Allyson, et al.:
These are really important issues, and while not really daunted by the
variety of opinion, I find myself most in agreement with Buzz's point of
view, most likely because my teaching tends to be of the adjunct variety. I
have to say that I think the practical stuff is overrated as appropriate
content for a graduate level course. Yes, people want to be able to hit the
ground running, but IMHO, those folks should be encouraged to work as a
copy cataloger for a while or in conjunction with their coursework.
What can't be learned on the job and IS appropriate for teaching at the
master's level is 1) how cataloging as practiced both fits in and violates
the theories of information organization; 2) how cataloging is changing and
MUST change to be useful in the world we live in now; 3) what is metadata
and how is it the same/different from cataloging.
The people in programs working towards a master's degree today are very
unlikely to be working in a cubicle surrounded by trucks of books and other
materials with the job of fitting it all into an already existing catalog
based on MARC and the shared cataloging of yesterday. If we train them for
those jobs we are doing them a huge disservice, because it is unlikely that
those jobs will be done by MLS librarians after the current crop retires.
This is not to question the relevance of knowing about how current
cataloging practice evolved, what problems it was designed to solve, and
why those problems are no longer relevant--but it doesn't require knowing
how to create a catalog record. If you don't think that cataloging
experience can be both a help and a hindrance to understanding where our
world is going, please take a look at Autocat and some of the other
discussion lists packed with catalogers protesting the inexorable changes
coming by insisting that the world still needs the kind of cataloging
they've been doing for decades.
If you're not convinced of this, take a look at the job ads that come out
looking for cataloging and metadata librarians. These are the people who
will manage change--and lots of it--in all kinds of libraries for as much
of the near future that we can articulate. They will not be closely
supervising hordes of professional catalogers, much less copy catalogers.
Professional catalogers who are looking for help in making this leap are
everywhere, and frankly, they're not getting the continuing education they
need to manage the changes they're already seeing where they work. I see
them in conferences and workshops, mostly, and few of them need convincing
that they need help. I think it would be great if the library schools were
looking more at meeting their needs as well, but so far I've seen little
evidence of interest.
I find it discouraging that so many of the justifications I see for
continuing to teach the practicalities of cataloging come from students
trying as best they can to articulate what they think they need. I'm not
sure that was ever enough to build a useful curriculum, and it certainly
isn't now. I'm sure I'll make many on this list uncomfortable by saying
that in my opinion, most library school (or iSchool, if you prefer) faculty
that I've met are not able to adequately prepare their students for these
changes because their own learning and experience has not kept up. I'd like
to see that change, but nothing I've suggested so far has taken hold.
Time to take a few deep breaths and get back to work ...
"For many years a cataloger, but now a professional troublemaker"