Permanently and significantly reduce cataloguing staff

There was a recent blog posting that I thought many of you would be interested in. It appears to be out of the library at Berkeley. Here is an excerpt:

Permanently and significantly reduce cataloguing staff. Now. Most cataloguing is superfluous; I am not going to defend the underlying proposition, as there have been numerous assaults already on this point. Original cataloguing – of which there will remain plenty – has an important role moving into the future. Copy cataloguing – the relentless duplication and continual iteration of obscure, underutilized metadata – is absurd. The majority of the useful and attractive metadata is easily obtained through both traditional (CIP) or newer (ONIX) data sources. Don’t worry about the rest. There’s enough richness in even the essential cataloguing data to do things far more compelling with search than we do now.

There are other costs beyond salaries at account here. One thing that libraries routinely do badly is to get books onto shelves quickly. Every book, seemingly, must be looked at, considered, and metaphorically if not physically measured. Natch. If you keep choose to keep buying books, get them into circulation.

Many of Mr. Brantley’s ideas are a bit radical, although I respect his position that libraries are headed for change. I’m reminded of those who said computers would signify the beginning of a paperless society.

I hope all of you will compare Mr. Brantley’s comments with LAC’s response to one of my postings. LAC wrote, when referring to the growing amount of digital information and libraries:

These new methods clearly do not negate the need for cataloguing, but in fact support and reinforce the ongoing need for effective description of documents for access. It is my belief that the pressing need to organize the mass of information on the web will see cataloguing taking on even greater importance and this skill set will indeed be in high demand.

Please take the time to consider both of these points of view. I see our positions in libraries growing and expanding. I have come to that conclusion based on what I am seeing in the business world. More companies, including law firms and insurance companies, are relying on information specialists to organize and catalogue their information. They rely more heavily on databases, in-house classification systems and retrieval methods.

I seriously hope that public libraries don’t miss the mark and overlook our value while the business world is only just starting to realize the incredible asset libraries have always had.

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1 Comment

Filed under future of cataloguing, Our Profession

One response to “Permanently and significantly reduce cataloguing staff

  1. Hi Laurel,

    I agree with you. I also see our role as catalogers (or metadata librarians) as growing and expanding. Yes, we are definitely in for change, but this is true for all librarians, not just catalogers. The problem with the “radical” argument in this debate is that it starts off negative and is dismissive of our legacy. It would be nice if we could respect our past accomplishments and then move forward.

    I also think your point about the importance of metadata in the business world is key here. The increased emphasis on metadata in other fields should trigger a focus in our profession–putting more, rather than less emphasis on metadata (and of course that means cataloging and other technical processes in the library). I think we’re seeing some of this in the LAC statement and the interim draft report from the LC working group.

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