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.