A Discussion Outline





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. 


From:  “Pitfalls and the Pendulum:  Reconsidering Education for Cataloging and the Organization of Information:  Preface.”  Education for Cataloging and the Organization of Information: Pitfalls and the Pendulum.   Janet Swan Hill, Ed.  Binghampton, NY:  Haworth, c2002.  p xv-xvii.





n       Cataloging was required in library school. 

n       A substantial part of the curriculum was cataloging.

n       A substantial part of cataloging instruction was practical.

n       New librarians reported to work knowing how to catalog.




n       Cataloging was required in library school.   Lots of people took 2 courses or more.

n       New catalogers were expected to know how to catalog, but got training in local practices through a kind of “apprenticeship” with a senior cataloger. 

n       Copy catalogers were trained locally, one-on-one.

n       New catalogers had their work carefully reviewed until they became independent.

n       Changes in rules, etc., were handled mainly through local training.




n       Cataloging was beginning not to be required in all library schools. 

n       Introductory cataloging courses began to be replaced with “cataloging appreciation” (i.e. introduction to bibliographic control) courses. 

n       The number of cataloging courses offered diminished; the proportion of the curriculum that was cataloging-related decreased.

n       Cataloging instruction available in LIS programs was usually insufficient preparation for an entry-level original cataloging position.  

n       New catalogers taking positions in small libraries or without senior catalogers to provide them training were in a pickle.

n       The period of training/learning and review for new catalogers grew longer.  

n       The number of people applying for cataloging positions plummeted.   Cataloging became recognized as a “scarce specialty” in the field.

n       Changes in rules, technologies, methodologies were so frequent that continuing education became essential.




n       The trend toward very general cataloging education in LIS programs continued.

n       The scope of things to be conveyed to a new cataloger increased (cataloging itself, use of tools, applying rules for different formats, interpolating principles from one format to another, requirements for things like NACO, etc.)

n       Cataloging was more complex (more types of material, more types of catalogs, more levels of cataloging, more cooperative projects)

n       The number of people applying for cataloging positions did not increase.    The number of people applying for middle management cataloging positions was minuscule.




n       The trend toward introductory courses in bibliographic control continues.  A little over half of LIS schools offer a general course in the organization of information.   85% of schools that have one require it.

n       83.3% schools offer a basic cataloging course.  Slightly fewer than half of these require it. 

n       Q:  How will people learn about cataloging if they don’t have to take a course in it?

n       Q:  How will people find out they like cataloging if they don’t actually do it?

n       Slightly over half of LIS schools offer advanced cataloging, 10% less than five years ago.

n       Twelve schools offer some kind of course in non-book cataloging, a decrease of about 1/3 from five years ago.  Nearly half are in metadata and/or Internet cataloging.

o        Q:  Is non-book cataloging incorporated in general courses?  Should it be? 

o        Q:  With more formats and fewer catalogers, is format specialization possible?

n       Less, more general cataloging instruction in LIS programs combined with greater complexity  means more on the job or outside-of-LIS-programs learning.




n       The number of credit hours required for the LIS degree was set more than half a century ago

n       The field is more complex and varied.  More needs to be covered.  Because the number of credits has not changed appreciably, many things are treated generally, or are no longer required.   This is especially true of cataloging

n       Q:  What kinds of change would it take for more cataloging to be included in the LIS curriculum?

o        More credits required for the degree

o        Basic LIS education widely available at the undergraduate level, with recognized major and minor concentrations

n       Cataloging instruction in LIS programs utilizes a high proportion of adjunct faculty

o        In a practical field, adjuncts provide practitioner perspective.

o        LIS programs have small faculties.   Adjuncts can enable expansion of curricular offerings

o        Specific problems with relying heavily on adjuncts for cataloging instruction include

§         Relying on adjuncts may foster the impression of a “demotion” or “de-recognition” of the importance of the subject matter

§         Adjunct faculty, being part-time and temporary, and with extremely low academic rank, have little or no influence on the direction and vision of the program and its curriculum.  Their voice is not heard.

§         Use of adjuncts has a negative effect on continuity, from course to course, from year to year, and in terms of the evolution and direction of the entire program

§         Adjuncts are practitioners.   Education is not their business. 

