The Cataloguing Process

In order to underline the point, let us take a close look at the cataloguing process and list the stages involved in the process with their estimated durations (a simplified reproduction of the total process). See Table 2.

Duration of recordings

10m 30m 60m

Stages of the cataloguing process

1. from storage 3m 3m 3m
2. standardized title description (the complete process) 45m 45m 45m
3. summary 20m 30m 45m
4. subject-code and keywords 15m 15m 15m
5. input in database 10m 10m 10m
6. to storage 3m 3m 3m
Total of cataloguing process 96m 106m 121m

Table 2: Stages and duration of the cataloguing process for recordings of three different durations (in minutes).

Here also there is a relationship between the duration of the recording and the total duration of the process. The variable is in the summary stage which varies according to the duration of the recording because a longer recording will usually be more time consuming than a shorter one.

In comparison with the cataloguing process, selection takes a lot of time. If we put together the minimum selection figures table 1 and the cataloguing figures from table 2 and subtract five minutes from the pre-cataloguing phase, Table 3 applies.

Duration of recordings




1. selection (minimum intensity)




2. cataloguing




Total time taken




Table 3: duration of selection and cataloguing for recordings of three different durations (in minutes).

To make the comparison work for a group of records ready for a fine-mesh selection process followed by the cataloguing process, let us take a group of one hundred records with an average duration of 30m per recording (resulting in 26m for minimum selection and 106m for cataloguing). Consider that the records pass the selection with flying colours, so that all of them get catalogued in the end. The total duration of processing these records through selection (minimum intensity) and cataloguing would then amount to the following: see Table 4.

Number of recordings 100
Average duration of recording 30m
Selection (minimum intensity) 43h 20m
Cataloguing 176h 40m
Total time taken 220 h

Table 4: duration of the selection and cataloguing processes for 100 recordings of thirty minutes average duration (in hours).

One person, working effectively seven hours per day, would thus spend more than six days on selection and more than twenty-five days on cataloguing those hundred records.

In this case the selection process, seen from the point-of-view of the selecting archivist, was entirely without result. But when does selection become effective? In other words: where is the break-even figure at which it is to the advantage of the archive to process records through the selection procedure and above which selection is a waste of time, indeed only adding to the problems of the archive?