I would not feel comfortable sending out a student who did not know the
basics of creating a simple record, but I can also see Diane’s point about
the age-old conundrum of practical versus theoretical.  Ideally, they must
know both.  They must know both the nitty-gritty and also how to change
and/or move away from that nitty-gritty through an understanding of the
underlying fundamentals of organizing information.  By this I mean seeing
past MARC, or any encoding schema, to the purpose of doing it in the first
place and what products are created with it (i.e., a record, or some else
altogether).  In my cataloging courses I teach them MARC, yes, but at the
same time I emphasize that it is one of many metadata encoding schemas and
that the true goal is to understand how to learn and use any type of
encoding scheme and its use in whatever system it is employed. In other
words, they must be adaptable to whatever information organization
environment is there.  Mastering any encoding schema will take time and
practice--we need to give them the tools for how to take on the task of
mastering it. Same goes for learning any type of cataloging rules or
guidelines, or any type of classification system. People learn to analyze
and to classify…they don’t just learn how to build numbers in DDC or LCC.

We start all of our students with an overarching course in information
organization—introduce them to the fundamental concepts and principles and
at the same time have them create an information organization system from
scratch. This includes their own metadata elements and overall schema,
database fundamentals and technical specifications, input rules,
classification system  and guidelines for how to use it, and some very basic
authority control of the data values in their system.  Then we can send them
on to library cataloging course, or if they are not interested in that, a
course on metadata overall. Cataloging courses are required, or not,
depending on what course of study they pursue within our two majors (LS and

We do need to train people to manage change—I agree wholeheartedly. I said
this before in a different thread some months ago.  We need transitional
people—those who can bridge both the current and new. Call them transitional
catalogers, if needed, but the emphasis is on transition. My opinion on
catalogers not getting enough, or even wanting, continuing education is that
they weren’t taught how to learn the fundamentals, just how to do the
process to produce a product. Plant the seeds for continually learning while
you have them in the classroom.

Diane also talked about ‘theories of information organization’ but I don’t
see that we have any theories. We have some models, principles, objectives,
concepts, some methods and practices, but no true theories. Theories are
still sadly lacking in our field as a whole. 


Shawne D. Miksa, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Associate Director, Interdisciplinary Information Science (IIS) PhD Program
Department of Library and Information Sciences College of Information
University of North Texas
email: [log in to unmask]
office 940-565-3560, 565-2445; fax 940-369-7898 or 565-3101