Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 30, Number 1 2000


“Managing Cataloging and the Organization of Information”

Introduction:  Part One

by Ruth C. Carter

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.  The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.  As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”  Abraham Lincoln, in his second annual message to Congress, December 1, 1862

Summary.  This introduction provides an overview of the two parts of a collection of papers describing philosophies, practices and plans in a cross section of libraries and how their cataloging and technical services managers are dealing with their responsibilities at the beginning of the twenty-first century.  Part one includes the National Library of Canada and the Library of Congress.  University libraries in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Botswana are represented. A survey reports the use of classification systems in Latin American libraries including the factors influencing the selection of a particular scheme.  Part two is devoted to specialized and academic libraries in the United States.  One academic medical library, one historical society, and two academic law libraries are represented.  Philosophies and practices are described in twelve articles discussing fourteen college and university libraries ranging from the very small to the largest research libraries.

One often hears about cataloging rules, integrated library systems and their database maintenance, subject headings and classification, digitization, markup languages, various practices and techniques.  Yet these practical, day to day activities within cataloging, technical services, and digital library units must fit into the library as a whole.  They involve resource allocation in terms of staff, equipment, and the acquisition of library resources and cataloging data.  Decisions concerning workflow, selection of an automated system or classification scheme, or whether to catalog in-house or to outsource are among the many cataloging related management decisions with considerable implications for the library as a whole.  The management of cataloging and other functions concerning the organization of information and the provision of access to the library’s local collection along with selected remote resources constitute an essential part of both the cataloging process and the library’s administration.  While the “stormy present” described by Abraham Lincoln may be more past than present and the sometimes drastic transformations of technical services largely behind us, the present still is a time of adapting to and shaping change.

The preface in the form of an administrator’s point of view and challenges to catalogers by Glorianna St. Clair sets the stage for the following twenty-two articles that make up three issues of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly published in two parts.  Part one in CCQ 30(1) encompasses articles by two national libraries (the Library of Congress and the National Library of Canada) and five articles detailing aspects of the management of cataloging in five academic libraries outside the United States (Australia, Botswana, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom are represented). One article provides the result a survey on the classification systems used by libraries throughout Latin America.  Part two in CCQ 30(2/3) covers four specialized libraries (one medical, one historical society, and two law) and includes ten articles discussing twelve academic libraries in the United States.

Why now?  Why at all?  Some would say that cataloging and the organization of information is in flux in libraries today.  Yes, of course.  But life is flux, there is constant evolution.   What better time to stop and document the philosophies and practices of a cross section of libraries than at the very onset of the twenty-first century.  After a rough period in the 1990’s when many libraries made major transformations in cataloging and technical services including the implementation of digital library units and metadata specialists, there is more agreement on the road ahead.  Although not a scientific sample or comprehensive in terms of geography or type of library, for example no public or corporate or Asian library is represented, the articles show common themes in terms of practices and their underlying philosophies.  Most face similar challenges in the years ahead.

Some of the articles concentrate on a major change such as automation.  Others focus on staffing, organization, teamwork, and workflow.  Some treat topics connected with digitization of resources or remote resources.  Several are comprehensive in the topics treated while others focus more narrowly.  All add to our collective knowledge on what is happening in libraries around the world today.  Some articles present a guide to “best practice” while others emphasize plans for the future..  If there is any single theme it is that catalogers and more broadly, technical services and digital library staff, must be flexible and expect change.  Nothing is ever final or forever cast in stone. 

In the late 1990’s when many libraries faced budget constraints and desired to finance new digital initiatives, they rethought the labor intensive parts of their operations.  Often this meant seeking ways to use technology and outside services to reduce staff and streamline operations in technical services.  By thinking positively and rising to the occasion cataloging managers can continue to help influence change, not just react to it.  The core values remain.  The objective is still to connect the patron with the information he or she wants in as timely manner as possible.  The technology that is omnipresent in today’s libraries is a tool and also an opportunity.  These issues of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly bring home the point that change and technology are accepted and often embraced.  In some cases that may even mean returning to some previous practices including in house processing as vendors are unable to deliver a timely and cost effective service.  Throughout there is a continuing need for imagination, common sense and practicality as one tries to effectively move with the times.  The articles in parts one and two collectively demonstrate that libraries of diverse types and sizes and regardless of geographic location, face similar challenges and have made amazingly similar decisions as they managing cataloging and the organization of information in 2000.                 

                                                            - Ruth C. Carter

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