LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for PCCLIST Archives


PCCLIST Archives

PCCLIST Archives


PCCLIST@LISTSERV.LOC.GOV


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

PCCLIST Home

PCCLIST Home

PCCLIST  May 2006

PCCLIST May 2006

Subject:

"Culture wars" in cataloging

From:

Joseph Kiegel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 24 May 2006 14:42:20 -0700

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (197 lines)

While I agree with some of David's points, I think he has unfairly 
characterized front-line catalogers and unnecessarily polarized the debate 
by introducing "culture wars".

I agree, as he says, that the principles underlying our cataloging 
practices remain valid today and that we must be careful not to disparage 
them as we consider the issue of series headings.  It is cataloging 
practitioners who often best understand these principles, and who are 
making principled arguments about series, even though sometimes emotions 
run strong.  I encourage us all to listen for the arguments rather than 
the emotions.

I also agree that the PCC Policy Committee needs to gather feedback, 
listen closely, and allow for open discussions to take place.  A genuine 
dialogue must occur, and the best way to foster such a dialogue is to act 
in a neutral manner.

The biggest problem with David's posting is that it is not neutral. There 
is an obvious value judgment placed on the sides of the debate, and it is 
very clear who is judged right and who wrong.  Those who disagree with 
LC's decision are labelled "conservative" and are seen as arguing for the 
status quo, which is clearly a negative judgment.  His analogy with the 
welfare states of Europe is very unfortunate, and it is downright 
insulting to imply of catalogers that "it is more appealing to resist the 
change and insist on the importance of traditional values than to engage 
thoughtfully in a discussion about the future".

Catalogers have dealt successfully with change for decades.  There have 
been tremendous changes in technology and substantial changes to 
cataloging rules and practices.  Catalogers are also very aware of the 
need for economy, and certainly have watched their own ranks thin over the 
years. In my experience, they have dealt pragmatically with these changes 
while striving to provide the best service to users they can.  To say that 
catalogers are resistant to change while managers are not is simply 
unfair.

I suggest that we focus on the common ground we have.  I suspect that 
virtually everyone agrees we want libraries to provide good service to our 
users.  It's true that we don't have consensus about the means to this 
end, and there is plenty of room for debate and exchange of ideas 
concerning series statements.  But in the end, this is a discussion of 
means, not ends.  Let's assume good faith and reasonableness on the part 
of all sides and listen for their arguments to principle, rather than 
hearing just emotions.

We need a fair and neutral airing of the issues, and PCC is the best forum 
we have today for that to occur.  We need the Policy Committee to lead the 
way, and to let member institutions know how we can contribute to a 
solution.


Joe Kiegel
Head, Monographic Services Division
Univ. of Washington Libraries


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 12:15:36 -0400
From: David Banush <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [PCCLIST] "Culture wars" in cataloging

All:  I sent a slightly different version of this message to the PCC Policy
Committee earlier today.  I've been asked to share it beyond that
group.  Here it is.

The flurry of messages on the various lists concerning LC's series
treatment decision has been an interesting look at the current (mental)
state of the profession.  LC's announcement, coming on the heels of a
number of other significant developments --the reports from Karen Calhoun,
the University of California, and Indiana University, as well as the merger
of RLG and OCLC, have certainly brought a lot of heat, if not always a
great deal of light, to the ongoing discussion of the future of cataloging
and library catalogs.

That two camps with widely divergent views exist is quite obvious. The
sharp reactions on both sides indicate to me that we are in the thick of a
major transition.  We might think of this as a "culture war" within
cataloging, with each side trying to (re)claim the purpose and nature of
cataloging and catalogs for both present and future.  The more conservative
forces, which seem to include many front-line staff, are vigorously
(sometimes stridently) defending the status quo, or even the status quo
ante; others, primarily managers and administrators, are trying to move
away from the old models toward something very different.  The challenge
for folks in the latter group is that they don't --indeed, can't--know
exactly where all of this will lead.  A gulf of uncertainty created by the
inherently unknowable nature of this future has become patently evident
these last few weeks.  That the uncertainty threatens many whose
professional identities and notions of worth hinge on the indefinite
continuation of the status quo accounts for much of the emotion surrounding
the debates here and elsewhere.

