The Importance of a Catalogue

Catalogues. Where would we be without them? How would you go buying something from your local store if they didn’t advertise what they had? Or how would you know if your local library had a book you were after? You wouldn’t. It would be a hassle to have to go to search through everything yourself. And in the busyness of life these days, we need more hours not less.

Putting it simply we rely on catalogues (online or printed ones) to know what is available, and where. In the cases above, the store or the library. But in reality it applies to anything.

steampunk top hat 2

I think this should be my work hat! It shows my love of vintage style with a touch of flair (in other words, steampunk style)

To put this into a direct personal context I shall put my ‘work hat’ on. Now many of you will know that I work for Gould Genealogy & History. Started about 38 years ago by my parents, this is Australia’s largest genealogy retail/webstore, and I can guarantee that if we didn’t have catalogues we wouldn’t be in business. Pretty much right from the beginning we had printed catalogues to list the products that we sold. Then moving on a number of years, we jumped into the world of websites, which was just as well, as our range had grown to be about 11,ooo products and was impossible to list it all in a printed catalogue anymore. But the need to list everything was still there, so our website became our “complete catalogue”, and changes regularly.

printed catalogues from Gould Books and Gould Genealogy & History - the first one dates back to 1977

some of the printed catalogues from Gould Books and Gould Genealogy & History
the first one dates back to 1977 with the most recent 2013

So why am I even talking about catalogues?

I was reminded of just how important it is for a group, society, museum etc. no matter how big or small it is to catalogue your products. But for me it doesn’t stop there. For me to know that a group in another State or country has something that relates to my family, I need to be able to find a reference to it.

I’m not saying that all groups have to catalogue every item that they hold into a database type program, and pop it up on the web (though that would be awesome, and would most certainly bring them a stack of traffic). For smaller groups why not create a downloadable PDF listing of main family names from the region, and the types of records you hold (preferably with date ranges) so someone can get an idea of the records you have?

the Resources page on the Gold Coast Family History Society websiteIt lists the main resources, with a PDF of their full listing

the Resources page on the Gold Coast Family History Society website
it lists the main resources they hold on the site, with a PDF of their full listing

Why would someone want to visit if they have no idea on what you have? Advertise what you have, and people WILL come!!

Libraries. Can you imagine going into a library and trying to find a book if you has no reference as to where it would be? No. Unless you are a regular visitor to the library you go to their computers, type in the details and it gives you a reference number so you know where to find it. Putting it simply, it’s catalogued.

Now turning this to genealogy, the A2A  (Access to Archives) website is one of my all-time favs. Anyone who has used the A2A website will know how awesome and brilliant this tool is. For those that haven’t come across this site, can I suggest you go to it and bookmark it, because it is a tool that anyone who has UK roots needs to use.

screenshot of the A2A (Access 2 Archives) website. Simple, and SO effective! click for a larger image

screenshot of the A2A (Access 2 Archives) website. Simple, and SO effective!
[click for a larger image]

Basically it is a collection of the holdings of smaller societies around the UK collected onto a single website, so they can be searched as a whole. Each result gives a brief description of the item, together with the archive of where the item is located. The user can then get in touch with the archive and request a copy.


Will it happen? Sadly I doubt it, unless the National Library of Australia or the National Archives of Australia can get something going. But here’s hoping!

I’m a member of a number of societies, but I’m not on the board of any. Maybe some of my readers are, and the group/s they are involved in may well have everything catalogued, and are already showing it off to the world. If that is the case, awesome work guys!! That’s the way to do it. However if you are involved with a group who as yet doesn’t have a catalogue viewable to anyone other than if they visit your premises, can I suggest you start thinking seriously about making it more public. Trust me, it’ll be good for your group if you do.

the National Archives of Australia website searchpageclick for a bigger view

the National Archives of Australia website search page
[click for a bigger view]

I’m not meaning to sound like I’m raving on here, though it may have come out that way (sorry if it did), but I do believe in this. And I do also believe it is a key factor in helping groups and societies survive in our digital world.

2 Responses to “The Importance of a Catalogue”

  1. John Sparrow Sunshine Coast Qld says:

    I’ll take this one step further. If you can’t find it, there is no point keeping it. Catalogues are applicable in a personal environment. I have a propagation nursery for over 20yrs now. When I started, I tore out relevant articles from journals and kept them. Ten years later, I stopped doing it because I didn’t catalogue them. I couldn’t retrieve anything. I ended up throwing the lot out.

    It is the same with my genealogy. I am using folders on the computer as my basic catalogue. I keep only those items that are relevant (with their sources).

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