Thursday, January 13, 2011

Comment to Conversations that Cataloguers Aren’t Hearing

Comment to Conversations that Cataloguers Aren’t Hearing

When Lynne mentions in her comment, the idea of "creative cataloging", the idea makes me cringe. While there are ways to be creative during cataloging, it must be done with tremendous care. In essence, the task of cataloging is to describe a given resource and organize that description so that it fits into an existing intellectual structure as neatly and as well as it possibly can. The actual method for achieving this is the principle of "consistency".

The problem with being "creative" in cataloging means that it *can* lead to resources being misplaced within that intellectual structure. When something is inconsistent (or "creative"), it means that the resource falls outside the expected places within the intellectual structure and in order to retrieve it, equally "inconsistent" (or "creative") methods must be used to retrieve it, or to understand it.

So, even though many of the transliteration practices of some non-Roman languages may strike people as absurd or wrong, the cataloger *must* follow the prescribed practice, just as classifying a book in a "creative" way, (i.e. not with the other, related items) cannot be done because then it becomes far more difficult to find. The same goes for every part of the record, from each part of the description to selection and construction of access points.

From this short explanation, it could be inferred that the practice of cataloging is the most incredibly conservative task there could ever be, and that is a valid point: it *can* be that conservative, and I think people see it all the time. There is a reason for this: our records must be made consistent with records created 100 years ago or more, otherwise things get lost.

At the same time, I want to emphasize that there is such a thing as creativity in the practice of cataloging, and some examples border on brilliance. I have seen it especially in authority work, but it can certainly exist at the point of the individual record. But I will say that "creativity" when applied to cataloging, means something quite different than when "creativity" is used in the everyday world.

1 comment:

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