Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st Century

By Elaine R. Sanchez | Go to book overview

15    THE BRICK WALL: ATTRACTING PEOPLE
TO A CAREER IN CATALOGING

Janet Swan Hill


INTRODUCTION

In the early 1980s, as head of a cataloging department in a major research library, I began to notice a drastic reduction in the number of catalogers applying for cataloging vacancies. Where once we had attracted applicant pools of a hundred or more, we began to see pools of fifteen or twenty. After several years of watching the numbers dwindle, I became an activist in the cause of education for cataloging. I discussed the trend in a paper in American Libraries,1 and formed a task force in the American Library Association (ALA) whose report identified factors that might contribute to the problem.2 In succeeding years, I pursued various avenues to bring attention to the issue,3 and before long, other voices were heard.4 It became generally recognized that there was a shortage of qualified catalogers in the field, and catalogers joined children’s librarians on the list of endangered species.

Unfortunately, despite recognition of the problem, despite identification of factors that contribute to the difficulty of attracting people to cataloging, and despite suggestion of possible remedies, little improvement has been seen. This may not indicate that the suggestions were flawed, because it is difficult to tell how energetically they have been pursued. Instead, it may simply illustrate that it does little good to identify a problem, to decide how it came about, or even to suggest solutions if we don’t implement them. Not just a few of us, not just employers, not just educators, but all of us.

As we move farther into the twenty-first century, activities associated with the organization of information have become more diverse. People who might once have applied a single set of rules to information resources to build a library catalog now apply many standards to multiple formats of resources to build multifarious discovery tools. “Catalogers” have become “metadata specialists.”

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