Creativity? In Cataloguing?

When I first entered the Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta, I had my doubts. I was a musician, not a librarian. Sure, I loved to read, but I was more interested in keeping non-profits open, as in fundraising and marketing, than in working in a library. I think one of my fears was that my creativity would be stifled. After all, what’s there to be creative about in a library? Can cataloguing be creative?

Library school taught me a lot, including how much I DIDN’T know about libraries. Sometimes I think my creative juices flow more now than ever before. So, what types of things require creativity in my job? I create reading lists and pick images to represent reading lists. I think of new projects, figure out how to market the idea to my department and supervisors and how to set up training for avid and reluctant techies. I catalogue items that have never been catalogued before, which sometimes requires writing brief summaries for the items, or just finding a category it can fit in. My input is requested when new web pages or splash pages are introduced and I’m often creating word texts when images can’t be found. We look at layout, colour schemes, text sizes and images.

The neat thing about librarians, and most especially cataloguers, is that we wear so many hats. We ARE the catalogue. Every day, when we complete a new record, we are advertising our profession and our library to patrons and other libraries throughout the world. We fuss over formatting, punctuation and how everything displays in the catalogue. So, in addition to cataloguers, we are advertisers. We are also businessmen/women. We work on tight budgets and deal with stats. How many items have we catalogued this month? Were they fiction or non-fiction? How about the software? Is it good? Bad? Can we make do with something else? We are techies, constantly learning and exploring new software and figuring out if we can use it as a tool to help us. And these are just a few examples!

What I found in library school and now, in my role as Collections Access Librarian, is that we ARE creative in libraries. We use creativity everyday to draw patrons in to use our services and programs and for appealing to those who give financial support to our library. Cataloguers are creative too. Next time you catalogue an item, think about it. How do you make the item display? Do you play with it just a little? Put the 650s and 655s in a specific order? Re-write the summary for a book?

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4 Comments

Filed under The Cataloguer

4 responses to “Creativity? In Cataloguing?

  1. I’m new to the cataloguing profession and am enjoying your blog very much! My academic background is in studio arts and art history, and my early career has started in the museum/library world. I’ve had internships and entry-level contracts in Museum Registration, Museum Curatorial, and now the Cataloguing division at a Research Library. Just gaining experience in related fields and hoping to carve out a niche of my own! Thanks for your informative and interesting blog. I especially enjoyed this entry about creativity in your job.

  2. Laurel Tarulli

    Hi Shannon,
    I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Welcome to cataloguing! It’s a great profession.

    I welcome your thoughts and ideas, especially as a newcomer to the profession.

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

  4. I’m a cataloguer by day and writer by night. I was worried that cataloguing would be too restrictive for a creative person. In fact, cataloguing deals with language in unique ways I find interesting such as the use of controlled vocabularies, tagging, and the creation of summaries you mentioned. Plus, my editorial experience (hopefully!) helps avoid spelling and grammatical errors!

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