This post is 3rd in my series "Library Team Task Force", a description of roles performed by librarians (sometimes the same one!) so that we might come to a better understanding of what our colleagues do and so students might have more realistic ways to potentially decide which track to focus on.
Is there any position more dreaded than "cataloger"? Not because they're scary, but because none of us really want to do it? Because we don't really love LOC, Dewey, FRBR, AACR2, or ISBD? Or any of the metadata standards?
I can't think of anyone I went to LIS school with who liked cataloging. We all thought of it as a necessary evil. I've had to do some cataloging, and I haven't changed my tune overmuch. Copy cataloging is fine, but original cataloging? Forget it.
To do cataloging, day in, day out, you have to be so meticulous it hurts. And it will hurt...your eyes, if nothing else, but more likely your back and shoulders too, from leafing through all those aforementioned manuals and figuring out what metadata to use. You have to be nit-picky about whether or not something belongs just slightly better elsewhere, and memorizing a basic Cutter table helps.
But, on the bright side, the cataloger is the road map to all things within the library. Without them, we wouldn't be able to find anything. As librarians, we're often taught to respect the call number, but we don't think too much about the people who put it there. Catalogers are off in their own little nooks/rooms, with unprocessed, not-quite-alive materials, quietly going about their work with dignity and the calm knowledge that when they take a day off, the person who draws the short straw will be looking for items that can be copy-cataloged.
Catalogers are respected in an abstract way, I think, when they're thought of at all. It's not a glamorous position, a high-visibility position, or one with a lot of change. If you like a reliable, steady sort of work, then cataloging might just be for you. Just don't let other librarians forget the important role that you play in getting materials to patrons!