Monday, May 06, 2002

Cataloging Skills

Recently on AUTOCAT, there has been discussion about the skills needed by a cataloger. Here is my 2 cents. Catalogers are concerned with national and international standards. We have MARC21, AACR, the ISBDs, Z39.50 and so on. We like standards, interoperability, and sharing. However, our reference staff and users come from our local community. They may call a water fountain a bubbler or a submarine sandwich a hero, grinder, po'boy or whatever. They have no sense of standards, just usage. To create a catalog for our users we must be aware of local usage. We can see only the forest and not the trees, while our users and the reference staff who deal with them see only the trees.

Both reference and tech services would benefit from seeing things from the different perspective. It would be ideal if catalogers could sit on the reference desk for four hours a week. Reference staff could work on MARC records for their four hours, adding genre/form headings would be useful and not too much of a stretch. Then catalogers could go back and create some of those cross references in the authority file, add annotations using language of the patron's, create headings for characters that would benefit their local users. The reference folks could see that we are not just making it up to have job security.