Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 26, Number 3 1998


A topic of discussion, explicit or implicit, in many libraries today is the changing role of catalogers and cataloging. An opinion piece regarding survival of catalogers leads off this issue. Core record cataloging is one sign of changing times. The issue includes four articles based on presentations at the Music Library Association and the American Library Association conferences regarding core records. Are core records adequate? How do they fit into the topic of catalogers’ survival? Food for thought in this rapidly changing environment, I would say.

Historical perspective on the topic of cataloging is given in an article revisiting cataloging in medieval libraries. In contrast, another article discusses the complex topic of improving access to twentieth century music. The recurring topic of theses cataloging is treated with a look at collaboration regarding subject analysis. The authors here note that in their institution there is an approximate ratio of three master’s theses to one doctoral dissertation and that without local cataloging there would be no distributed access to the information describing the contents of the masters theses. The Cataloging News column concludes the issue.

Even if there are fewer people, at least at some institutions, engaged in cataloging, there does not seem to be any less energy   when it comes to thinking about cataloging and classification. Nor is there less need to cope with the organizing information about information resources so that users can find what they want. The June 1998 meeting of members of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly’s editorial board at the Washington D.C. ALA conference confirmed all of our thoughts regarding the vitality of the field. There a lively brainstorming session was held to consider topics of interest for future issues; good ideas flowed freely.

Those of us, who value the contributions of cataloging, classification, and related fields, seek success in achieving our goal to connect users with the information they desire. And what is success? Definitions vary, of course, but two that seem appropriate in our context are: "All success consists in this: You are doing something for somebody—benefiting humanity—and the feeling of success comes from the consciousness of this."(1)  And, similarly, from Margaret Mead, "I must admit that I personally measure success in terms of the contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings."(2)  In library online catalogs, the systems come and go, but the data migrates from system to system. What catalogers provide lasts beyond a lifetime. The library catalog, was, is, and will continue to be the backbone of telling users what we have in our local collections. True, it may also serve as a gateway to other catalogs and other information resources, but no external resource tells what each library has and where it is in that library. It is still more efficient to connect users with material held locally than to secure the same item via interlibrary loan. Virtually all institutions also hold items not held elsewhere or rarely held. Cataloging is essential to make those items known to both local and remote users. While cataloging may not seem "glamorous" or "glitzy" to many in today’s burgeoning digital information community, it is as essential as ever. By keeping our eye on the goal of serving present and future users, catalogers can make their actions successful and ensure their survival at the same time.

1)  Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary and Book of Epigrams, 1923, quoted in Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, The Harper Book of American Quotations (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), p.540.
2)   Margaret Mead, in Redbook magazine, November, 1978, quoted in Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, The Harper Book of American Quotations (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), p.541.

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