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EDUCAT  July 2007

EDUCAT July 2007

Subject:

Re: Martha Yee's comments on LIS education (fwd)

From:

Heidi Hoerman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 26 Jul 2007 13:41:58 -0700

Content-Type:

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text/plain (154 lines)

I'm afraid I agree with Mac and Martha.  And you know that all USC students get your book in their core courses.  

But we still have all the problems Martha mentioned and the ones I talked about in the "Why does everybody hate cataloging" article.   And now, with the chaos that is RDA/FRBR/let's-throw-out-the-baby-with-the-bath water it's only getting worse.

And there are very few of us on this list.  And we are quiet.

hh

Arlene Taylor <[log in to unmask]> wrote: Hi folks,

I sent the message below to AUTOCAT in response to Martha Yee's paper that 
is soon to be published in American Libraries.

Mac Elrod responded: "Martha Yee is very correct that the lack of 
cataloguing education is a major contributing factor to the decline of the 
quality of bibliographic records in bibliographic utilities and in our 
catalogues, and to the general lack of understanding of cataloguing among 
non cataloguer librarians.  Considering the seriousness of the situation, 
a little hyperbole does not seem out of place to me."

I don't think people reading American Libraries will see it as hyperbole. 
Is our education really "a major contributing factor to the decline of the
quality of bibliographic records in bibliographic utilities and in our
catalogues, and to the general lack of understanding of cataloguing among
non cataloguer librarians"?  Am I right, or is he?  I'm trying to defend 
you guys!  Help me out here!

Thanks, Arlene

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2007 12:09:51 -0400 (EDT)
From: Arlene Taylor 
To: AUTOCAT 
Subject: Martha Yee's comments on LIS education

I have finally been able to read the full contents of Martha Yee's piece about 
the library profession and the Internet.  I believe it is a good analysis of 
the thinking of some of the leaders in our field.  However, in the second 
paragraph there are two gratuitous sentences that should be rebutted.  They 
are:

"Now most LIS schools teach, at best, an introduction to information 
organization course in which students talk about such matters as how to 
organize supermarkets.  That is the extent of the exposure of most new 
librarians to the principles of cataloging."

The next sentence implies that the lack of cataloging education in library 
schools is somehow causing the problem that is so eloquently described in the 
rest of the document.

Research indicates that most library schools require of everyone a course in 
information organization.  As the author of the textbook used in most of these 
courses (The Organization of Information, 2nd ed., Libraries Unlimited, 2004), 
I can assure you that it does not mention supermarkets. If supermarkets are 
discussed in classes, it is for maybe 10 minutes in the first class to get 
students to think about a situation they are familiar with (many students are 
woefully ignorant of organization in libraries), and see how organization 
(putting like things together, and having categories and arrangement) is 
necessary in order for people to find things.  Aren't these basic principles of 
organization of information?  What is wrong with getting students to 
extrapolate from the familiar to the situation we are teaching about?

Every semester more than 40 teachers in the U.S. (many more if you add all 
those in other countries) knock themselves out to try to teach reluctant and 
sometimes hostile students the principles of organizing information. Some are 
hostile because they have been told by librarians they talked to before 
attending library school that "you are going to hate cataloging, but just get 
through it as best you can, and the rest of the courses will be somewhat 
interesting."  The challenge is, at times, overwhelming for teachers.  The 
principles of organizing information require a kind of rigorous thinking that 
many find difficult or impossible.  In fact, much of the problem that Martha 
describes is due to librarians not being able to understand, let alone 
practice, this rigorous way of thinking.

A one-semester 3-hour course cannot cover in depth all of cataloging, but I 
know from my own research into teaching issues that teachers do the best they 
can to cover the basic principles.  Most AUTOCAT readers finished library 
school before 1999, and therefore have probably not looked at the textbook now 
used.  If you are such a person, I beg you to take a look. It thoroughly covers 
organization of information in libraries, and it also tries to introduce 
organization of information in archives, museums and art galleries, and on the 
Internet (and, by the way, discusses inability of computers so far to 
accomplish the kind of organization that can be done by humans).  All kinds of 
retrieval tools are discussed: bibliographies, indexes, finding aids, 
registers, and search engines, in addition to catalogs; although the emphasis 
is on catalogs.  (Many students graduating from today's LIS schools go to work 
in archives, museums, corporations, and Internet services.  And, in any case, 
what is wrong with introducing librarians to the fact that our principles of 
library organization, developed over the last centuries, are now being used in 
many other settings?)

The textbook also covers all principles of cataloging, and these are discussed 
in detail:  description, access, authority control, subject analysis, 
controlled vocabularies, and classification.  Encoding standards are covered: 
MARC is explained in some detail, but it is also necessary to introduce 
students to XML and how it is being used to capture MARC records for Internet 
display, as well as how it is being used for original encoding of some kinds of 
metadata records.

Library schools have never been able to teach cataloging in one semester (at 
least not since Melvil Dewey's school in which most of the courses were 
cataloging).  Even when the required course was called "cataloging," people 
finishing that course were not able to go out and catalog without more 
learning.  Some of you on this list have commented that you took four or five 
cataloging courses and still had to do on-the-job learning in order to catalog 
well.  I'd love it if LIS master's programs were 2 or 3 years in length.  Then 
there would actually be time to teach people to catalog.  But how many of you 
would have been willing to pay for another year or two of education before 
getting your degree?

It is true that some of our leaders were not exposed to principles of 
information organization in library school.  There was a brief period in the 
1970s when a number of library schools did stop requiring a course in 
cataloging, because there was a belief that the computer was going to do it 
all.  But most library schools saw the fallacy of that and are now requiring an 
information organization course.  Some of our current leaders got their degrees 
during the 1970s and did not have such a course. Others of our leaders may have 
been among the reluctant or hostile students taking the one required course. 
Others just seem to have been sucked in by the idea that keyword searching is 
cheap, and organizing information is expensive.

In any case I believe it is way past time to stop disparaging the valiant 
efforts of library school teachers of information organization.  The two 
sentences from Martha's piece are not factual and contribute to a 
"blame-finding" way to not take responsibility for our inability to convince 
our peers that users are better served by principled organization using 
rigorous analysis and thinking.

End of rant.  Thanks for reading.

--Arlene
**********
Arlene G. Taylor  **  Professor Emerita
Library & Information Science Program
School of Information Sciences
University of Pittsburgh  **  Pittsburgh, PA  15260
e-mail: [log in to unmask]  **  voice: 412-624-9458
fax: 412-648-7001  **  http://www.pitt.edu/~agtaylor



[Opinions expressed here are mine alone and not to be attributed to the University of South Carolina.]

HEIDI LEE HOERMAN 
SCHOOL OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SCIENCE 
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA, COLUMBIA, SC 29205 
OFFICE PHONE: (803) 777-0485, (800) 277-2035 FAX: (803) 777-7938 
  HOME PHONE: (803) 695-2814 CELL: (803) 206-4734
EMAIL: [log in to unmask] (preferred) 
URL: www.heidihoerman.com 
      also www.usweddingdressday.com Wear your or someone else's wedding gown, bridesmaid's dress or other wedding garb for charity on October 5, 2007.

U.S. Constitution. Article 1. Section 9. The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

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