I think if we expect professionally trained librarians to oversee or
integrate "industrial" cataloging into what has been primarily a
"craft" model, we need to teach them how to evaluate cataloging based
on what it should be doing in theory. By evaluation, I mean the usual
"one-at-a-time" kind of evaluation, as well as in a batch mode. In a
sense, this approaches the problem of cataloging both as a "craft"
(which it has been traditionally) and as a "product" (which it is
I'm not certain how this might fit into a standard cataloging course
(which I only taught a few times, in the dim mists of the past), but
I've used simple forms of these evaluation techniques in a two-day
course I'm doing for ALCTS (Metadata Standards and Applications).
Clearly, if we look at what cataloging managers do, evaluation of
cataloging as a product is an increasingly important aspect of their
jobs and builds on (but is significantly different than) traditional
cataloging training they might have received in school or on the job.
In some respects, this is part of a broader view of traditional
cataloging information as a particular flavor of structured data:
which must be managed, maintained, and transformed as needs change.
It may well be that taking this view (as opposed to a primarily
"craft" view) might break down whatever resistance remains on the
part of some students to take cataloging classes.
I do realize that this view breaks down barriers sacred in some
library schools between traditional librarianship and the other
information management specialities not oriented towards library
practice. I think that's intentional on my part, because I believe
that there should definitely be fewer barriers. Those students aimed
toward libraries should have a much better grounding in data
management and presentation, and those looking towards careers
outside traditional libraries should have a much better sense of what
has been learned in over a century of information organization in
> I tell my students that cataloging is like shop class where they
>are making a beautiful paper towel holder for their moms as a way to
>learn how to safely use cataloging tools (without accidentally
>sticking a MARC indicator in an eye), but that real life cataloging
>today is more like an industrial process than the craft of previous
>Beyond the things one learns by actually wielding the tools, do you
>think that the industrial aspects of cataloging should have a more
>prominent place in the standard cataloging course? They are
>certainly less amenable to workshop learning and more in the
>managerial/theoretical mode that has been proposed as the proper
>level for master's courses.
>Does anyone think that someone like Arthus Marx would have come out
>of the one cataloging course less overwhelmed if there were more
>emphasis on catalog management or database-level decision-making? Or
>is that the province of an IR or DL or web design course and
>cataloging shouldn't touch it?
>(Note that I am asking this question fully aware of Arlene Taylor's
>comments about the overstuffed cataloging course. I have no idea
>what could be jettisoned to make any new aspect of cataloging fit.)
>Diane Hillman wrote:
>>I think the other important reason for this kind of shift is that
>>increasingly cataloging is not being done by professional
>>librarians, but by staff trained in the mechanics, not the theory.
>>The materials developed by the PCC and others are not necessarily
>>designed just for librarians and don't generally rely on a good
>>theoretical background to be useful--more a "rules and tools"
>>What I see happening is that even well-trained and experienced
>>cataloging professionals are doing less cataloging, and more
>>training, reviewing and management of increasingly complex
>>cataloging operations, where "handmade" cataloging must play well
>>with "industrial" cataloging from vendors and others. The people
>>with the understanding of IO and retrieval gradually seem to get
>>involved in project planning, web design, and other activities for
>>which cataloging training is amazingly useful, but it cuts into the
>>portion of their time when they're actually cataloging.
>Cheryl Boettcher Tarsala
>Adjunct Assistant Professor
>LEEP Program, Graduate School of Library and Information Science
>University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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>The views expressed here are my own and not those of UIUC or GSLIS.