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We all hear it nowadays. The LIS profession is becoming more and more tech-centric, therefore, curricula and resources have become more devoted to the evolving digital information age. Courses are being offered in networking administration, web design, and digital libraries and even mobile application development. Library students are conquering digital technology and harnessing some amazing skills, like learning to code. They’re also having to consider whether to jump wholeheartedly on the digital band wagon or be left behind in the prehistoric age of card catalogs and dusty book jackets.
But wait! Hold steady for just a moment before taking the dive. Think twice before completely avoiding library courses that have been fundamental to the library profession.
In Part 1 of the series, “Going Old School”, we invite you to take a moment and weigh the benefits of signing up for one of two well-known library courses: Cataloging and Classification*. Part 2 of this series will discuss the considerations of signing up for an Indexing and Abstracting class (available later this month).
For some of us these courses are still mandatory, for others, they are electives in the LIS curriculum. If it’s not a requirement and you’re debating whether or not to invest the time and money to take this course, consider the following before overlooking that Cataloging and Classification class being offered next semester…
Not your ABCs: RDA, AACR2, and FRBR
No matter where you work as a library professional, you’ll need to understand the following acronyms: RDA, AACR2, and FRBR. Resource Description and Access is the newest bibliographic standard that explains how and what to include in a bibliographic record. The Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd Edition is its predecessor. FRBR, known as the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, are a set of guidelines that helped shape RDA. Many libraries have not yet transferred to RDA so library students must have working knowledge of both AACR2 and RDA. Say for a moment, you don’t care. Okay, I’ll give you that. Now what if I tell you that RDA makes it easier (although this is up for debate) to record and store digital media? Something we use most everyday. What if I tell you both standards and guidelines are playing an interesting role in the integration of data on the web? And we all know where data on the web is going, right?
Some library employers prefer that you’ve taken a cataloging course when considering an intro-level position in a cataloging or technical services department. Even if you don’t plan to go into cataloging full-time, generalist library positions or professional positions at smaller institutions may require some cataloging work. You may be surprised to hear that knowledge of cataloging and metadata extends beyond the library walls to fields such as visual resources management, digital asset management, knowledge management, archives, taxonomy, and many more!
Cataloging courses allow you to gain experience with the technical tools that the pros are using (without the need of a subscription!) What other time you will have a chance to tinker with OCLC Connexion, WebDewey, and the Library of Congress’s Cataloging Desktop?
Navigate Your Collection
Want to better navigate your library’s collection and resources? Then taking a Cataloging and Classification course will put in touch with many different systems and an understanding for how they are structured. You’ll get an opportunity to learn more about the Library of Congress classification system, the Dewey Decimal Classification system, as well as others, many of which can be found in academic, special, public and school libraries…get this…around the world!
The Back-End Matters
Ever found a library record, but had a hard time deciphering the actual bibliographic record in MARC, aka MAchine-Reading Cataloging? Or better yet, what the heck is MARC? Well, a cataloging and classification course breaks down the definition of MARC, record fields, subfields, subject headings, authority headings and how they all work together to construct pretty awesome bibliographic records.
Did you know that MARC also requires an encoding language to make it function properly? Similar to HTML, a markup language that allows content to be viewed online, various encoding languages allow MARC records to not only be viewed online, but also to be easily transferable among various integrated library systems. Want to have an idea of what the back-end of a catalog record looks like? It might be to your benefit the next time you have to discuss a technical issue to your library IT department. Understanding the system infrastructure and speaking the lingo go a long way.
D-I-Y Learning Tools and Resources
Now, We’re not downplaying taking courses related to computers and digital technology. Quite the opposite, in fact. What I am saying, is that when weighing your options for courses to take during your LIS career, consider what I’d like to call “Going Old School” and give equal consideration when looking at that snazzy new tech course that teaches you to create mobile apps, as well as, the course, that might seem “passé” but really can be a goldmine of relevant information and skill sets.
What if you weren’t able to take this course but wanted to? Graduation is around the corner, you’ve already graduated, or the class isn’t going to be offered for another year and half. It does happen. If that’s the case, we’ve provided some resources at the bottom of this post so you can get started on your own course of self-learning.
Taking a cataloging and classification course may not make you an expert in this area of librarianship, but it’ll give you an overview of all the different components that make up this part of the library profession. You’ll also have the added benefit of not looking dumbfounded the next time it is mentioned at a conference or even in a job interview. So what is your experience with cataloging and classification? Have you taken this course? Considered it? Any sage advice from those who have taken the course or work in this profession are highly encouraged.
Aidy & Courtney
*Aidy is currently in the midst of her Cataloging and Classification course at Florida State University. Learning as she goes, she’s no expert, but is slowly coming around to the fact that cataloging can indeed be fun. Find her on Twitter @msbooksy.
*Courtney powered through the intro course last year and is currently taking an advanced elective in descriptive cataloging. She is especially interested in cataloging and metadata for visual resources. Cataloging makes her feel like she’s actually learning something in library school! Find her on Twitter @futartlibrarian.
- FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records)
- IFLA Resource on FRBR
- AACR2 (may find copies on Amazon.com)
- RDA Toolkit Course (PDF)
- RDA Toolkit Site (you can try out a free trial with them, just to get your feet wet)
- RDA vs. AACR2 (PPTX)
- Dublin Core Site
- OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards
- Marc 21 (Encoding language, examples are in AACR2 format)
- Cataloging and Classification: An Introduction by Lois May Chan. The standard introductory text.
- Practical Cataloging: AACR2, RDA, and MARC 21 by Anne Welsh and Sue Batley. This text breaks everything down in a way that’s very easy to understand. It helps one understand the bigger picture.
- ListServs: You can also find useful information through the ListServs such as AutoCat for Cataloging – go for the digest edition, unless you want a million emails in your inbox. And for finding preliminary content, there is nothing wrong with a little Googling and Wikipedia searching to get you started.