Adventures in Cataloging

I have a couple of questions to start this post. Have you ever had that one subject that you just knew from the outset that you really wouldn’t like? That one subject that even reading the name filled you with a sense of dread and made you want to avoid it like the plague? That was me with cataloging. For me, the change of careers into the LIS sector was a completely unexpected opportunity, but it also meant that I went into my degree without any prior knowledge beyond what I remembered of my amazing school and public library staff. Which is to say that I had no idea what they did beyond shelving, finding requested books, and issuing loans. I certainly didn’t know that they spent their time creating catalog and metadata records which provided me with the ability to search (and find) everything I wanted. When I read through the syllabus and the core subjects that I would need to complete, I thought for sure the ones on metadata and cataloging would bore me to tears. And while I was right on some levels, I was completely wrong on others, and what surprised me the most was how much I loved cataloging.  

For the most part, I am not the most detail oriented person. I simply don’t have the patience to sit in one place for long periods of time and just be able to concentrate on one thing. I need constant background noise, and I am easily distracted. While these don’t sound like the best qualities for a library cataloger, I do like organization and structure, and there are plenty of both of those things when cataloging. Beginning my cataloging subject, I just knew that it was not going to be a subject that I enjoyed. It was a core subject, one that needed to be done for course completion but would be really no fun at all. I had already completed a metadata course and knew that I was not destined to have a career where creating and working with metadata would prominently feature. But as I was working through the coursework, I was finding that I didn’t have as many questions or problems as my other classmates had. MARC and RDA just made sense, the rules and structure of what was needed was all there, I just had to input the information. It was one of those situations where you start to overthink everything, because it just came a little too easy, and you start to question whether you actually know what you are doing or if it seems easy because you are doing it totally wrong. It was one of those ‘it just clicks’ moments, and I realized that I actually enjoyed cataloging and I couldn’t remember why I was dreading having to complete this subject. 

Before I started my degree, I was an avid reader. However, as I progressed through the subjects, I found that I read so much throughout the semester that I just didn’t have the mental capacity to finish a whole book. There were many started, but few finished. But as I got to the end of my cataloging subject, I found myself devouring books on RDA and re-evaluating what elective courses I was planning on taking to finish my degree. Courses which now include higher level cataloging. I also looked at what short courses I could complete to broaden my knowledge and give me some practical experience with cataloging. The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) was a great resource and being a student member of this professional organization meant that I could complete their short courses for a discounted price. 

While this was not the way I had envisioned the subject going when I had read through the syllabus, I have found a love of cataloging that is sure to change the trajectory of where I saw this career change taking me. I have also realized that I need to start each subject with an open mind and to not judge how it will go by the subject outline. And while I am sure that I will never be a fan of metadata and will continue to find it boring beyond all measure, I am looking forward to many adventures in cataloging throughout my LIS career.

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