The stereotype of catalogers is that we sit quietly behind the scenes, not interacting with users. A walk by our cubicles supports this view. However, we know that the records we work on are a kind of direct communication with users, who can use the library without speaking to a person, but have a hard time avoiding the catalog. Even someone who picks up a book from the New and Noteworthy shelves in Perkins Library and uses a self-check-out machine has used classification and the circulation module of the catalog. Other users access electronic resources through the catalog without even setting foot in the building.
Catalogers embrace other forms of electronic communication as well. We know the proverb about all work and no play, and what looks like work may actually be an exchange of a joke with the coworker in the next cubicle via email or Facebook. Our policies and procedures are documented online, and we participate in electronic forums with catalogers in other libraries. So why has a suggestion by our department head that we blog gone largely unheeded? I wrote one post, and it was fun. I got some compliments on it. However, it was not nearly as rewarding as the creation of a cataloging record. A record for an obscure pamphlet may never be directly used, but it will stand for decades, maybe centuries, as the signpost to that pamphlet. A blog post is a bit of flotsam thrown into a sea of unstructured data.
Post contributed by Amy Turner, Original Cataloger in the Cataloging and Metadata Services Dept.