RE: New “Cataloging Matters” podcast

Posting to NGC4LIB

Laval Hunsucker wrote:

Most of us will often have encountered discussions of whether librarianship is or is not a profession, which sometimes go on ( and on … ) on the question to what acknowledged professions it can then justifiably be compared. Many are adduced, but rarely or never mentioned is the one profession to which I myself believe that librarianship can best be compared — that of the clergy. I could never see librarians as being in essence very much like physicians, or nurses, or engineers, or lawyers, or pilots, or ( good ) teachers, or even architects ( though perhaps a little like accountants ), but they *are* very much like priests, it seems to me, in very many respects. Fletcher was pretty much on the mark in his inclination to look at library systems and services [ and ‘information’ ? ] as a kind of religion. And indeed, if they were already a religion back then, such may well be even more the case now than it was in his time.

This may be correct, although I still prefer to think of catalogers (at least) more as mechanics or plumbers, but that betrays my working class background since I consider this a compliment. I have had the opportunity to get to know some wonderful clerics here in Rome, so the idea of librarianship as a religion doesn’t seem that bad to me.

On the other hand, I have seen economists (especially lately!) compared to the alchemists who had an unshakable belief in their philosopher’s stone, weather forecasters (who forever get forecasts wrong and rarely if ever, feel the need to offer any explanation for their failures) compared to soothsayers, along with the often remarked upon intellectual and social isolation of much of the faculty, who so often speak in a jargonized language understandable only to the handful of their colleagues who have been “initiated” into ever-narrowing specialties, and whom I have seen compared to “navel gazers”, i.e. monks who lock themselves in cells for years at a time, whispering prayers to one another.

So, I personally see catalogers as mechanics, public service librarians as social workers, selectors as “government regulators” ensuring levels of quality, all trying their best in spite of failing very often. At the same time, I have seen clergy of different religions who still do a lot of good for society today, although they are going through scandalous times at the moment.

I’ll accept the comparison with a religion. It could be worse.