Tag Archives: Qualities of cataloguers

What makes a good cataloguer?

This is a bit of a follow-up from my last post, I can’t replace my cataloguer with another cataloguer?

So, let’s forget the training or education for a minute. Let’s even forget reasons for why we want trained cataloguers or how to catalogue *cheaply* but still maintain quality records. When it gets right down to it, what characteristics, skills or traits make a good cataloguer? We’ve all met cataloguers that have library or library tech degrees that weren’t the best cataloguers. Why? What sets apart a good cataloguer from a not so good cataloguer? What makes a great cataloguer?

This was Heather’s comment from my last post:

I’m coming a bit late to the table (for which, apologies) but I’d like to add some comments from a UK perspective.
To start with, most of our library schools teach little or no cataloguing. Therefore we cannot make the assumption that a qualified librarian is able to catalogue. They may have learnt a little bit of theory on “knowledge management” and/or done a few paper exercises, but they will nearly always need training in AACR/RDA, MARC and classification (and the principles on which these rest). When cataloguing isn’t part of the professional skill-set, it makes it very difficult to make the case that a cataloguer should be professionally qualified.
At the same time, the sector is shrinking – there are very few cataloguers in the profession (especially in public libraries) and even fewer in the job market. And in any case we are increasingly required to save money by recruiting on non-professional grades so we are not going to attract experienced staff.
So, faced with candidates who are neither skilled nor experienced – how do I identify the ones who would be good at cataloguing?
Anyone who applies for a cataloguing job will express a deep interest and passion for cataloguing, even when this isn’t really the case and what they want is any job that will pay the bills. (No blame – in their position I’d do the same). Putting aside the ones who shoot themselves in the foot by telling me that they catalogue by Dewey, or make other unforced errors, I am thrown back on trying to recognise the character and kind of mind that will be able to assimilate and practise cataloguing.
Accuracy and consistency are usually cited as the qualities a good cataloguer needs, but I have too often seen these tip over into pedantry and inflexibility (and a very slow work-rate). Common sense and good judgement are just as important. Noone is going to make a good cataloguer who isn’t a catalogue user. I have a theory that linguists make good cataloguers because they are analytical and good at expression, but I can’t prove it.
Has anyone got the answer?

Heather’s comment really got me thinking about this, and I’d like to know what the rest of you think. What do you look for when you’re hiring a cataloguer? Is it all about training or education? What do you think makes a good cataloguer? Has the rapid growth in technology and changes in cataloguing (in the recent past and in the near future) changed the qualifications and qualities you look for in a cataloguer?

Here are some things to consider:
Level of Education
Type of Education – Do individuals educated in music, math or languages make successful cataloguers?
Personal Qualities – Should cataloguers be creative? Well-read? Curious? Well-rounded?

Here are some past posts of mine that may interest you. Some are more closely related than others to the topic discussed above, but I feel that they all have some relevance. I welcome other posts or comments that can be shared with everyone!

**Focus Group: The Results (Includes a wish list of criteria that librarians look for when hiring into the profession)
Creativity? In Cataloguing?
Pride and the Cataloguer
Librarianship can be a struggle when it’s your second career
Quality v. Quantity



Filed under Our Profession, The Cataloguer