Magazine article American Libraries

Transforming Cataloging

Magazine article American Libraries

Transforming Cataloging

Article excerpt

I am the first to admit that I know little to nothing about cataloging. As a library director, I do all that I can to support my cataloging staff--those individuals who are responsible for performing the kinds of magical things they do to help people in our community quickly and easily locate their desired books, films, music, and audio books. Cataloging was the only library school course in which I received a B. However, I understood then and understand now that the ability to organize and locate materials, according to a predictable scheme, is what sets libraries apart from bookstores, Amazon.com, Google, and all the other ways in which people seek and find information.

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The internet has transformed the way in which we locate information. People expect to find what they want by searching the way that they think. Instead, customers using our libraries find catalogs offloaded with options that offer a variety of search choices, such as Library of Congress (LC) subject headings, subject and title keywords, controlled vocabulary keyword searching, ISBN, and several other choices that can be both helpful as well as confusing and intimidating. Regular catalog users have a reasonably good chance of finding what they want, others turn to library staff for assistance, and some simply give up choosing instead to browse the shelves to find materials that come close to meeting their needs.

Recently, LC announced that it would cease conducting series authority work. Other documents under consideration by LC implied that there would be more changes to come, including the possibility of suspending cataloging in publication and doing away with LC subject headings, supplying only partial call numbers as well as other modifications that would change cataloging as we know it in the United States. LC's stated goal is to create a finding system that more closely resembles the way people search for information today. Though I agree with LC leaders that we should continuously examine cataloging practices, there are two things about these recent actions that should cause all of us to be concerned.

Good process is the key to making change.

Each year Congress provides millions of dollars to LC to, among other things, provide bibliographic data for the nation's libraries. LC records are a national resource vital for the efficient operation of all libraries. …

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