§         Adjuncts are not required to be intellectually engaged in the field, inquiring, researching, sharing their findings

o        Q:  What are the benefits of having someone who is a professional educator teaching?

o        Q:  What are the benefits of having someone who is a professional practitioner teaching?

o        The likelihood of decreasing reliance on adjuncts seems small

§         The number of librarians with PhDs in LIS or allied fields, who want to teach in a library school is small

§         The number of cataloging specialists with PhDs who want to teach is even smaller

§         The monetary rewards for earning the PhD, and for teaching are too small




n       Use of a “laboratory collection” to practice cataloging has virtually disappeared

o        Wide availability of existing copy limits usefulness of the lab collection

n       LIS partnerships with bibliographic utilities

o        Examination of existing copy for discussion purposes

o        Practice in a “nearly real” environment

n       Taking advantage of student familiarity with computers

o        Class online chat sessions

o        Participation in Internet discussion lists

n       Partnerships with practitioners through

o        Online mentorships

o        Internships

§         Q:  What makes for a good internship?  

§         Q:  Can ordinary libraries afford to host interns?  What’s in it for them? (tangible/intangible)?

§         Q:  How can a library host an intern if it’s not close to a library school?

n       Online delivery of entire courses

o        Some programs are entirely online.

o        Q:  How successful can online cataloging instruction be? 

§         What would people miss?

§         Is there some “value added”? 

o        Q:  Could LIS programs “share” online cataloging courses, honoring each others’ credits, thus extending the reach of the few professional cataloging educators?




n       No cataloger completes her education in library school.  

o        The LIS curriculum is insufficient for a cataloger to be a competent cataloger when she starts out.

n       No LIS education will last a cataloger through a whole career 

o        Some things will last a career – principles, patterns, goals, purposes.  

o        But with changes of the number and magnitude that libraries are currently experiencing, every cataloger will need some additional training from time to time. 

n       LIS educators draw a distinction between “education” and “training.”

o        LIS programs do education; training takes place afterward, mainly on the job.

o        Training includes learning about library-specific practice and detailed processes.

o        Education is concerned with history, rationales, analysis, and underlying principles. 

n       There is a gap between library-specific practice, and history and principles. 

o        The gap spans understanding and applying cataloging rules and standards.

o        At one time LIS schools accepted coverage of this as their responsibility.

o        Now it has to be handled by catalogers in the field.




n       Introductory training for entry-level catalogers, or to catalogers new to the institution.   

o        The most common type is one-on-one “apprenticeship” style of training with a senior cataloger.  

o        In small libraries there may not be anyone who can provide training.  

o        Large libraries may have group orientation training or at least an established order for training.

n       Continuing education for changes (in rules, system, materials, etc.). 

o        Continuing education may be handled by current staff, or through external sources.

n       Advantages of using internal resources.

o        Cost.   

o        Knowledge of particular institution and its needs, and knowledge of personnel.

o        People learn by preparing to teach others.  

o        If responsibility is shared, it can affect how people learn, and their recognition of how learning influences effectiveness. 

n       Disadvantages of using internal resources

o        Unavailability of suitable trainers on staff

o        Time to learn and prepare

o        Risk of isolation and/or developing your own “dialect”.  Misinterpretations, mistakes and distortions creep in.

n       Disadvantages of using external resources

o        Cost.

o        Lack of customization/sensitivity to local needs.

o        Unavailability or lack of timeliness of suitable training.

n       Q:  Are there other advantages, disadvantages, limiting factors, etc. to conducting continuing education internally?

n       Q:  At what point does “keeping up with changes” change from an individual responsibility to a need for organized continuing education?




n       Professional associations.

o        ALCTS workshops, programs, preconferences, regional institutes.   

§         Often in collaboration with LC, or programs like PCC.

§         access to experts. 

§         extensive experience.

o        State and regional associations (e.g. CAL, MPLA)

o        Attendance can seem pricey when transportation and housing are added.

o        Some associations starting online continuing education.

§         More accessible and less expensive.

n       Consortia.

o        Topics that are of special interest within the consortium.

o        Some may not be covered anywhere else. 

n       Other groups such as the Association for Research Libraries, or the Council on Library Resources.   

o        Normally a small or nonexistent training component.

n       Automation Vendors.  

o        Not cataloging training so much as training in the capabilities of the system.

n       Bibliographic Networks.    

o        Look at OCLC’s web page under “Seminars, workshops and continuing education.”  

o        Online cataloging instruction through the OCLC Institute. 

o        Online course in cataloging Internet resources was launched. “Cataloging Internet Resources using MARC21 and AACR2 v2.”      

o        Available to anyone, whether they are an OCLC user or not.

n       Network regional service providers (e.g. BCR). 

o        Usually close to home.  

o        Valuable for staff as well as for librarians.

o        For librarians in small libraries, this may be the first and best choice for routine training, and for finding out about new formats, new rules, and new practices.

n       Cooperative Projects. 

o        The best example of how practicing librarians are assuming responsibility for much of cataloging education.  

o        For example, the training activities of the PCC, including BIBCO, NACO, SACO, CONSER.  

o        Another example is the Colorado Digitization Program.

