Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 34, no. 1-3, 2002

 


 

PITFALLS AND THE PENDULUM: RECONSIDERING EDUCATION FOR CATALOGING AND THE ORGANIZATION OF INFORMATION

 

Preface / by Janet Swan Hill

 

In the past century and a half, education for cataloging might be regarded as a pendulum, swinging slowly from near one extreme to another. Prior to Melvil Dewey's founding of the first library school in 1887, most of those who would become librarians learned their craft on the job, either through a kind of apprenticeship under the tutelage of an experienced staff member, or by figuring things out for themselves as best they could.

 

With the formalization of education for librarianship begun by Dewey, the pendulum swung away from individual "apprenticeships," as much that librarians might need to know became a part of a curriculum -- one in which instruction in cataloging was one of the main required components. The existence of a course of instruction in a library school never entirely eliminated the need for on the job training for catalogers, but for nearly three-quarters of a century, what librarians learned in library school was sufficient for them to begin work as catalogers, and it was also generally sufficient to last them for most of their careers. The days of the cataloger-as-apprentice, and employer-as-educator were no more (for a while).

 

The application of computers to cataloging, and the adoption of shared cataloging through bibliographic networks began another swing of the pendulum. Increased cataloging productivity, increased availability of pre-existing cataloging copy that could be adapted for local use by non-professionally trained catalogers, and the seemingly limitless capability of computers for search and retrieval contributed to a perception that education for cataloging was no longer particularly important. The cataloging portion of library school curricula shrank. Many introductory courses in cataloging were replaced by general introductions to bibliographic control. Sometimes, even an introduction to bibliographic control was no longer considered an essential part of every librarian's education, and both it and an introduction to cataloging were dropped out of the core of required courses.

 

Library automation and bibliographic networks did indeed radically change life for catalogers, and at first, most of those changes were of the sort that had been predicted. More copy and automation did lead to greater productivity and less need for professionally trained catalogers. But this trend never reached the expected (by some) conclusion. "The computer" turned out not to be so wonderfully, magically capable as had been anticipated. Computers actually accentuated the importance of some aspects of cataloging (e.g. authority work) that had nearly withered away in the last days before online catalogs. Increased availability of cataloging for mainstream titles in mainstream formats highlighted the need to provide catalog access for other materials - rare, or local items, and materials in formats other than books, or to provide better cataloging for material previously given short shrift (e.g. by analyzing contents and series). Technology brought a proliferation of almost metastatic proportions of types of information resources acquired by libraries. Even the basic view of the role of the catalog changed.

 

While library schools had decreased their commitment to bibliographic control and to the education of those who would provide it, the need for both increased, and librarians and their employers had to pick up the slack. The pendulum swung toward a situation where the needs of libraries and their users could only be satisfied by a return of a system of cataloger-as-apprentice and employer-as-educator. And while what catalogers learned either as apprentices, or in library school used to serve them for most of their careers, this became no longer the case. The materials, the technologies, and the expectations are all undergoing rapid change, and all require response. That response includes a commitment to continual (rather than continuing) education, exploration of alternatives for instructional delivery, and a reassessment of priorities and expectations leading to a reconsideration of education for bibliographic control. The papers in this collection were solicited with that in mind.

 

The four authors contributing papers to the section "A Matter of Opinion" were asked to consider some of the issues that have traditionally plagued cataloging instruction, and to express opinions about them as provocatively as they wished. Michael Gorman addresses the most basic issue of all: whether cataloging should be taught. Sheila S. Intner tackles the theory vs. practice issue, discusses how education for handling different materials formats should be handled, and also considers the appropriate setting for cataloging education. Heidi Lee Hoerman asks why so many people hate cataloging, and suggests both reasons and solutions. Robert P. Holley proposes ways in which cataloging education can be made both more effective and more interesting.

