Wednesday, 23 February 2011

You say, "Resource discovery technology"; I say, "Catalogue"

This is a response to the post on the High Visibility Cataloguing blog here: . I would have added a comment, but I just knew that I would have gone on too long!

You see, I agree 100% with Venessa's desire to raise the profile of cataloguers and I agree that it is something that desperately needs doing. I agree that we are seen as "antiquated gatekeepers" and I'd go further and say that it isn't only authoritarians who see us that way. When she says that we need to rethink who does what, or that we should challenge the legacy of our predecessors, I'm right there and cheering.

I differ with her in two respects, firstly, that in my opinion she doesn't go nearly far enough in redefining roles; and secondly, that I think that we shouldn't rely on changing words to make us sound good.

"The systems librarians is now an integral part of the cataloguing team". No. No. Cataloguers and systems librarians are becoming the same thing. I make no pretence of being a technician (start talking to me about servers and I'm thinking of Wimbledon), but a cataloguer deals with data, creates data, edits data, manages data, exploits data. Cataloguers are getting in touch with their inner systems librarian, and that's the way it has to be. Cataloguers aren't being asked to take on bulk editing, or digitization - that's what they should be, and are, wanting and needing to do, and deciding to get involved with on their own initiative. If cataloguers wait to be asked, then we'll soon be extinct. Cataloguers need to be "re-skilled"? Nonsense. We've got the skills, all we need is the courage to use them.

"Should we even still be using the term ‘cataloguing’ for what our role will be in the future?" Yes, there's nothing wrong with the word. Metadata is data about data - and it's what you'll find on a catalogue card. The added value that we bring is largely brought from rules and rulers, whether or not the cataloguer is sitting in a dark corner.

I don't have the word "cataloguer" in my job title, but I quite often introduce myself as, "the nearest thing you'll find round here to a chief cataloguer". I said exactly that in a meeting last week. And bless him, a senior manager spoke up and said, "Oh no, you're much more than that - you're one of the innovative people". That doesn't stop me being a cataloguer - I hope it makes me a good one, but a cataloguer is what I am and a cataloguer is what I'll remain. Not a metadata manager.

We'll redeem cataloguing when we explain what we do and why it matters, not when we change the name.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, I have a lot to say but it might be turning into a blog post of my own :) I do agree though, names don't change the thing, they're just window-dressing (and it's interesting to note the many many different names that cataloguers have as job titles). And for what it's worth, I'm a "cataloguer" and there's a reason we have kept "cataloguing" in the name High Visibility Cataloguing.

    I have been reading your blog since the beginning and wanted to say that a discussion in the comments of one of your posts about cataloguers promoting themselves and the catalogue was one of the main influencing factors which ended with High Visibility Cataloguing existing for me at least! So thank you for all your thought-provoking posts.