I've spent quite a few years working as a rare books and special collections cataloguer, so I know the target I was aiming for then, but I wasn't sure how this compared with other libraries. The targets I've had in the past were for 15 books a day, when my work pretty much solely consisted of cataloguing, and six a day when I spent 50% of my time cataloguing. This was mainly for books printed in the 15th - 19th centuries though.
So, last week, I posed the question on lis-rarebooks, asking for other people's experience of special collections cataloguing targets. I had some really helpful responses, as well as requests to share what I'd found out, hence the blog post. I specifically asked about post-1850 special collections cataloguing, as that is the focus of my current projects.
Most Special Collections that set targets (not all do) were also aiming for 15 books a day, and assuming that some other activity would take place at the same time (e.g. reader invigilation) or that some time would be allocated to other tasks (e.g. conservation or enquiries). Targets were revised if extra tasks came up.
There were a range of responses concerning quality v. quantity. Those libraries that set a target of 15 records a day expected records to be downloaded from external sources and tidied up, with name authorities checked and appropriate provenance and binding details added if necessary. Some were cataloguing 19th century books to the same standard as earlier books, others were aiming for AACR2 level 2. The highest target was 30 a day, but that was for a very experienced cataloguer and assumed that the books were in English, had records that could be downloaded from elsewhere and didn't require extensive provenance research. Some were not setting cataloguing targets at all, preferring quality over quantity.
Prioritisation was important. I also asked about finding aids, for which it is much harder to set targets as collections vary so much in size and content. Most responses that mentioned finding aids suggested starting out with basic collection-level descriptions covering as many of your collections as possible, and then talked about prioritising list creation by gauging reader interest.
Finally Karen Attar (Head of Special Collections at Senate House Library) told me about an article she has written in JOLIS "Modern special collections cataloguing: a University of London case study", which will be published in March 2013. It is currently available via Sage's "OnlineFirst" system. I found this article very helpful.
I'd be interested to hear from anyone else who sets targets for this sort of cataloguing and what figures they're aiming for.