>At Rutgers we take the view that for students who do not intend to
>be cataloguers, it is most important to understand the concepts
>behind organization of information (e.g., vocabulary control, human
>vs. automatic indexing,
>exhaustivity and specificity, metadata standards, evaluation, ...).
>If students concentrate on learning the fine details of a
>classification system (understanding the fine details of a
>particular record format or punctuation), they tend not to obtain
>this higher level understanding. Qualified professionals should
>appreciate the importance of such details and be able to learn
>specific classifcation schemes fairly quickly.
Rutgers University SCILS
I was rather hoping to avoid the time-honored debate of whether an
"organization of information" course is equivalent to a "cataloging"
Personally, I think any "cataloging" course without solid theoretical
readings in cataloging as a specialty will not stand the test of time
in a professional's career. However, a course labeled "cataloging"
must teach students which end of the soldering iron gets hot (as my
husband the engineer is fond of saying).
Arthur Marx reports the following:
He took what was apparently a course called "cataloging" with the
He was not energized or inspired by what he learned in that course
and was an indifferent student.
He found himself employed as a lone cataloger in a university library.
He had to learn the details of cataloging essentially from scratch
through burning his finger on the soldering iron over two years.
As a "cataloging" instructor, I don't find this to be a good outcome.
I know that a certain proportion of my students struggle with the
material and it doesn't come together for them, but I would hope that
it's a small number of the total. And that along with being able to
chant FISAN or the Five Laws as they relate to catalogs, I hope the
majority of students have an inkling of how to use cataloging tools
and appreciate some major concepts. And to not be indifferent! But I
don't know. How do we measure cataloging course outcome? If we don't
know, shouldn't we be worried that this man's experience is the norm?
Keith Trickey's point (that there's a shift to post-graduate CE
training for cataloging because the participants at that point are
primed and ready for the details) is well taken. The CE materials
developed by the PCC and others are outstanding and they reach out at
the point of need. However, I am concerned about the shift to
workshops as a substitute for a standard cataloging course in an MLS
program. I am afraid it is more in response to the perception by LIS
faculty and students who've taken cataloging courses and not gotten
beyond punctuation, coming away with the idea that all cataloging
content can be learned through short-term CE. If a cataloger only
learns the rules through workshops, the reading and writing
components of a graduate course and wider-ranging discussions about
why anyone ever bothered to develop ISBD or how a record interacts
with others to make a catalog don't get addressed. Perhaps our
standard "cataloging" courses can interface in some useful way with
this growing body of good workshops, but that also goes back to
asking where we'd expect the average student coming out of one course
to be at the end of the term.
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.