Libraries Society of North America 31st Annual Conference
Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland - March 20-26, 2003
“The Next Generation of Catalogers: Issues
in Education and Training”
Amy Trendler, Art Institute of Chicago
Beth Picknally Camden, Director, Cataloging Services, University of Virginia and Chair of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services Committee on Education, Training & Recruitment for Cataloging.
Diane Barlow, Associate Dean of the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland.
Nathaniel Feis, Art Institute of Chicago
1. Beth Picknally Camden
Beth Picknally Camden began by saying that
people are concerned about education and the recruitment of new catalogers.
Though much has been written and discussed about this topic, it is not a new
problem, but one that has been with our profession for a long time. But how will
we educate new catalogers to face the future? Beth conducted an informal survey
of new catalogers and trainers via email. She received responses from four
cataloging trainers, four faculty members at graduate schools in library science
and thirty-two responses from new catalogers – librarians out of library
school three years or less whose primary responsibility is cataloging.
Of the thirty-two new catalogers, seventeen
were working in academic libraries, five in special libraries and four in public
libraries. When asked how well they felt their library education prepared for a
career in cataloging, thirteen stated that they were not prepared, seven felt
they were prepared and eleven gave mixed responses. The new catalogers were
offered an average of two and a half courses in cataloging of which they took
two. When asked why they did not take more classes, the answers included
statements that schools offered more cataloging courses on paper than were
actually available in the time frame, especially for those in distance education
tracks. Others indicated bad
advising kept them from taking further cataloging classes and one respondent
stated the reason was a poor professor. The
new catalogers stated that there was too much to learn in only one to three
courses, that the courses were unbalanced between the theories and practices of
cataloging and that these unbalanced courses lost those students without any
sort of cataloging background. Some also said that the courses spent too much
time on description. Others did feel that the courses were balanced between
theory and practice. These new catalogers also replied that they were not taught
the proper tools of cataloging. Courses did not touch on authority records. LCSH
or LCRIs were hardly mentioned and one student was even marked down for using
the LCRIs instead of sticking to AACR2. Cataloging was taught only on paper and
sometimes MARC was in a separate class from the rules of cataloging. Respondents
also noted that there were often negative attitudes toward cataloging in library
schools with professors and advisors denigrating cataloging and scaring off
potential catalogers by emphasizing how difficult and complex it is. Also, the
importance of cataloging and technical services was downplayed. Though
twenty-one of the thirty-two new catalogers now catalog special materials most
were especially negative about the coursework on these matters. Serials, rare
books and audio-visual materials were hardly mentioned.
Most students learned the practices and
details of cataloging from internships and jobs held during or prior to library
school. Nineteen of the new catalogers had practicums or internships in
cataloging and thirteen held library jobs that they felt better prepared them
for their present positions than their coursework. Beth stated that these
practicums were beneficial and invaluable to the students. She suggested that
libraries and librarians should offer internships and practicums whenever
possible to support catalogers coming up in the field because these students are
the pool for new professionals.
Beth then asked the new catalogers to
discuss the training they received in their positions once they successfully
made it through graduate school. Eleven found the training experience to be
negative, nine were positive and ten gave a mixed response. Twenty-two of the
new catalogers had one-on-one training sessions and eleven attended workshops.
But many found themselves in a sink or swim situation. They were given the tools
and then told to go catalog. Beth found no correlative between the size of the
institution and the amount of training provided.
Of the trainers who responded, there were
those who had up to thirty years of training experience and others who were only
required to train now and again. They found that their trainees were unfamiliar
with the basic tools of cataloging and that the actual cataloging came “as a
surprise” to many of them. They felt these problems were exacerbated by the
influx of new technologies, however the profession has had to cope with new
technologies for many years. The trainers felt that the burden of training is
placed on the employers of these new catalogers.
Beth found that the number of courses in cataloging provided by graduate
schools is decreasing and that some courses are being combined and topics such
as metadata are not included in the curriculum.
At the LC Bicentennial Conference in
November 2000, the ALCTS/ALISE LIS Education Task Force implemented Action Plan
5.1 in order to “improve and enhance curricula in library and information
science schools by (1) identifying and preparing students with core competencies
for library technical services … (2) devising and conducting training to
produce flexible and resourceful cataloging professionals … and (3) promoting
the understanding and use of metadata standards” as related to electronic and
digital resources. Beth hopes that this and other initiatives will help schools,
employers and the new catalogers themselves become better prepared for the
future. Beth also suggests that a basic understanding of cataloging practices
and records should be a part of the education of every librarian and not just
Beth’s presentation can also be found online at: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~bp2f/BPCpresentations.html.
2. Diane Barlow
Diane Barlow provided the educator’s
viewpoint to this discussion. She explored the status of cataloging in ALA
accredited institutions. She began by looking at the assumption that cataloging
courses are fading from and may disappear entirely from library school
curricula. In order to test the accuracy of this statement, Diane selected
thirteen of the fifty-four schools and fifty-six programs accredited by the ALA
to perform a survey. In these thirteen, she found sixty-three courses on the
organization of data, information and/or materials with a medium of five per
school. Also, she found no move to eliminate any of these courses.
At her home school, the University of
Maryland, there have been six courses in this area since the school opened in
1965. Though there have been changes in format and content, the number remains
steady. The same consistency can also be found in other areas such as reference.
A basic course is required for all students that includes the principles of
bibliographic organization and has allowed for the impacts of technologies. The
school also recommends that those planning on becoming catalogers should follow
up the basic course with an advanced course in cataloging. In many of the
schools she surveyed the basic courses focus on organization and look at
cataloging from a philosophical viewpoint.
To discern what education is needed to
prepare students to become catalogers, Diane discussed her own experiences as a
student. Though she did well in her own basic cataloging course, which focused
on the organization of recorded knowledge including cataloging and
classification, she felt this would have in no way prepared her to become a
professional cataloger. She stated that a single course in cataloging does not
prepare a student to become a cataloger, but only one course is required to
allow students to focus in any of a number of areas in the library world. As
opposed to earlier years, these basic courses are more theoretical with the goal
being to give the student a basic foundation so that they can go on to advanced
coursework. The student who seeks a specific area of concentration (be it
cataloging, reference, young adult, web design, etc.) will need to follow up on
these basic classes with further study in their area of interest.
The average enrollment for an elective
course at the University of Maryland is fourteen students. For cataloging
courses, the enrollment is always sixteen to eighteen students with no waiting
list. So, the university would not consider adding further courses since they
would likely not fill up and the course would not be worth the expenditure.
At the time of enrollment, students are
polled as to what they want to become professionally and only 10-12 % express a
desire to work in cataloging or technical services. Students often decide what
they want to become based on historic events and the public notoriety of
individuals in a given profession. Since catalogers are usually not in the
public eye, it falls upon catalogers themselves to augment their public image if
they want to encourage students to follow their path. This could include
institutions developing partnerships with schools so that students would have
more direct exposure to those in the profession.
Diane said there is a disconnect between job seekers and what employers want. Partnerships between institutions and schools could help to alter this situation. Library schools create novice librarians who are eager to learn. Librarians do not emerge from library school fully formed. On the job training will continue to be necessary because there is too much else to do in school to fully train a student for the workplace.