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EDUCAT  August 2004

EDUCAT August 2004

Subject:

Re: Introducing cataloging principles to aspiring school library media specialists

From:

Shawne Miksa <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Discussion List for issues related to cataloging & metadata education & training <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 13 Aug 2004 08:50:41 -0500

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text/plain

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Response to Dr. Lomax's 8/4 posting concerning cataloging student course evaluations.  I decided to ask my cataloging students to respond to Dr. Lomax's email, instead of me ranting and raving.  Below are their responses (initials used for privacy):

RB: “While my intentions are not to become a cataloger, I feel it is important to have an idea of the steps that are involved in the cataloging function.  If we take the general course of study, we, as students, must enroll in indexing or "organization and control of information resources".  At a minimum, the cataloging jargon will make me aware of terms that I should be familiar with and the processes necessary to catalog information entities.” 

HB: “This is kind of scary feedback on many levels.  Hard to know where to begin. Yes, I can concur that this is a "hard" course.  Taken over six weeks rather than 10 [the course referred to is the summer course, not the usual 15 week semester], I can imagine that I too would be blown away.  That being said, it would seem that the state of Georgia has different requirements for its school librarians than many other states.  Here in NY, you have to have an MLS and school library certification as well as a valid educational degree and teaching certificate.  In order to get the degree, you would obviously need the full blown cataloging course. If what is really desired by the College of Education is a survey course, then six weeks would be sufficient to do this.  No real "cataloging" would need to be done.  I would say that the feedback would be valid IF that were the requirement.. From a personal perspective, what is wrong with learning all of the theory and practice anyway?  It makes you more educated to begin with, more professional and more marketable.  It would seem that this individual's perspective is very limited by "I am only ever going to do this ONE job and I don't need to know anything else." This is very self-limiting. From Dr. Lomax's perspective, I would suggest that this feedback be direct to those who develop the degree plans for the College of Education.  If this course is what is required, that is what he must teach.  If the College wishes to revise the overall curriculum, then that is within their purview.  I think that Dr. Lomax is doing his best to meet the needs of both that particular institution and the profession as a whole.   The value of good feedback is immeasurable.  I do know, however, that many a good career has been damaged or derailed just because someone  chose the wrong forum or preferred not to do what was required of them.  It is getting more and more difficult to choose the hard right over the easy wrong.”

NM: “As a copy cataloger, my eyes were really opened to the way it all comes together. I've always appreciated knowing why I'm seeing and doing what I do. It makes the job easier and it allows me to make changes based on knowledge and good judgment, not just memorization. 
 That being said, I think NO 0NE should have to take a cataloging course unless they have an existing interest in it.—i.e., I don't think they need to understand how to read LC subject schedules and the AACR unless it is required of them in their positions or if they are the only
cataloger-in-residence. A simpler overview seems in to be the way to go for those students who plan never to catalog one item! Remember, we're a strange lot—it could be because we DO know how to create call numbers and read the AACR. It should never be required by any degree plan except for one for cataloging.” 

JP: “When I signed up for [this course], I knew I had no intention of pursuing a career as a cataloger.  I am in the youth services program.  However, I believe it is an important area.  I am glad I took the class, and even survived it!  {snip]…. I think every SLIS graduate should be required to have a cataloging and classification course.  It is one of basics of librarianship.  It gives the librarian insight as to how and why the library is organized as it is. Before I started working at  ##U, I volunteered at my son's school library. One day, I noticed that we had the same title shelved under two different call numbers.  I asked the school librarian about it, and she said that was how they came from the media center.  She made no effort to find out why, or to fix it.  She told me she had not studied cataloging, and just took the books as they came.  I believe that every librarian should have a thorough understanding of how their library is organized, and why it is organized that way. They need to understand the fields in the catalog their patrons are using. If the librarian has no understanding of cataloging or classification, the he/she will also have no control over how the material is organized.  I understand that not every librarian has control over where material is placed, that is mainly left to the catalogers.  However,
every librarian needs to be able to recognize when there is a problem with the organization, and be able to communicate with the catalogers to get it fixed. I believe that by taking this course, I will be better equipped to search for and find information patrons need, and therefore be a better librarian.”

CH: “To add a little opinion in all this...I feel the statement  "I was asked by a number of these students to severely curtail my effort in the teaching of both bibliographic description and classification theory in future courses, " is very disheartening.  A basic Cataloging background is completely necessary for anyone wanting to work in a professional library position or direct a library.  You must know how a library is organized at the most fundamental levels and understand the theory behind it...Just like you must know algebra before taking calculus, it’s an educational process.  For students who may not have an interest in cataloging or becoming a cataloger, they must understand that a basic cataloging course is not there to make them catalogers, rather to provide a fundamental education about the organization of libraries, which will expand their minds outside of the one library they hope to work in, and into librarianship as a profession.  So they can understand a little more about what their colleagues and peers do, and improve relationships in our profession.  I think students lack the big picture sometimes when frustrated with one class, and maybe that is what needs to be brought to their attention. My two cents. “


TE: “While I also do not plan to be a cataloger, I now know the extent to which it takes to do original cataloging. I constantly hear from faculty and administration a frustration at the length of time it takes to catalog a gift collection from a noted authority in a particular discipline..  I have tried to smooth over the frustration by saying that cataloging is a very precise science.  After this course, I can now explain with much more confidence the time and efforts that must go into original cataloging.  Of course, I realize that a "real" cataloger can do it much faster than I but I do now have a profound appreciation for the work that they perform!”


JB: “I am in awe of the articulate responses in this discussion and feel there is little I can add in the way of reasons for not “dumbing down” cataloging instruction. As to not requiring the catalog course at all, I say it makes as much sense as not requiring basic reference courses for those who are not inclined to be reference librarians. An understanding of the catalog is vital to assisting users effectively, just as an understanding of the user (through reference instruction) is vital to good catalog construction. SLIS coursework, even though it may have a specialty focus, serves to give us some understanding of all aspects of information science. The library catalog is a part of the whole. Those who go on to be administrators need to understand the art and science behind the catalog so it does not become the first place to look for funding reduction, because it is "not important.””

BG: “There's an old Yiddish saying that goes something to the effect: "Man plans and God laughs."  So a grad student sees no point in learning cataloguing because they will never use it.  Excellent.  They've already seen the future and know what they need and don't.  For the more humble among us, we can see the potential benefits.  You know how to use the LCC tomes, enabling one to chase down alternative searches - a potentially very useful skill for a reference librarian under certain conditions.  Mistakes do get made (e.g. perhaps a transposition of digits by the person making up the label, so a book on sports (GV) is placed among the VGs).  A hack places it there and forgets about it; the professional tracks down the correct placement.  And the professional and first rate program does not allow the ignorant and/or inexperienced (the student) to dictate what they need to know.  It's the job of the program to determine that, given the better vantage point offered by experience, education, and intelligence.. Which is not to say that programs don't make mistakes or cling to the outmoded because that is what the faculty is most comfortable with; there had to be some program out there that resisted Google and the internet long after it became obvious to the rest of the world the value of the web. Good programs are good programs because they demand a lot.”

PM: “I need theory to understand the practice. Theory must be an important part of teaching cataloging. Enough said.”


Shawne D. Miksa, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Library and Information Sciences
University of North Texas
office 940-565-3560
fax 940-565-3101

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