 

In the next section, "The context," papers set the context in which education for cataloging and bibliographic control must operate today. Those who employ catalogers have been aware for some time that the supply of qualified catalogers is insufficient to meet their needs. Stanley J. Wilder's exploration of the demographics of librarians, especially catalogers, confirms that perception, and suggests that the worst is yet to come. Beginning in the 1980s there have been numerous surveys of curricular offerings in cataloging and classification. Daniel N. Joudrey's detailed survey, from which he provides extensive data and draws interconnections provides concrete information about the status of cataloging instruction today. In the course of his survey, he also gathered information about which textbooks are being used in conjunction with graduate courses in cataloging related subjects. This information, originally written as an appendix to the larger paper, is presented here as a "standalone" companion piece. Jerry D. Saye examines cataloging instruction in accredited library programs from an entirely different perspective - that of the structure and atmosphere of library school programs, the outlook, background, and influence of the faculty, and the impact of operating within the larger academic arena. The section concludes with reports of two opinion surveys. In the first, Beatrice Kovacs and Nancy Dayton surveyed graduates of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro program on their opinions about the usefulness of their cataloging instruction. In the second, Michelle R. Turvey and Karen M. Letarte surveyed library educators, both those who taught cataloging and those who did not, on their perceptions of the importance of cataloging competencies to graduates.

 

Rapid changes in the environment in which bibliographic control is provided, as well as changes in rules and technologies, have increased the importance of, altered the need for, or changed the methods that need to be used, in particular aspects of cataloging education. In "Education for Specific Purposes", a few of these are covered. Clement Arsenault and John E. Leide consider the possible impact of the proliferation of formats in which information resources are being produced, and of format integration on the organization of the cataloging curriculum. Ingrid Hsieh-Yee examines issues surrounding digital resources, and proposes a model curriculum covering the provision of metadata and cataloging for these materials. Another area where philosophy and practicality sometimes lead to different approaches in education is that of subject cataloging. Arlene G. Taylor and Daniel N. Joudrey cover many of these arguments, including whether subject analysis should be taught in a separate course, what should be covered, and in what manner. Authority control is an area of cataloging rarely taught separately, and often hardly addressed in library schools. Rebecca L. Mugridge and Kevin Furniss ask and answer a pertinent question: "Whose Responsibility Is It?" The final paper of this section is supplied by the Editor, Janet Swan Hill, who lists many of the skills needed by catalogers and those who manage cataloging, including those that cannot be acquired in library school, and discusses ways to acquire them.

 

The final section, "Alternatives for Instructional Delivery," reflects major changes in education for cataloging, in terms of who should be responsible for instruction, when and where instruction should or could be delivered, and how technology can be used to conduct or enhance education and training. Gertrude S. Koh conducts a historical survey of innovation in classroom instruction for cataloging from a content point of view, and follows that with a description of how today's students, their experiences, and the technologies with which they must work influence the design of a cataloging curriculum and choice of pedagogical methods. She then describes the use of expert practitioners as online mentors for students in a course on Internet resources. Two brief papers accompany this piece: One was written by the students registered in Koh's course in the fall of 2001, and the other is by two of the online mentors, Kate Harcourt and Susan M. Neumeister. The vexing issue of the suitability of distance education for cataloging is the subject of Elaine Yontz's "When Donkeys Fly", in which Yontz covers its advantages and disadvantages, and describes her own conversion. A special instance of distance online continuing education is OCLC's Web-based class in cataloging Internet resources. Robert Ellett reports on a study of the effectiveness of the course. Anna M. Ferris, a participant in both the course and the study, describes the learning experience from her perspective. Certain kinds of education can probably never be handled by library schools, nor perhaps, should they. Cooperative programs are critical to the cataloging endeavor, but presuppose institutional cooperation and the participation of individuals who have a significant amount and quality of on the job experience. Carol G. Hixson and William A. Garrison describe the development and components of the training programs of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging. Another example of a training program devised for participants in a cooperative program is covered by Sue Kreigsman, who discusses the content and the challenges of training people who may not be catalogers, and who may not even be librarians, in providing intellectual control through creating cataloging and metadata records for the Colorado Digitization Project. Although Judith Hopkins' paper is the final paper in this section, its position is determined only by logic, not importance. In a time when it has become clear that library schools cannot handle all the education that catalogers will need, and that continual education is essential, the "Community of Catalogers" is a critical piece of the educational puzzle.


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