the catalogue. This could be measured by the percentage of the collection yet to be processed or the median time taken to catalogue an item.

Cat-Assess is available for use by any library. Full instructions

Information on the pilot study can be found on the Users page, where we hope to also list usage.

Further developments

Possible further developments under consideration are providing a range of worksheets to cover specialist monographs and non-book materials and developing a separate audit tool for serials.


[1] Carbone, P. The Committee draft of International Standard ISO CD 11620 on Library Performance Indicators. IFLA Journal 21(4), 1995, pp274-277

[2] te Boekhorst,P. Measuring quality: the IFLA Guidelines for Performance Measurement in academic libraries. IFLA Journal 21 (4), 1995, pp278-281

Content by: Ann Chapman of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 19-Oct-2006
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