The Accidental Cataloger’s Dilemma


This blog post comes from Martha Rice Sanders, Senior Consultant at Innovative

Consider these scenarios:

  • You’re the technical services manager at your library and the last cataloger just retired.
  • You have started a new job that includes cataloging and are learning on the job.
  • You’ve just been told to take over cataloging for your library. No one else thinks they can do it.

Do any of those resonate with you? This is happening in lots of libraries, in public, academic, and special libraries alike. Those who have been doing this work for decades have retired or moved up in the organization. Upper management thinks that they don’t ‘need’ a new professional cataloger. So you must assign this work to someone in your library. Acquisitions is still ordering new titles, both physical and digital, and bibliographic records need to be added to your system. How else can patrons discover them? You’re experiencing the Accidental Cataloger’s dilemma –what to do?!?!

Innovative to the rescue! I’ve been practicing and explaining the different factors that go into creating bibliographic records (bibliographic description, classification and subject work, MARC and ISBD encoding) for 40 years both as a practitioner, doing cataloging and authority work, and as an instructor, teaching Technical Services in Libraries for a masters in library science program. I love connecting people to these different elements and standards so they may interpret and create bibliographic records with confidence. It’s a bit like speaking five languages at once. But we can tease apart the pieces and learn how to put them back again to create metadata that supports discovery.

As part of Innovative’s “Outside the ILS” offerings, I’ve developed a new bootcamp, Cataloging Essentials, where participants will learn about the different aspects of bibliographic records, their history and present reality. Bibliographic metadata is changing rapidly to make room for new standards to enable libraries to share their metadata on the greater Web but this can’t happen until we understand what we have now. Interested? Sign up for the 4-part bootcamp in March.

Want to know more about our Metadata future? Make plans to join our Metadata pre-conference if you are attending IUG. For personal interaction and opportunities for Q&A with an instructor, you can also attend a real-time Metadata Bootcamp in May, led by me.  You may view our Metadata Modernization Basics — Session 1 video online or sign up for our *free* Metadata Management Hot Topic webinar sessions in July, led by my colleague, Nannette Naught. We’re excited to work with you to meet your metadata needs from wherever you are right now.