Cataloging & Classification Quarterly
Volume 19, no. 2, 1994
Most disciplines experience a dynamic tension between the theoretical and the practical. Cataloging and classification are not exceptions. The current issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly begins with a theoretical look at "What is a Work?" and follows that with a review of an overlooked rule related to undifferentiated names. The third article treats subject access, in this case African American studies resources in online catalogs. The first is pure theory; the second and third blend practice and theory. The final article explores catalog records in use in online public catalogs by comparing and evaluating each system's end user interfaces.
The issue also includes a book review of a work that details Tables for converting from Library of Congress classification to the Dewey Decimal classification and the reverse. Finally, this issue reintroduces the News Column under the editorship of Elizabeth Steinhagen. As I have noted many times, producing a journal requires the effort of many people. I am delighted to welcome Elizabeth as a colleague in the endeavor of making CCQ a meaningful and useful journal now and in the future.
The future of catalogers and cataloging (including classification) has been on my mind considerably in recent months as my institution has engaged in long range planning. All of us must examine where we are and where we are likely to be in five or ten years, not just where we personally would like to be but where events and the environment around us are likely to take us. One of the recurring themes for catalogers is their significant role in the future of electronic text centers. While we are clearly at the infancy of e-text as a service for library users, chances are that the demand will increase rapidly not just for current works but for those from the past. Already some institutions are converting documents no longer by copyright into e-text and having cataloging staff mark them up with SGML (Standard Generalizaed Markup Language) or another suitable markup language. Analyzing the content of a document and organizing it for retrieval is what catalogers have done all along. No matter how the carrier of the data changes or the retrieval mechanism may change, the basics still exist. Documents (or information, if you will) must be organized and described to provide for retrieval. Yes, intelligent software will provide some assists. Yet even then a human must direct the machine what to look for and, once retrieved, analyze the results for suitability to the need at hand.
Although some individuals would forget the present in their desire to achieve the future, one must agree with Elinor Hays that "Those most dedicated to the future are not always the best prophets." (1) At the same time that we inexorably wend our way toward the future we must remember that we are serving users in the present as well. Perhaps it is humbling for the futurists to remember that even the future has a future. Edmund Wilson, writing in 1931 remarked that, "I expect the human generations of the future to be as superior to ourselves in education, in the mastery of techniques, in the comprehensiveness of their mental range, and in their capacity for organized cooperation as we are to the prehistoric cliff dwellers..." (2) In 1931 computers were unknown. Today many of us routinely upgrade our comptuer every two or three years. Technological enhancements occur at a dizzying pace. But Victorian Americans lived through comparable change- the telephone, victorola (or record player), airplane, and radio, for example. Further, the American Library Association and the Dewey Decimal Classification are products of the Victorian era. We may have technology shock much of the time, but our purposes in libraries and in cataloging and classification remain the same. We want to connect users with the information that they seek. We must remember that technology is a means to the end and not an end in itself. We will do our users, current and future, a disservice if we forget that fundamental principle.
1. Elinor Hays, Morningstar, 1961, quoted in Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, The Harper Book of American Quotations (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 456.2. Edmund Wilson, in a letter to Allen Tate, July 20, 1931, quoted in The Harper Book of American Quotations, p. 457.