So many variables in that question! 
First, I think it depends on your program and your students. We require cataloging, which means that most of my students are only in the course because they have to be. The little interest they have in cataloging revolves around its use in practice.  The only rationale I can give them for taking the class is that they need to understand how cataloging works in order to make full use of their collections and catalog.
Our students are very applications-oriented. Most of them are already working in a library and are earning the MLIS in order to further their career. They are willing to learn how to catalog, because they can see its benefit on a daily basis. They also often have questions about "why" books are organized the way they are -- by which they mean, what are the rules that guide it? 
The employers want graduates who can catalog and who can negotiate with vendors. They don't care whether they understand the theory; they want them to be able to do the work. 
Second, it depends on your learning style. I did not understand the theory of cataloging until I had been doing it for several years. I learn best through deduction. I find it easier to teach the theory of cataloging in that way, by applying the general principles to a wide variety of materials. The feedback from my students indicates that they learn the same way. 
That's also why I limit the introductory course to a single format, with the emphasis on applying to the rules to a variety of different types of monographs that illustrate different principles. Since the format is always the same, the students can focus on the principle they are learning, rather than being distracted by the format.
The first statistics course I took as an undergraduate was taught by a full professor. He spent every lecture giving us the derivations of the formulas -- the mathematical theory behind the statistics. I learned nothing. I barely passed the class. When I later repeated the course with a lowly associate professor, the focus was on how and when to use the formulas. By the end of that class, I understood the theories behind the statistics. Not at the level of that full professor, but well enough for a psychology undergraduate, and well enough to go on to advanced statistics at the doctoral level years later.
So, I suppose my answer is that I teach the way I learn. What would a cataloging course look like that did not include practice in application? 
Suzanne M. Stauffer, Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor 
School of Library and Information Science 
Louisiana State University 
275 Coates Hall 
Baton Rouge, LA 70803 
Fax: (225)578-4581 
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Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? 
--T.S. Eliot, "Choruses from The Rock" 


From: Discussion List for issues related to cataloging & metadata education & training on behalf of Cheryl Tarsala
Sent: Mon 3/28/2011 10:33 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [eduCAT] like having 20 people in revision at the same time

I've always wondered why our dominant mode of teaching cataloging is 
mentoring in record creation, with quantity (keeping up with feedback) 
always being the main discussion about teaching. Is a graduate-level 
cataloging course different from (or the same as) a practicum? Should 
it be?

Cheryl Tarsala
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