Suzanne & Karen--

       I realize that Mary Miller was asking about advanced  
cataloging. That is a different beast from basic cataloging, of  
course, and the students need more practice with record creation, and  
I'm going off on a tangent (apologies to Mary--my answer to her is  
that I would set up some targeted exercises for specific areas so that  
you're not grinding through thousands of whole records throughout the  
entire semester).

       I also realize that students in the course for K-12  
certification especially will be called upon to catalog stuff for  
their collections that isn't bought shelf-ready, usually the weird  
stuff. And any cataloging class worth its salt should be more than  
"cataloging appreciation."

        But I disagree with the often-repeated idea that "theory" is  
somehow nothing but  derivatives of equations on the board. It's a  
false dichotomy.   Suzanne, Elaine Svenonius and the ghost of Seymour  
Lubetzky will be stripping you of your fuzzy UC sleeve bars if they  
hear that! Are you honestly saying that you expect students to go  
forth into practice and then suddenly have a revelation about how  
cataloging practice and theory fits together? How can they have any  
revelation if they don't learn about cataloging theory in graduate  
school and be taught its value?

        If all a student remembers from cataloging class is how to  
properly space a record in OCLC formatting style (or finish the course  
with a horrific memory of how they failed to understand the  
documentation), they have not learned cataloging, just some clerical  
skills for a job that doesn't require a master's degree any more. I'm  
thinking of recent job descriptions from OCLC or USC or LC where a  
bachelor's degree at most is required--original cataloging is not a  
growth area for employment of degreed librarians.

       The goal in cataloging education is to give students problem- 
solving skills and the ability to diagnose whether the records they  
produce or buy correctly apply the standards.  You can't make them  
into full-fledged catalogers in one course, or even two. It takes  
mentoring in record creation (before or after a course) to get enough  
experience under their belts to make them independent record  
producers. Karen, at Illinois, students could choose to do a  
practicum, which is kind of like an internship for credit, but of  
course only a semester in length and with limited work time. Practicum  
or internship, the point is that you get some personal feedback from a  
professional about your records. With 20-30 students, I don't think  
that you can give anyone that level of attention, and I doubt if my  
students--the ones who needed it most--actually went back and reviewed  
my beautifully-constructed keys with detailed notes for everything  
they did.

If I can try to limit the scope of my question and explain what  
troubles me about "how many records do you assign each week?":

Is making students produce x records a week and discussing them in  
class the best way to teach them what they need to take away from a  

Is this a good pedagogical technique? Specifically, does it produce  
the knowledge that all practicing librarians should have about  

An example: out there in the field, many libraries are all hot and  
heavy with converting from DDC to BISAC, or Lexile levels or even LCC,  
and mechanical chopping of Dewey numbers at a certain # of digits past  
the decimal is still done because no one understands base numbers, or  
standard subdivisions, or the function of hierarchies in browsing.   
Analysis of physical classification issues is cataloging knowledge  
that even a K-12 certificate holder must be able to apply to their  
collections. More so than an academic librarian because a teacher- 
librarian has  control over how an entire collection of books is  

Does constructing a DDC number for 18th century Swedish devotional  
poets and plugging that into a MARC record with the correct indicators  
produce the outcome of  knowledge about how Dewey can work in a  
library? What about if we construct fifty numbers? Can students deduce  
the melding of theory and practice from that alone? I had two weeks to  
teach DDC--would this be the best use of my students' time?

Obviously I have reservations about it, or I wouldn't ask skeptical  
questions. It seems like we don't give students enough experience in  
the areas where they're going to need the highest-level ability to  
analyze cataloging problems. The problem is urgent, because we have  
only one opportunity in one course to pass along some very complex and  
important knowledge about effective cataloging practice, which we all  
value and desperately want all MLS students to know.

I can't say that in my teaching I have found the answer to this  
question, but that is why I'm trying to provoke discussion.


Cheryl Tarsala
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