Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The future of cataloging - yes, I said cataloging

Taking a slight detour from surveying, last week I gave an invited presentation on the implications for archives and special collections of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control at PALINET's Future of Cataloging Symposium. Since the audience was made up almost entirely of catalogers and heads of technical services for academic, public, and special libraries, this was not my typical crowd, or my typical subject matter. It was a really interesting experience, however, because both preparing for my talk and listening to my fellow speakers drove home how similar the challenges we face are.

The crux of the presentations I attended, as well as the LC Working Group report, was that people are looking for ways to improve access, streamline procedures, increase efficiency, cut costs, be more responsive to user needs, adapt to new technologies, and integrate data better into the increasingly web-centered world of information. Sound familiar?

Although I was impressed and even inspired by the LC Working Group's effort overall, and especially encouraged by the attention that "rare, unique, and other special hidden materials" receive in the report, one of the points I made in my presentation was that few special collections professionals, and virtually no archivists, were involved in the Working Group's research or the writing of the report (though the Bibliographic Standards Committee of RBMS submitted a detailed and well-reasoned response to the draft report). It's a shame, because clearly so many of the issues for which the group was proposing recommendations directly impact, and have in many ways begun to be addressed by, those of us who work most closely with archives and special collections materials, with the PACSCL survey as just one example. One of the report's main recommendations for special collections is that access should be integrated with access for other library materials. I would argue that holds true not just for access to materials, but involvement in developing standards and systems and professional discussion as well. (By the way, I'm not exempting myself from the group who didn't get involved even though I had been vaguely aware of the LC Working Group for awhile - without the impetus this presentation gave me, I might not otherwise have read this report all the way through, which would have really been a shame.)

For those who are interested in learning more about the people's thoughts on the future of cataloging, and how it parallels trends in archives and special collections, all of the symposium presentations were recorded and should be available from PALINET soon. If you're interested in one archivist's take on the LC Working Group effort and future directions for "bibliographic control" in archives and special collections, the PowerPoint slides from my presentation are available here.

1 comment:

Debra said...


Thank you for posting your presentation. I am a library science student with an interest in both archives and cataloging. I also worked briefly in a Special Collections department.

Therefore, it is beneficial to read some of the challenges (such as determining the best cataloging standard and the possible difficulties in allocating staff resources) to exposing "hidden collections" to the public.