Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 26, Number 4 1998


Editorial

This issue of CCQ demonstrates the eclectic and international dimensions of the field of cataloging and classification. Two of the authors are from Europe and they raise topics of concern to libraries and librarians around the world including the choice of author access points for online catalogs of monographs in Spanish. At the same time, two articles, one from Europe and one from the United States discuss authority control. The art world figures in at least twice. First in a report of one library’s experience in using art students in the process of cataloging art exhibition catalogs; secondly in a review of the ArtMARC Sourcebook that treats cataloging art, architecture, and their visual images.

Several articles and book reviews deal with the increasingly electronic environment in which catalogers do their work and in which use of that work is made. While the digital world may seem omnipresent and information in digital form may need to be optimally organized and described in order to facilitate use, there is still the fundamental issue of bring the user to the information he or she is seeking. That information may be in print or sound; a visual image or digital representation, to name just a few formats. The cataloger’s world is becoming more complex, not less. A catalog record has more access globally than ever before. A cataloger now reaches via online catalogs more than his or her country or those speaking a common language. For many years, catalogers accessed the large online union catalogs, such as OCLC, but until the last decade, or less, the general public did rarely used anything or than one or two public, academic, or special libraries near to them.

There are many frontiers left in cataloging. There always will be. Right now, however, one of the frontiers lies in the area of cataloging Internet resources. Another, I believe, is in the area of subject access in a global context. IFLA has five or sometimes six official languages (English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish along with Chinese at least in the Beijing meeting in 1996). However, not all the patrons of libraries who connect to our online catalogs will know one of those languages or know any one of them well enough to maneuver though the complex holdings of a remote catalog.

There are individuals around the world pushing the frontiers of research in cataloging and classification. There are also catalogers around the world who are struggling to provide for today’s users the information about a book, map, slide, CD-Rom, or a digital file found on the internet, to name just a few. Many are grappling with the issues that will bring more similarities to the rules followed by catalogers throughout the world. It is my hope that CCQ contributes to that process through publication of research, both theoretical and applied, from the countries throughout the world. Applied research, sometimes known as the "how we did it good in my library" publication is of value along with the pure research findings. Although today’s practical work does not have the benefit of tomorrow’s findings, it may help uncover and frame questions for research. There is also a need to document in the literature some of the innovative projects or approaches undertaken in libraries. There is often some risk in being among the first to try something. Yet, without risk and experiment there can not be change and improvement. Both Oliver Wendell Holmes and Ralph Waldo Emerson noted that "All life is an experiment." Holmes added, "Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge." Emerson just advised, "The more experiments you make the better."(1) When you experiment in cataloging including management of the cataloging process or determining policies for your online catalog or any of a myriad other areas for trying something new, it is important to document what has been tried. The electronic communications about work in progress are very useful in the short term and to those who have ready access to the listserves. But to keep this information available for the future and to give it more widespread distribution to even current colleagues, publication is desirable and valued.

-- Ruth C. Carter

1) Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes quoted in Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, The Harper Book of American Quotations, Harper & Row: New York, 1988, p. 342, 344.


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