It never ceases to amaze me that some new librarians (and not so new) continue to believe that cataloguers just import and “dump” records into the catalogue, without any editing. After all, who gives a fig about uniformity, misspellings, local subject headings and access issues? Oh wait, they do – but only when faced with it at the “front-line”.
(I know that there is an ongoing debate regarding the editing of each individual record, localized headings and so on. I follow this debate as well – and am waiting for day that when I import a record, inches will convert to centimeters, “Indians of North American – Canada” will change to “First Nations”, “African Americans” will convert to “Blacks” and American spellings will add a “see also” for Canadian spelling. These are only a few “wishes” on my cataloguing wish list. However, until our systems are at that point, we continue to go in to records and convert, add or remove information as required by our cataloguing practices.)
But, back to the point. Where are library schools in this? For the recent graduate, new librarians should know that many records that are imported need to be edited. They should be taught to analyze records and know the difference between a good one and a bad one. Why aren’t they aware that libraries have local practices, or that some libraries use different subject headings than others? Where does this “it’s just copy cataloguing” mentality come from?
As for the more “mature” librarian, I find it very frustrating when I hear the comment “What’s the big deal, you just import it, right?” Yeah, right. That’s what we went to school for. Although this “attitude” can be blamed partially on a lack of interest in cataloguing (or the fact that we work so quickly and efficiently that’s what they THINK, because we’re so good!), I think it also stems from an unconscious desire to minimize the importance of cataloguing.
There’s a great divide between front-line staff and “the backroom”. I’d like to blame this attitude solely on library schools and those on the front-line who devalue our services to promote the survival of their own. However, I think it’s partially our fault, too. While we discuss the future of cataloguing amongst each other and in technical terms, we’re not selling what we do to management and front-line staff.
I’ve heard about an orientation that some cataloguing and technical services departments are developing to assist with this problem. I’m hoping to adopt this in our library as well. New librarians will be asked to spend a morning in cataloguing, to experience first-hand what goes on behind the scenes to get the items out to the branches. I’m also hoping to make it out to all of our branches as a representative of the cataloguing department. While visiting, I’d like to show them some strategies for using the catalogue, let staff know how we can work together and generally, provide them with a face to the catalogue. I’m also interested in gathering their input and ideas.
If we aren’t willing to put ourselves out there and explain just what we do to non-cataloguers, we will become a lost profession. I want management, front-line staff and patrons to think we’re more than just editors with “cut and paste” skills.