Friday 23 September 2011

Why I love cataloguing

This post started as a response to Theresa Schutlz's controversial post on LISNPN. It seems to have stirred up quite a hornets nest and this is my two cents. It was getting ridiculously long so I decided to publish it as a stand alone post.

From personal experience I can see that cataloguing isn't taken very seriously in some places. We were advised not to even read the cat and class module on our library course until we absolutely had to for work. By the tutor! When I told people at various study schools that I worked in cataloguing they did tend to look at me with pity in their eyes, even when I told them how much I love my job.

I think the worst thing though is trying to convince other librarians of the need to enhance the image of cataloguing. I'm in the process of trying to set up a cataloguing related blog at work which is intended for outside readership by users. I know other places have done this, with varying degrees of success, but I am having a really hard time trying to sell it internally. The most popular question seems to be "who would want to read that?". Whilst it might not be everyone's cup of tea I think that there are people out there who would read it. I know I would (don't really know what that says about me though!).

I work in a legal deposit library which means that we get a lot of non-academic material which our users never get to see. We get everything from the silly to the outrageous and this is one of the reasons I love my job - yes, the actual action of cataloguing can be repetitive but you never know what kind of book you're going to get next. I can be cataloguing a tome on nuclear physics one minute and the autobiography of Jedward the next. One of the best recent examples was "Knit Your Own Royal Wedding" which featured in a lot of news coverage around the big day.

A lot of this fun material gets passed round the office since everyone wants to have a look, and we have FUN looking at them. I want to get some of this type of material on the blog, as well as some posts showcasing what we actually do in the department in the hope of dispelling the myth that cataloguers are all dusty, fusty old librarians who need to get out more.

Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that people would want to read a blog like this. Part of my current job involved posting on the Tower Project blog which focuses on early twentieth century material. We manage to make it really fun and entertaining and get a lot of positive feedback. Why can't we do this for modern material?

On the plus side, Schultz's post has stirred up a lot of debate and that's always a good thing. People wouldn't leap to the defence of cataloguing so much if they didn't have such strong feelings about it. Maybe there is hope after all!


  1. Great post! I love the Tower blog and would definitely follow the equivalent for modern materials.

  2. This is great, thank you for posting it (I may have to refer to it later as I've been asked to write a post on cataloguing for LISNPN).

    A blog is a great idea for outreach - will you be needing a hand with that in about 6 months? ;) I am always meeting people who are fascinating to know what happens "behind the scenes", what we receive and catalogue... think there's loads of scope there.

  3. Thanks Niamh and Celine. I hope that the modern blog goes ahead, should know a bit more this week. At the moment I need all the help I can get!

  4. I'd be interested too - fingers crossed that it goes ahead :)

  5. Thanks. I should know more today (hopefully!)

  6. Whilst nothing is set in stone yet, I am pleased to report that things seems to be moving in the right direction! Hopefully things will progress in the not too distant future.

    Thanks so much everyone for the interest. I was able to report at the meeting today that there was already some external interest in the project and this really seemed to help things.