Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 36, no. 1, 2003

 


 

Editorial / by Ruth C. Carter

 

Principles 

 

      This issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly once again provides evidence of the diversity and range of its subject matter as well as its rich history.  The interview is the first conducted with three participants at one time.  Jean Weihs, Nancy Olson, and Verna Urbanski have been leaders in the area of audio-visual cataloging for many decades.  Together they discuss the field, their contributions, and library science education and speculate on the future of cataloging in particular and librarianship in general.

 

      The first three articles all speak to the multilingual nature of today’s catalogs.  Two authors discuss the presence of multilingual cataloging records in OCLC’s WorldCat and whether or not those records are more useful than not.  In many libraries, especially, but not limited to large academic or public, large collections of Chinese language materials exist.  The second article aims to increase the understanding of Chinese serials including specific challenges faced in their processing and cataloging.  Another author reports the results of an extensive study of the quality of Korean language cataloging records in shared databases.

 

      At the same time that catalogers and catalog constructors need to grapple with multilingual materials, there are still very specialized, often unique materials that require cataloging and classification.  The final article examines decisions made to provide access to a quilt newsletter collection held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

 

      Three books reviews provide diversity as well.  The reviews cover the collected writings of cataloging leader and legend, Seymour Lubetsky; the 2002 Tag Library for Encoded Archival Description: and three books in the Australian Library Basics series – in this case, Library of Congress Classification, the Dewey Decimal Classification, and the Library of Congress Subject Access.  Last but by no means least, the Cataloging News column documents selected cataloging related meetings at recent conferences and conveys other news of note.

 

      Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The value of a principle is the number of things it will explain.”[1]  The principles of cataloging articulated by Seymour Lubetsky are fundamental to modern cataloging and catalogs.  Although principles may be elastic to accommodate changing circumstances as both Abraham Lincoln and James Fenimore Cooper noted, [2] yet, principles are just that.  And to catalogers the purpose of connecting an information seeker with the information he or she desires is basic and eternal.  It is good to be reminded of the contributions, both in terms of theoretical underpinnings and practical applications, made by leading thinkers of the profession.  As here, in this issue, we have the interview with Weihs, Olson, and Urbanski in the same issue with Michael Gorman’s review of the writings of Seymour Lubetsky, arguably the 20th century’s greatest thinker in the field of bibliographic control.  Lubetsky and a few others cited by Gorman (and Gorman himself) have had the analytical minds necessary to articulate the fundamental principles of cataloging, one of which is to meet the needs of the user.  Whether or not those principles are taught to today’s cataloging students (as Gorman wonders), in my opinion they ought to comprise a basic part of the education of catalogers and others involved in the organization of information.  Rules, standards, and guidelines may change over time and even principles may be elastic, but clearly stated principles of cataloging are essential as a continuing and common framework for this international profession and activity.


 

[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Preacher,” Lectures and Biographical Sketches, 1883 in Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, The Harper Book of American Quotations (Harper & Row: New York, 1988), p. 476.

 

[2] “Principles . . . become modified in practice by facts” said James Fenimore Cooper in the Democrat, 1838 while Abraham Lincoln observed on April 11, 1865 just days before his assassination that “Important principles may and must be flexible.”  Quoted in Carruth and Ehrlich, p. 476.


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