Posting to Autocat
On 7/5/2014 1:18 AM, Julie Moore wrote:
On several occasions at ALA, I introduced myself as a cataloger to non-cataloger librarians. There was a definite cringe among some people. One person said, “You really need to come up with a new title. ‘Cataloger’ sounds so old-fashioned.” Old-fashioned or not, being a ‘Cataloger’ is what I am.
Have we identified a preferable, “cooler” job title is for what it is that we do?
What I think is important is not so much how *we* feel about the job title, but how the public feels about it, and consequently, how they relate to us. The old term “janitor” has been replaced by “sanitation engineer” or something like that. They did so because it makes a difference in society how others think of you.
I guess I think it is like George Washington’s advice to the young man who is about to make his own way into society, and Washington goes into a lot of discussion about the clothes he should wear! It is a remarkable letter. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-george-steptoe-washington/
When I read this the first time as a young man, I remember that I thought his advice was absolutely ridiculous and I even found it embarrassing that “the Father of our Country” could say anything like that. I believed that clothes shouldn’t make any difference as to how people judge what kind of person I really am, but of course, I learned I was completely wrong, and George Washington was right.
I learned that whether I liked it or not, dirty clothes, ripped up clothes, out of date clothes, are all types of communication, and they all said something about me and my values. If I see someone with tattoos and piercings all over, I draw certain conclusions. I did have to confess that if I saw a young woman who was dirty and wore awful clothes, I looked differently at other young women who took care of their appearance, and appreciated the care they took. It slowly dawned on me (I was such a slow learner!) that women appreciated it if I took some care of my own appearance. For better or worse, we all draw conclusions from such seemingly trivial matters, that are really not so trivial at all.
Therefore, it is logical that our job titles are the same as our clothes, and I am sure that if we would ask old George what he thought, he may say that we are facing a problem: if people think that the title “cataloger” is old-fashioned, then by definition, it is old-fashioned. If that is the way you want to portray yourself, then OK. If not, you may want to consider “changing your clothes”.
What could that be? Well, how do we want to portray ourselves? This will take a certain effort to change things. For quite awhile now, I have entertained the thought that cataloging is “semantics in action” so I propose the title “Semantic Engineer”.
Who knows? People may accept it.