Making the National Library 12” LP collection visible

Beethoven, Billie Holiday, Gershwin… The National Library 12” LP collection contains a wide range of music, including classical, folk, pop and jazz. The collection of approximately 13,000 LPs was compiled over the years through donations made by individuals, such as New Zealand composer Larry Pruden, and organisations, such as Radio New Zealand.

Our 12” LP collection consists primarily of non-New Zealand artists and record labels, as many of the New Zealand ones have been previously transferred to the Alexander Turnbull Library collections. The most common record labels include HMV/EMI, Decca, RCA, Deutsche Grammophon, and World Record Club.

Record Covers
Some of the records in National Library 12” LP collection

Invisible collection

Until recently, the National Library 12LP collection was essentially invisible to both staff and users. The LPs did not have bibliographic records in our library catalogue, and there was no in-house finding aid. Stored in the library basement, they were browsable by staff, but who really knew what was there? 

In May 2018, funding became available, so Collection Services embarked on a short-term project to describe this collection. The challenge for cataloguing staff was to quickly come up with a workflow for two temps to complete the work in a 6-week time frame.

The work involved transporting, describing and processing thousands of LPs. Colleagues in Acquisitions, Processing and Collection Delivery provided help and advice to work out the logistics of the project. 

Here's how we did it

We used the following key pieces of information to identify each LP: 

  • Title
  • Performer
  • Record Label
  • Date
  • Publisher number
  • Number of discs
  • Series and series numbering

The temps took these key pieces of information from the container (i.e. the record sleeve), rather than the disc, because it was faster and involved less handling of the items.They then entered the data into an Excel spreadsheet, and barcoded and labelled each LP.

Key Data For Each Lp
Example of one our Excel spreadsheets with key data for each LP.

We then compiled each temp’s spreadsheet into a daily master spreadsheet, and exported this file into MarcEdit, a metadata editing tool.

We used MarcEdit to manipulate the data to create short bibliographic records. This involved altering some of the Excel data, for example, ‘nd’ in the Date column was converted into the phrase ‘Date of publication not identified’. We also added data which applied to all the LPs, for example, ‘33 rpm’, and the note ‘Description from container’.

Screen shot of Marcedit
A view in MarcEdit showing the fields we added and adjusted to create our bibliographic records.

The short bibliographic record files were imported into our library management system, Alma, with appropriate holdings and item records.

Below is the catalogue view of a typical short bibliographic record from the project:

Screenshot showing short bibliographic record of 'The Hilliard Ensemble'
Catalogue view of a typical short bibliographic record, showing title, recording label, released date, format, label number, item details, source of description and source.

Half way through the project our workforce was doubled with the addition of two more temps. Once they were up to speed, we imported an average of 500 bibliographic records a day into our catalogue.

The LPs described in the project can be found in our catalogue by searching on the phrase Overseas LPs short record”

Record Covers On A Bookshelf
Here's some of the collection.

Pros and cons of our approach

One of the key advantages of our workflow was the bulk creation of:

  • records
  • holdings, and
  • item records.

This meant the collection was made discoverable very quickly.

However, the bibliographic records are only short records, and provide limited information. Ideally, the LPs will be fully catalogued at some point in the future to provide better access to them. 

Duplicate bibliographic records were created in the catalogue due to our workflow, as we didn’t search for existing records, and didn’t remove duplicate LPs from the collection.

The trade-off is that all the LPs in the sequence received a short bibliographic record within the time frame of the project, and so were discoverable and available for requesting. We haven’t done a systematic de-duplicating process, due to time constraints. We do tidy up the duplicate records as we come across them.

What we achieved with this project

Making the National Library 12” LP collection visible was timely, given the current global vinyl revival.

While revenue from record sales has increased over the past few years in New Zealand (1), a borrowable collection provides another option for library users. Who knows, you may come across a rare LP like ‘Beat Your Breasts’, one of a small number of recordings released by The Ovarian Sisters (2).

Beat Your Breasts, The Ovatian Sisters, women with instruments beating their chests.
One temp’s favourite LP 'The Ovarian Sisters' were a 1970s/1980s Tasmanian band

Completing a project like this one was outside our normal library workflows, but is a great example of using different tools and methods to make a collection accessible to staff and users.

We identified extra New Zealand LPs along the way, so added many of these to the Turnbull sound recording collections. We retained copies in the National Library collection if there were multiple copies in the Turnbull Library, which means we now have loanable LPs of New Zealand music.

By the end of the project, nearly 13,000 LPs were made discoverable and accessible by the creation of short bibliographic records, holdings and item records.

The National Library 12” LP collection is a fascinating eclectic collection of LPs and well worth a browse.


  1. Smities, G. (2019, March 30). 'Record Store Day: a vinyl love affair'. Retrieved 15 May 2019, from
  2. Henderson, N. (n.d.). 'Feminist rockers you’ve never heard about : a soundtrack of 1970s Australian feminism'. Retrieved 9 April 2019, from
Records On Shelves Library Basement
12" LPs in the National Library basement.

By Erika Arthur

Erika Arthur is a Senior Collection Description Librarian, specialising in music.

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