Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 24, Numbers 1-2 1997


Cataloging and Classification: Trends,Transformations, Teaching, and Training. By James R.Shearer and Alan R. Thomas

Introduction: Incorporating the Innovations 

"Who keeps one end in view, makes all things serve." (Robert Browning, In a Balcony)

It is ten years since a special issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 7:4 (Summer 1987) appeared under the title "Education and Training for Catalogers and Classifiers", edited by Ruth C. Carter. That issue gave us stimulus for our present work. Ten years on is a good time to reflect on further developments because there have been many changes in or affecting cataloging, such as in the technology utilized, the division and flow of work, new forms of consultation with colleagues, and in the scope and methods of professional education and training. Like the 1987 publication, the new work has twelve papers but all are the contributors are different from those of its predecessor. In addition to papers from the United States and Canada, there are now contributors from Great Britain. Rather than view this compilation as a straight update of CCQ 7:4, the reader is advised to treat the two publications as being in large measure complementary.

The 1987 work was devoted to consideration of the tasks and the problems of teaching and training in respect of cataloging and classification. The new collection includes materials specifically on these issues, but many contributors followed their own particular enthusiasms and interests in classification and cataloging theory, research, practice, organization, cooperation, and the harnessing of technologies, incorporating within their papers the implications for professional education or training. A selection of significant tendencies, developments, interactions, adaptations, and models in or involving cataloging and classification are reviewed, with some indications of the future.

We believe that the topics treated and the questions posed are of great concern to a wide audience, including technical services personnel, practicing catalogers and classifiers, compilers of classification schemes, public services librarians, bibliographic instruction (BI) staff, library directors and managers, library trainers, and the faculty and students of the schools of information and library science. A strong existing interest in changes is evidenced by the publication of several challenging books1,2,3,4,5 as well as numerous papers, reports, and features such as the CIGnet regular column appearing in Catalogue & Index.

The various papers in the collection have been placed in three broad categories: The Cataloger; The Future of Classification Systems; and New Technology and its Implications. A Director's Perspective completes the collection. The first group of papers deals explicitly with the education, training, recruitment, and other aspects of human resource management of catalogers. Papers from the second and third groups, as well as the closing paper, also have relevance to these themes.

Within the section The Cataloger, Alan R. Thomas reviews the benefits, problems, and current appropriateness of holistic librarianship. Magda El-Sherbini and George Klim consider the use of vendor services and non-traditional staff for cataloging. Sherry L. Vellucci analyzes ALA-accredited library school programs in the light of competencies suggested by the cataloging community, and makes recommendations for a syndetic curricular structure. Michael Towsey presents and discusses data on current trends in employment opportunities for catalogers.

In the category The Future of Classification Systems, I. C. McIlwaine describes ways in which the users of major classification systems are consulted, and how the scheme editors cooperate with one another to ensure that their products may be made more appropriate for the modern information world. C. D. Hurt maintains that the turbulent new academic environment is not well served by rigid, traditional systems. He argues that information professionals are qualified to raise classification and subject analysis to more useable and sophisticated levels.

Five papers make up the section New Technology and Its Implications. Ling Hwey Jeng explores the role of technology in relation to cataloging knowledge and research, includes a chronology of changes to cataloging principles brought about by the technology, and identifies some areas for research. Gillian M. McCombs develops an action agenda for technical services in this digital age, an agenda which requires the library profession as a whole to seek and embrace change. Genevieve Engel proposes a personal portable interface and describes its six ideal attributes. This interface constitutes a model for meeting the information needs of an individual user. Jamshid Beheshti evaluates the capabilities of OPACs made possible by advances in computer and communications technologies. He advocates the creation of innovative, intuitive OPACs which would overcome some current limitations. Alan Poulter examines the effects of the Internet on the work of acquisitions and descriptive cataloging, and describes services, resources, tools, and ways of consulting colleagues now available through the World Wide Web.

In A Director's Perspective, Richard W. Meyer posits a future of increasing financial stringency as well of growing access to cheap information. He argues that the cataloger's new role will be to provide an infrastructure to facilitate effective access to information.

The various currents of new thought will take a little time to reach full confluence. At present, most instructors and trainers are themselves at different points on the learning curve. All the ideas and applications need digestion, consensual assessment, and sifting if a valid required knowledge/skills foundation is to be determined, giving rise to revised, articulated, and educationally sound curricula and training sequences.

One general theme that emerges is that whatever changes are taking place, there remains a demand - a growing demand - for the primary tasks of cataloging, namely providing access to information-bearing materials for users and helping them to make proper use of that access. The future for all of us engaged in these tasks is thus assured, although we will have to learn - and teach - new as well as old skills to meet this demand in relation to different needs, expectations, and facilities. The titles used to define the job may change. Indeed, if we term ourselves simply "librarians", or more narrowly "catalogers", and insist on continuing as before, then we may have no long-term future. We must see ourselves as "information professionals", experts in facilitating both information access and exploitation. Our primary task remains the same as ever, yet subject to continuous modification in responding to changing circumstances. As Cowley put it "The world's a scene of changes, and to be constant, in Nature were inconstancy." (Abraham Cowley, Inconstancy).

The enthusiasm of all contributors in preparing and reworking detailed and pertinent papers is acknowledged with thanks. It was a pleasure to work with Dr Ruth C. Carter, editor of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, and to benefit from her experience in various matters of preparation for publication. Thanks also to the Centre for Information Management, Thames Valley University, for facilities made available.

Comments and suggestions are welcome and should be sent to the editors at the Centre for Information Management, Thames Valley University, St. Mary's Road, LONDON W5 5RF, England. The e-mail: may also be used.



1. Cataloging: The Professional Development Cycle, ed. Sheila S. Intner and Janet Swan Hill (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991) (New Directions in Library Management; no. 26).
2. Sheila S. Intner, Interfaces: Relationships between Library Technical and Public Services (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1993).
3. Walt Crawford and Michael Gorman, Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness, and Reality (Chicago: American Library Association, 1995).
4. Brian C. O'Connor, Explorations in Indexing and Abstracting: Pointing, Virtue, and Power (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1996).
5. Pat Oddy, Future Libraries, Future Catalogues (London: Library Association Publishing, 1996).

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