Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st Century

By Elaine R. Sanchez | Go to book overview

12    CATALOGER SURVIVAL IN A SEA
OF CHANGE AND A SURFEIT
OF ACRONYMS

John F. Myers

What is a cataloger to do these days? Seemingly long gone are the days when one could get by on knowledge of the ISBD (International Standard Bibliographic Description), AACR2, and MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging) alone, with a leavening of Cutter, Ranganathan, and Lubetzky. Complicating this simple past is a current welter of acronyms and initialisms to befuddle and confound the worka-day cataloger: MODS, METS, SGML, XML, DACS, DCRM, CCO, FAST, IME ICC, DC, FRBR, FRAD, FRSAD, RDF, RDA,1 and who knows what else. This cluster of acronyms is only symptomatic of a larger change in the world of cataloging as ever-increasing amounts of information and information resources are digitized, yielding greater amounts of metadata encoded in a dazzling array of schema, and a subsequent range of methods to manage it all.

I have no crystal ball that will tell me what the future cataloging world will look like. I am confident however, that as long as information resources are being created, there will be a need to describe, organize, and provide access to them. Until some very effective artificial intelligence is developed, there will be a need for human interaction to regularize and contextualize descriptions in order to foster access and organization. At its heart, what is the calling of our particular corner of librarianship? Is the mastery of arcane bodies of rules, standards, and encoding schema truly what draws us? Or is it some other higher purpose, to take the panoply of others’ creative endeavors and add to it by making them more accessible? If, as I believe, it is the latter, then it becomes much easier to embrace an uncertain future in which our stalwart companions ISBD, AACR2, and MARC may no longer have a place.

We librarians design well when moved to redesign our work. We have long recognized the maxim that if one lacks the time to do a task properly, then neither

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