Pride and the Cataloguer

It’s a funny thing with cataloguers.  Most of us tend to be quiet, introverted and bookish. We usually own at least one cat and countless cozy sweaters.  We also like everything to be perfect. 

I work with a group of amazing cataloguers.   They talk about cataloguing, read about cataloguing, and lead cataloguing initiatives both in and out of the department.   However, their personalities are all very different.  Our common thread in cataloguing is the pride we take in our bibliographic records.  We like to catalogue our own way, with our own preferences and we don’t take criticism well.  I believe this is the result of the effort and pride that is involved in creating a bibliographic record.   We don’t just copy catalogue, make sure the author and title are correct, and move on.  We look through the book, turn to our resources and provide the best, most accurate record we can.  What makes an exceptional cataloguer is his/her attention detail.  We double check our punctuation, uniformity with existing records and authorities and access points.   Because of all the sweat and tears we put into our records, it is almost a personal insult when an “outsider” suggests changes to our records.  I admit, I am guilty of it.  My first thought is always, “what do you know, you aren’t a cataloguer!”.    But, after the initial reaction, I appreciate the suggestions because it usually results in improved access and an even better bib record.

In the end, I guess we need to  accept that cataloguers, as quiet and bookish as we may be, need to be a little less sensitive when it comes to the criticism of our bib records. 

Will it be hard? Yes.  Will we sometimes resist? Yes.  Will we become better cataloguers? Definitely.   

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Pride and the Cataloguer

  1. I confess I am one of those cataloguers who takes great pride in my bib records and I plead guilty to all the references in the article. I realize that my bib records are not “War and Peace”, but I do feel I’ve put my experience and knowledge into them and always double check their content before I submit them to the database. That being said, I can have an occasional bad day and make mistakes with the best of them. However, I do prefer to find my own mistakes rather than have someone else find them first. (Another trait of the cataloguer?)
    I have always been fond of Jesse Shera’s Two Laws of Cataloguing:

    Law #1 No cataloguer will accept the work of any other cataloguer.

    Law #2 No cataloguer will accept his/her own work six months after the cataloguing.
    University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library Science. Paper #131, Dec. 1977.

    These two simple laws just about say it all…

  2. Dorothy Gracie

    I had to chuckle very quietly to myself (being a quiet, introverted, bookish cataloguer with FOUR cats and as many cosy sweaters after all…) when I read this thread not only because I found it to be a fairly accurate description of myself as a cataloguer as well as human being (I agree wholeheartedly with Lynne here that to err is human, but to be able to correct one’s errors before anyone else notices them is truly divine), but also because it’s so painfully true!

    A case in point is when Bookwhere (yes, I’m throwing around the “Cat” lingo!) added a new feature by where they rate bibliographic records by some sort of complicated formula of access points and the presence or absence of certain MARC tags per varying formats, I was absolutely GUTTED when one of my original DVD records failed to rate over the 80% mark (and my popular music CD records sometimes fail to rate GREEN denoting a GOOD Marc record!!!! EGADS!!!!). Being of a somewhat obsessive nature (another trait I’ve found to be common amongst cataloguers) I quickly contacted the good folks at WebClarity asking what criteria they use to rate records and received a rather prompt reply to the effect that “the scoring of records is based on between 10 and 20 different rules and there are different tests and weights assigned to the various tests for different types of records” as well as a suggestion that I check a file on my PC where they fine-tune these “scoring tests”.

    Of course, I located the files forthwith, printed them and went running into my manager’s office with them in hand. It was then that we discovered that part of the reason other libraries’ records rank higher is because they often include tags that we, in our infinite cataloguing wisdom, have decided are extraneous to our users’ requirements. Not being easily appeased, it took me weeks to get over this and stop rechecking my records after I created/edited them to see what score “I” ended up with. What finally made me see the light is that I consistently prefer records from libraries that score well, but lower than some of the other libraries who have a propensity to add copious access points.

    So, yes, you could say that I take a lot of pride in the records I create and edit (or what I like to call re-create). On top of that, I’m a Leo and we all know how proud lions can be…

  3. Pingback: What makes a good cataloguer? | The Cataloguing Librarian

  4. Minus the cats (I am allergic), this is me all over….

    The first time I put spine labels on my fiction books, and typed up a bibliography of everthing I owned, I was 10 years old. Thanks to Collectorz.com, thngs have only gon downhill from there, includin coverin my hardbacks in library grade polypropalene. And I am only 20, and half way through my library degree..

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