Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

An Educational Challenge: Teaching Cataloging and Classification

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

An Educational Challenge: Teaching Cataloging and Classification

Article excerpt

An Educational Challenge: Teaching Cataloging and Classification

In recent years articles have appeared in the literature on the changing

role of the cataloger, and complaints have arisen about the

comprehensiveness of cataloging and classification courses offered in graduate

library schools. This paper discusses the challenges of offering such

courses and in presenting all the necessary information in introductory

cataloging and classification courses for M.L.S. students.

Recent studies have attempted to identify the educational opportunities for cataloging instruction available to students in master's degree library and information science programs.[1-3] One study conducted during early 1986 identified ALA-accredited programs that did or did not require cataloging courses. The preliminary report indicated that of the sixty-three accredited programs, thirteen schools offered no cataloging or required less than one full course on cataloging.[4]

Another study specifically investigated course offerings on serials librarianship and the cataloging components offered for serials. Of the fifty-three respondents to this survey, four of the thirty-seven schools without separate serials courses did not offer serials cataloging as a component of another course.[5]

Unfortunately, graduates of some library and information science programs have not been taught the philosophy and techniques of traditional library duties. There have been several articles in the literature in the past few years discussing library school curricula for catalogers and technical services librarians.[6-10] Recently it was recommended that educational programs for graduates of accredited library and information science schools emphasize preparation in the use of technology[11] and the need to develop management skills.[12] While these are extremely useful to the profession, there are still occasions when personnel are needed who are trained in "old-fashioned" methods of provision of service. An example of this kind of training, still needed in libraries and information centers, is the organization of information and materials, or cataloging. In providing educational opportunities for students in M.L.S. programs, there are a number of challenges the teacher must face.


There is a prejudice held by the profession toward the functions of the cataloger. "Nobody loves a cataloger" was how Pierce Butler began his article on the bibliographic organization of libraries in the 1950s.[13] Gorman's 1980s parable of Kutta, the Book God, told some librarians that "they shall dwell in the darkness and secret shall be their ways -- go forth and catalog."[14] Recently there has been a reaction to these myths about catalogers and cataloging.[15-16] As Hill says, "Catalogers are often stereo-typically viewed as the group of librarians least amenable to change, but it is a view that would not stand up to scrutiny. The current cataloging world is epitomized by changes that catalogers have engineered, responded to, and embraced."[17]

Many find that cataloging can be interesting and rewarding. They are not "dwelling in darkness and secret" but are essential parts of the whole of the library. Their concern is with the needs of patrons. Their function is to provide what is needed, when it is needed, in the most efficient way. Many librarians do not have the opportunity to rely on commercial or online cataloging and classification. They must do it themselves, or identify the most appropriate sources for the cataloging information they seek. Without training, this is a difficult task.

Each semester many students enter the introductory class harboring the suspicion that it will be dull, trivial, and packed with detail that they will never use. It is evident on their faces. When I state that some of them will become interested in this aspect of librarianship, I see their eyes register disbelief. …

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