To use an imperfect but illustrative analogy, cataloging today resembles
the welfare states of Europe. Like contemporary Germany or France, it is
marked by high labor costs and a high degree of regulation; is heavily
bureaucratized in the form of a vast array of professional groups and
institutional committees; and it has a rapidly aging population.  Its
prospects for long-term growth in a very dynamic global information economy
are dim unless significant structural changes are made.  Like many
political and business leaders in Europe, most library leaders have
identified the problems and know what needs to be done, at least
generally.  But they also realize that for the most part, the staff do not
want change.  Like life in the European welfare states, the professional
environment for catalogers has been comfortable and secure.  The rules of
the trade may be elaborate and the bureaucracy can be stifling, but mastery
of both brings to many practitioners a strong sense of satisfaction and the
comfort of community.  Indeed, the community been especially valuable as a
support for its members as the pressure to become more efficient  (and thus
to re-evaluate the need for traditional practices) has increased.   To
exchange that existence for one filled with risk and uncertainty, even if
the status quo seems unsustainable, is not something the majority are
prepared to do.  It is more appealing to resist the change and insist on
the importance of traditional values than to engage thoughtfully in a
discussion about the future.

My unsolicited advice for the PoCo is not to fall into the trap of arguing
with the people most threatened by change.  The debate is surrounded by far
too much emotion to be productive.  Instead, I think that the PCC
leadership should think carefully about what kinds of roles catalogers will
have in the future.  They need to gather feedback, listen closely, and
allow for open discussions to take place.  A genuine dialogue must occur;
if the opinions are solicited only to be ignored, the process will be
nothing more than a cynical facade, and it will most certainly
backfire.   If front-line folks feel they are part of the planning process,
they may be much less likely to resist and much more likely to become
engaged.  We must also remember that in looking to the future, the past
must be honored and respect.  Traditional cataloging has served many
library users well for decades.  The principles underlying those practices
remain valid today.  We must be careful not to disparage those principles
even as we seek to move away from the old practices that hinder our ability
to respond to rapidly changing user expectations, that have higher
opportunity costs than value, or both.  But we must also look
forward.  Honoring the past does not mean living in it, nor does it mean
squandering opportunities for the future to placate the disgruntled staff
of the present.

The statements from the ALA Executive Board about the LC series decision,
Thomas Mann's rebuttal of Karen Calhoun's report, the many, many messages
on AUTOCAT and other lists about both topics, and even Michael Gorman's
most recent column in American Libraries, bemoaning the state of library
education (he believes it's not traditional enough) strongly suggest that
moving away from the old practices is being met with fierce
resistance.  It's obvious that library leaders who seek meaningful changes
in the way we work have their work cut out for them.  What is not so easy
to see is how to bridge the gap between those who wish to move to a
different way of looking at cataloging and catalogs and those who feel too
threatened by change to consider reforms anything but heresy or
betrayal.  If the PCC wishes to diffuse some of the heat surrounding these
issues--and I am hopeful it does--then PoCo needs to be thinking very
carefully about how it can help to bridge this gap.  I believe Joan
Swanekamp has pointed out that the strategic plan calls for PCC to assist
catalogers in this time of transition.  I think there can be no issue of
greater importance.

But how to do it?  Obviously (pace Hamlet) that is the question, and
unfortunately, no one has the definitive answer to it.  But perhaps there
are few things that could be done now.  Holding open forums at the PCC
membership meetings to gather the kind of feedback I mention above are
simple to do and would help community members air their views.  The
discussions would need focus lest they turn into rambling gripe sessions
about the end of the world.  The community has people who could lead such
discussions skillfully and productively.  PCC should also consider taking a
more active role in gathering real evidence to inform decisions about
cataloging through thorough and ongoing user studies.   Anecdotal evidence
alone is not sufficient to justify continuing a given practice, but the
debate is filled with assertions that "our users rely on X to do their
work."  A partnership with appropriate groups across specialty lines would
seem the most logical way to handle this.  Having examples of projects in
member institutions where catalogers' skills are being put to use outside
of the traditional MARC/AARC2-based universe may also help illustrate that
there is indeed life after the card catalog, ISBD punctuation, and series
tracings, at least for those who want it.

I realize these are only a few suggestions, but I think if PCC is to
demonstrate a true leadership role, it will have to move beyond reaction to
change or mitigating the "damage" caused by changes in practice.  Thanks
for your attention.


David



David Banush
Head, Cataloging Services
Subject Specialist, Bibliography, Information and Library Science
Library Technical Services
Cornell University Library
110D Olin Library
Ithaca, NY 14853

Voice: (607) 254-8031
Fax: (607) 255-6110
[log in to unmask]
http://www.library.cornell.edu/tsweb/

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LISTSERV.LOC.GOV

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager