I'm going to be all Ranty McRanty-Pants for just a minute. But I've got a point, so stay with me.
You know how Patron-Driven Acquisition is the Big Thing now in libraries? If you don't, check out this post from June 2010 at Go To Hellman's blog for a thorough, yet entertaining explanation of the situation.
Here's the thing:
In order for a Patron-Driven Acquisition program to be successful, the books have to be found in your catalog. If the MARC records aren't good, they become a barrier to findability.
Here's the other thing:
As far as I can tell, Vendors aren't invested in giving us good MARC records. For them, the records are like one of those gift-with-purchase makeup bags you get when you buy $50 worth of cosmetics at a department store. You pay for access to the e-books and get the records with them. And since the records themselves aren't worth a lot to the vendor, the quality of those records is sometimes sketchy.
The idea that we can put sketchy MARC records in our catalog and expect people to find the books in our Patron-Driven Acquisition program seems misguided at best and seriously problematic at worst. And as libraries are considering implementing Patron-Driven Acquisition programs as part of their collection development budget, it seems like this issue is coming to the proverbial tipping point.
Before you accuse me of wanting "perfect" records, let me be clear. I'm not advocating that vendors give us lovely, hand-crafted records. I'm merely advocating for things like correct titles, correctly formatted authority records for authors, and reasonable subject access.
I know that, in many people's eyes, days are numbered for our friend the OPAC. But for many users, the online catalog is an important tool for finding known items and discovering new resources. To rest an acquisitions model on the shoulders of records that aren't the main concern of the vendor selling them to you does your users a great disservice.
So what can you do? Two ideas:
1.) If your library has a team or committee overseeing the Patron-Driven Acquisition project, volunteer to be on it. Educate your colleagues (in a nice way, of course) about the importance of MARC records as an aid in findability.
2.) Going to a conference? Make time to talk to vendors about MARC records and make quality MARC records a must-have item in any Patron-Driven Acquisition project you pilot.
Be proactive. Be visible. Be awesome.