Thank you to Ned, Lex & Rachel for offering me the opportunity to write about cataloguing here. This piece is a response to the earlier Anatomy of a cataloger post but it is also a shameless plug for cataloguing, cataloguers and the High Visibility Cataloguing site that I helped to set up.
Let’s just get this out of the way first: cataloguers have a bit of an image problem. But, let’s face it, so have librarians and you’re here at LISNPN so we already know that you – my esteemed reader - can see past lazy stereotypes and tired old clichés, right? So let’s just move on…
I love solving problems. Each piece I catalog is a puzzle. I can use that talent to help end users and my colleagues in reference @erinaleach
I love being a cataloguer but I can’t give you a catch-all description of what life is like as a cataloguer. There are as many types of cataloguer role as there are types of library: what is involved with vary with the size and nature of the collection, the types of materials acquired, the balance of in-house versus outsourced record creation, the software used. Cataloguing could mean dealing with books. Or serials. Or purely online resources. Or institutional repositories. Or artefacts, teaching materials, [fill in the blank yourself]. I can tell you that cataloguing takes place in a constantly evolving environment, so cataloguers need to be adaptable, forward-thinking and, at the very least, not afraid of technology.
…it’s never boring: the challenge of figuring out how to make things accessible/findable @slmcdanold
There are many job titles for what we do: cataloguer, metadata technician, bibliographic services librarians, technical services/acquisitions/collection description. There are also plenty of library roles which involve some cataloguing without being defined as a “cataloguer”: for example, subject specialist, dealing with a special collection or solo librarian-who-does-everything.
I love being a cataloguer because… people find things because of what I do @archelina
To get some ideas of why people love cataloguing, whether they are full-time cataloguers or just do cataloguing as part of their wider role, I asked on Twitter for people to complete the sentence “I love cataloguing because…”. The quotes throughout my post are just a handful of the many replies I received within a couple of hours. These short quotes paint a better picture of the heart and soul of cataloguing than I could ever do myself.
...because my precise yet creative descriptions facilitate discovery by stealth. Patron: ‘Wow! I didn’t even know that existed’ @angefitzpatrick
...because it is a constant exercise in designing maps to guide explorers to buried treasure @dymvue
I have always believed that cataloguing is something you can only learn by doing. No amount of theory, background reading, lectures or assignments is going to tell you what you need to know about the reality of cataloguing. This is particularly difficult when few library schools really offer much in the way of “cat & class” and very little that is practical or hands-on. So, how do library students, new professionals and the librarianly-inclined find out more about cataloguing to see if it’s something they’d enjoy ? Like anything that you can only learn by doing –quadratic equations, driving a car, pottery, running the UN – it can be a daunting prospect.
...because it makes me more familiar with the books & therefore with the library, which means I can answer readers’ queries better @lemurph
...because I feel like the anatomist of a book, I discover internal intricacies, pin down inner meaning, & enhance findability @darklecat
If you want to find out more, I’d advise you to start with the comments on the Anatomy of cataloger post, where many eloquent and passionate cataloguers explain what they do and why they love it. For even more, try the High Visibility Cataloguing site (or, for those of you on Twitter, try searching for the hashtag #hvcats). At High Visibility Cataloguing, we are planning more ways to explain what cataloguers do and give a better sense of what it means on a practical, day-to-day level to be a cataloguer. It would also be a good place for anyone interested in getting in touch with cataloguers, to ask questions and find out more.
… because information is power, and I control the information ;) @evil_jen
...gives ability to be a well-rounded librarian: we wear many hats, cat[aloguing] is a good foundation @hippylibrarian