The thoughtful cataloguer

Life is full of revelations.

I love learning new things and seeing things from a different perspective. As a child I remember the moment of revelation when using a poorly designed household appliance and my Dad pointing out that every object we use has to be designed by someone – either well or badly. I started to think about those people who had designed things well, and how people they would never meet could benefit from their thoughtfulness and skill.

So what has this to do with cataloguing?

On the one hand, cataloguing is a skill that I’ve always been curious about, because I like to know the whole picture and how things fit together. But also, because it’s so important to be accurate when cataloguing because it will affect the end user. There’s not an immediate reward for these skills, and there’s not a little note that pops up on the library search engine saying “catalogued by Eleanor, rate her skills today!”. But there is a sense of achievement when you’re making marks on a bibliographic record and it comes back from checking with no corrections. You know that by doing a good job you’re indirectly helping someone, and making their life that little bit easier.

I also like the cooperative nature of the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center). I just love the idea that if we don’t have an accurate bibliographic record to use, there may be someone on the other side of the world who has produced one we can use. Similarly, the Abert Sloman Library contributes records to the OCLC. We are a sharing lot aren’t we? And all for little recognition. So today, thoughtful cataloguers across the world – I salute you!

If you are in training, reading this and looking for some words of wisdom – I apologise. However I can recommend two very helpful books on this topic, which will help demystify classification and cataloguing: “Essential Classification” by Vanda Broughton and “Essential Cataloguing” by JH Bowman. As well as the staff resources at work, I also found searching online for guides from other university libraries very helpful – alongside the practical application of those skills.




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