Re: [ACAT] Job Announcement: Head of Technical Services

Posting to Autocat

On 29/08/2011 23:50, Billie Hackney wrote:

There is no question that technical services librarians who serve on the reference desk often come back with a great idea or two for improving entries in the catalog. Where the unfairness lies is that reference librarians are not expected to do the reverse. A better knowledge of cataloging would be a huge benefit to reference librarians and yet, while you see many technical services positions advertised that require evening and weekend hours on the reference desk, how many reference positions do you see advertised that require cataloging knowledge and experience? I am willing to bet that if you go to a library jobs site right now and check the first few reference position openings, you are unlikely to see even one that requires a contribution in technical services. It’s a double standard. I suspect that this is the reason why many good catalogers will not apply for positions that require reference work.

I don’t think it’s so much a double standard as a real change when computerized systems were introduced. From my research and conversations, it seems that before computers were introduced, there was more “back and forth” between cataloging and reference since reference could contribute to cataloging by filing cards. This was not such an easy task and demanded some thinking and training, was absolutely necessary, and the reference people learned things along the way. It appears that when computers came in and card filing vanished, there was less that an untrained person could really do in cataloging without close supervision. As a result, there was a loss of the former quid pro quo, nothing much was found to replace it and the cross-fertilization all but disappeared.

Of course, this led to the situation where the people who created the content (catalogers) wound up more and more isolated from the people who used their content (patrons and reference librarians) and misunderstandings on both sides grew and grew. So far as I am concerned, the best example of the misunderstandings is illustrated in the “FRBR user tasks”, which my latest podcast tries to demonstrate are not the tasks that users want.

With current systems however, perhaps much of this could be reconsidered. Since Web2.0 is such a big thing now, and if we admit that the main way people interoperate with the library’s collection is, and will be, the catalog in whatever form it takes, I think the input of expert reference librarians would be crucial, by adding tags or comments, perhaps links to reviews or something. I am sure they would have their own ideas.

After all, if I am searching for Kurt Vonnegut or Herman Melville, I would be much more interested in the tags or comments of an experienced reference librarian/selector of American literature instead of some first-year student. I am sure there are others who would agree with me.