The Internet v. The Catalogue

I have recently noticed more and more articles about cataloguing and cataloguers in our professional journals.  I’ve been surprised and pleased by the growing interest and debate about cataloguing.  While some articles are not favourable to our area of expertise, they at least bring the debates and concerns forward. 

I was very interested in an article I read today by Martha Yee, Cataloguing Supervisor at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Film and Television Archive.  Her article, “Will the Response of the Library Profession to the Internet be Self-Immolation?” is in the Number 144 Issue of The U*N*A*B*A*S*H*E*D Librarian (USISBN 0049-514X).

In her article, she eloquently expresses a point which I firmly believe “…library leaders have forgotten, or never knew, the fact that expertise in organization of information is at the core of the profession of librarianship. Because of their blindness to the nature of our profession, we are now in danger of losing not just standardized cataloguing records and the Library of Congress Subject Headings, but the profession itself.”

 Although I do not believe we are on our way out the door yet, I am convinced that we need to remain proactive in the marketing of our profession.  

Ms. Yee directs the reader to several sources which should be read and reflected upon.  She urges readers to read Calhoun’s report The Changing Nature of the Catalog and its Integration with Other Discovery Tools and to follow the progress of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control.  I also urge you to look at these resources.  Some of you are probably aware that the Working Group broadcasted their report today, and it is now available as a live webcast from their site.

Throughout this article is an argument that all cataloguers are intimately aware of.  Google and Amazon v. The Library Catalogue. We have been born out of a need to provide free access to information.  All information.  Google and Amazon have been and always will be providing limited information for a price.   Ms. Yee does a very good job of exploring this argument.

Not wishing to debate Ms. Yee because I do encourage you to read this article, but not completely agreeing with her, she appears to blame our primarily women-dominated profession on our low self-esteem.  First, I’m not convinced we suffer from low self-esteem. I also don’t necessarily believe that our gender is the issue.  I believe it is more of a personality type.  I know very strong women in this profession.  I also know very strong men in this profession.  I think pointing to our lack of training in the finer points of business and marketing, our common trait of generally being introverted and our desire to assist and accomodate the public may play a larger role than gender.

Overall, however, I believe that all of you should seek out this edition of The U*N*A*B*A*S*H*E*D Librarian.  There is also an article called “Bookstores and Libraries: Compare at Your Peril” that is a very good read.


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