Berman’s Plea to ALA’s Executive Board

I recently had a chance to read the latest issue of The U*N*A*B*A*S*H*E*D Librarian [Issue number 148 (2008)].  Sandford Berman’s plea to ALA’s Executive Board is found on page 25.  As Berman begins, he states:

Beginning years ago with the screwball plan to stop classifying materials at the Library of Congress and instead shelve them by height and continuing through the more recent Calhoun Report, termination of series’ authorities, LC Working Group recommendations, and presently underway reorganization involving new acquisitions duties for professional catalogers, it is manifest that core, essential LC cataloging operations – which truly benefit national and even global library communities – are in the process of being diluted and dismantled.

Berman refers to Thomas Mann’s paper “‘On the Record’ but Off the Track“.  Mann delves into and assesses the changing nature of cataloging and cataloguers’ responsibilities at LC.

As he continues, Berman outlines several recommendations to the Board, emphasizing the key points that Mann stresses in his paper.  These recommendations include:

1. Viewing what’s happening at LC as a serious crisis
2. Opposing departmental reorganization within Technical Services
3. Emphasizing the continued improvement and maintainence of the existing catalogue over the digitization of collections.

This is a timely topic given the Library of Congress’s recent merging of Acquisitions and Bibliographic Control.  As well, many cataloguing departments are currently under review, put to the task of re-evaluting their departments, reviewing the possibilities of stream-lining processes and creating new “best practice” models.

Although I tend not to take such a dramatic view as calling this a “crisis” in cataloguing, I do believe the emphasis on the reorganization and merging of departments demands our attention. Maybe it is because I am of the younger cataloguing generation, but I also see this shift and merging of departments as an opportunity for cataloguers to come out from behind the catalogue and step into new roles and take on new responsibilities within the library. I also think it’s an opportunity to change traditional practices that have never really worked, but have remained in place because of “tradition”.  LC’s shift in focus has also left vacant a position for new libraries to lead the way in cataloguing practices.


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Filed under future of cataloguing, In the Cataloguing Department, Our Profession, The Cataloguer, The Library Catalogue

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