Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

Volume 36, no. 2, 2003



Editorial / by Ruth C. Carter


Curiosity and the Cataloger


This issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly covers multiple topics with a majority centered on some aspect of subject access or classification.  Thus, it is fitting that the issue opens with an interview with Sara Shatford Layne, a cataloger and theorist with expertise in several areas of cataloging including subject access to visual images.  The ERC column (Electronic Resources for Catalogers) examines MARC’s viability in the context of highlights of the emerging standard MARC XML.  The first article presents the results of a study comparing the form of corporate names in the National Authority File on OCLC with their names as given on official corporate web pages.


Two articles concern classification.  One examines the classification of a classical studies library in Greece and relates that classification to the changing nature of classical scholarship in the twentieth century.  The second describes and compares the literature classification schemes at two university libraries in west Australia.


One author argues the pros and cons of assigning both specific and generic subject headings to a work.  Although researchers can benefit from the assignment of both specific and generic subject headings, some disadvantages exist in assigning broader terms.  The author of the last article in this issue reviews the application of subject access to works of fiction and argues that the increasing emphasis of the assignment of subject headings to fiction is derived from evolutions in social historiography and literary criticism.


Two book reviews cover publications from Europe; one highlighting useful information provided in the papers from a seminar on systems issues for libraries, archives, and museums.  The second book reviewed is a collection of essays from the Revue de la Bibliothèque nacionale de France many with considerable significance for cataloging theory.  The issue concludes with an extensive news column that includes summaries from the Online AudioVisual Catalogers (OLAC) conference held in September 2002.


No field moves consistently forward without leading thinkers and theorists who can see beyond the present and the obvious.  More than ever advances in cataloging and classification take place in the international environment and context.  Yet, some very interesting and useful research can take place in the day-to-day jobs of practitioners, for example, the article herein concerning the forms of corporate names.  All it takes is a bit of curiosity, an idea, and the will to look into a topic, or one might say, some creativity and some initiative.  George Macaulay Trevelyan once said “Disinterested intellectual curiosity is the lifeblood of real civilization.” [1]  The art and science of bibliographic control (and it is probably some of both, albeit more of the latter) benefits from the intellect and curiosity of its practitioners as well as its educators and theorists.  Although there seem to be more and more demands and pressures on in library jobs and less and less time for what some might deem to be peripheral activities, there continue to be opportunities to conduct research as a natural by product of cataloging and related activities.  One secret necessary, perhaps, for a cataloger to begin research is the understanding that research can satisfy one’s curiosity and at the same time provide a learning experience as well as the potential to contribute to the profession.  And, last not the least, research can be enjoyable in and of itself.  Unlike for the cat that curiosity killed, curiosity and the cataloger is a good thing.

[1] George Macaulay Trevelyan, English Social History (1942), Introduction quoted in John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 16th edition, edited by Justin Kaplan (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1992.)

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