§         Education for participants is an important focus.

§         Many participants are not librarians. 

o        For now, largely limited to participants, but this is changing.

n       Library Schools.  

o        LIS schools may offer symposia and other short-time continuing education opportunities.  

o        These have typically reached relatively few because of cost and location.

o        There will likely be an increase in online continuing education offerings.

o        The distinction between continuing education symposia or workshop, and regular credit course may decrease.  

o        Regular courses, offered online may be the best or only option to address certain needs.

§         Q:  At whose expense?

o        Remaining prejudices about the quality of online instruction may no longer be valid. 

n       The Community of Catalogers.  

o        Catalogers at one institution used to be isolated from catalogers at another.

o        Bibliographic networks, and later the Internet with its multiple discussion groups put an end to that.   

o        Discussion forums are an valuable part of the continuing education of catalogers.

§         Q:  Does your library discourage participation in cataloging discussion forums?




n       Many educational resources are costly, and all take time.  

n       Many of us have outmoded attitudes about continuing education, for example, we may think

o        It’s the librarian’s responsibility to keep up with things at her own expense.  

o        Education without concrete training is a frill, not worth our time or money.  

n       No education is a waste.  Mere training may not prepare us adequately.

n       Q:  What are the direct or indirect costs of having a staff that is insufficiently educated, or whose training is outdated are substantial?  

n       Librarians do have a professional obligation to keep up with their field

n       Librarians as individuals cannot bear the full cost of education themselves.

n       It is in libraries’ interest to assume more of the financial responsibility.   




n       Q:  Is education for cataloging different from education about cataloging?

n       Because of the state of the collective LIS curriculum fewer librarians have a real understanding and appreciation of cataloging.

n       Bibliographic control is at the heart of librarianship and its principles and practices determine how information is stored, how it can be retrieved, and how it is represented.  

n       Some level of understanding of cataloging, bibliographic control, and the structure of the catalog and associated databases contributes to any librarian’s ability to serve users and to see the possibilities for responsible innovation, to make good use of what we already know, and to avoid mistakes of the past. 

n       Q:  How necessary is it for those who won’t catalog to receive cataloging education?

n       Q:  If the library schools won’t don’t do more, is it the responsibility of practitioners to fill the gap?

n       Q:  What can practitioners do to further the education of non-catalogers?





n       Over the last 40 years, librarianship has seen three lengthy episodes of transformational change, all of which have had their roots in cataloging.

n       All have been accompanied by great expectations (often missing the mark) and unexpected developments  

n       1960s --  AACR, MARC, ISBDs.

o        Led to OCLC, networks, shared cataloging and authority data

o        Development of a culture of shared responsibility worldwide

o        Ended the effective isolation of libraries one from the other

n       1980s -- online catalogs.

o        Most developed as “the next step” from systems designed to handle library processing.  

o        Led to basic re-conceptualization of catalogs, made possible by increasingly capable online catalogs and the growth of the Internet.

n       Today -- electronic resources, Internet and World Wide Web, metadata standards specialized for particular applications.

o        Will lead to different understandings of the role of standards and codes and their interrelations. 

o        May bring us closer to achieving universal bibliographic control.

o        May lead to the breakdown of isolation of librarianship from the world at large.

n       If change were gradual and incremental, we could afford to have just good workers who can carry on.   

n       If every 10 years there is multi-year upheaval that redefines something basic in the field, that’s not enough.   

o        We need librarians -- librarians who understand cataloging – both those who catalog, and those who don’t. 

o        We need people with a professional education, an outlook, a perspective, an awareness of the field as a whole

o        people who can view developments in the context of the field’s history and aspirations; what it’s about; where it’s been; where it’s going; what’s important

o        people with a dedication to the field, its principles, ethics, and and feel purposes.

o        people who have and accept the responsibility to analyze, experiment, explore, backtrack if necessary, and lead.