Magazine article Information Outlook

Organizing Corporate Knowledge: The Ever-Changing Role of Cataloging and Classification

Magazine article Information Outlook

Organizing Corporate Knowledge: The Ever-Changing Role of Cataloging and Classification

Article excerpt

The Evolution of Cataloging

BEHIND EVERY SUCCESSFUL INFORMATION SEEKER IS AN INFORMATION professional who seamlessly manages corporate knowledge and the information structure necessary for the organization to succeed. Professionals sometimes take for granted the underlying structure for managing that needed information. Information that seekers seem to think they find serendipitously actually has an organized, purposeful structure created by information professionals who use a variety of standards, systems and rules meant to bring order out of chaos. With the explosion of electronic data has come the obvious need to organize it into timely access points. Knowledge management and control--or cataloging and classification--has recently undergone thorough review and changes. These changes may affect how you manage and provide access to information--particularly electronic resources--in your local setting.

The 2001/2002 year has already seen radical changes in the basics of library science. Not usually touted as cutting edge, cataloging standards groups have been working ahead of the curve to anticipate various types of needs related to organizing, retrieving, archiving and disseminating all types of information.

Change is never ending. In this world of new information producers (from high school students creating authoritative Web sites on their favorite rock bands to research scientists who use the Web as the first place of publication of their work) and information delivery systems (such as hand-held PDAs), knowledge managers are tackling the next wave of information needs. The cataloging world continues to rethink how best to organize and disseminate information, regardless of its origin.

Because of enormous changes in information, this is the appropriate time for librarians to look back at where we have come from to clearly see where we are going. Through a brief examination of the history of cataloging and the foundational structure underlying information organization, we will be able to move confidently forward with new skills and know-how.

Beginning of Rules (The Fight for Right)

Between the years of 1847 and 1849 there was a controversy brewing at the British Museum's Department of Printed Books. Antonio Panizzi was forced to defend his new cataloging rules before the Royal Commission. The dispute revolved around the museum's normal practice of publishing a catalog as an alphabetized inventory list ordered by author, which followed ancient practices. Panizzi's 1841 Rules for Compilation of the Catalogue (of the British Museum) brought together all manifestations of a particular work though a single main-entry point. The intellectual information was collected so that users would be able to see all relationships of a particular title. The Royal Commission sided with Panizzi and his rules. It forbid the trustees of the British Museum Library to interfere with matters of cataloging. While this pivotal event is the ideological foundation of cataloging, it still continues to be questioned, poked at and sometimes changed.

On the other side of the Atlantic, scholar-librarians influenced by Panizzi's codification of cataloging wrote their own seminal works. In 1852, Charles C. Jewett, then the librarian of the Smithsonian Institution, wrote the first code of cataloging rules in the United States titled On the Construction of Catalogues Of Libraries and of a General Catalogue, and Their Publication by Means of Separate Stereotype Titles: With Rules and Examples. Among Jewett's grand ideas was a large union catalog with printed cards to be shared by libraries. Controversial in his own way, Jewett was later fired by the Smithsonian.

In 1876, the same year the American Library Association was established, Charles Ammi Cutter published Rules for a Dictionary Catalog, possibly the most comprehensive set of rules produced by any individual. In that same year, Melvil Dewey published the first edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification System. …

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