Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st Century

By Elaine R. Sanchez | Go to book overview

13    CHANGING MIND-SET, CHANGING
SKILL SET: TRANSITIONING FROM
CATALOGER TO METADATA
LIBRARIAN

Christine Schwartz


INTRODUCTION

As I see it, there is a crisis in traditional library cataloging that continues to worsen with each passing year. Deprofessionalization, outsourcing, and the promises of the Internet and digitization have come together like a perfect storm. It’s very hard to watch something that you’ve placed so much value on—the careful organization, subject analysis, and classification of print library materials—being devalued. Yet there’s no denying that it is. A new digital culture, in many ways antithetical to the values of traditional cataloging, seems to have won the day. And we as a community have been slow to react. It’s not clear yet whether cataloging as we know it will survive this digital turn, or become obsolete. There are voices on both sides of the debate (and in the middle) as to where cataloging will end up in the arsenal of the library profession. Those of us who are catalogers now are living through this confusing period of transition. One thing is for sure: we’re not sure how print and digital library resources will be collected, preserved, and cataloged in the future. More and more, it seems that the digital is winning out over the printed book. We’re told almost daily that we must compete with the Internet business giants such as Google and Amazon to deliver “information” to our users, and that their approach to metadata is to be preferred. As a result, in many libraries, working with traditional print library collections is being deemphasized in favor of developing digital collections, and staff and material resources are being shifted accordingly.

This essay is an attempt to describe some aspects of one cataloger’s experience living through this period of transition. After eighteen years working as either a cataloger or head cataloger, I’ve now been a metadata librarian for two years.

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