Value of Cataloging Librarians

by the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services Cataloging & Classification Section Executive Committee, 13 June 2006

The CCS Executive Committee is charged with encouraging and promoting cataloging and classification of library materials in all types of institutions. Although not explicitly stated, this support extends to the professionals who do the work. Cataloging librarians comprise a small but valuable subset of the library profession that provides critical but sometimes hidden services to their libraries.

With this document, the committee hopes to provide catalogers and cataloging managers a tool for describing the critical importance of cataloging librarians.

Cataloging librarianship is, at its heart, about service. Cataloging librarians provide customer service, through their work, to thousands of users who use library catalogs and databases on a daily basis, as well as supporting future library users. They create coherent catalogs, which enable a reliable search experience for users, many of whom use the catalog remotely without access to a librarian who can interpret results or respond to questions.

Further, cataloging librarians:


  • Envision bibliographic control of collections of the world’s knowledge and implement this vision to create local, regional, and international catalogs and digital access systems.
  • Create standards, such as the Resource Description and Access (RDA), Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR), Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) and newer metadata standards, such as Dublin Core (DC) and Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO), by working with national and international organizations.
  • Manage, train and mentor cataloging support staff, creating efficient workflows to catalog and process items added to library collections, thus supporting the information needs of users.


  • Work with systems librarians to configure catalogs and databases to provide optimal indexing and display of bibliographic records.
  • Work with reference librarians to answer complex searching questions.
  • Work with collection development, acquisitions and serials librarians to create effective cross-departmental workflows.
  • Work with digital library projects to develop local policies and to create metadata records, following local and international standards.
  • Contribute to the creation and ongoing development of international databases, catalogs and authority files.

Create & Improve Access

  • Apply standards to cataloging records and metadata so that they can be shared in international databases, saving time and money for thousands of libraries, both now and in the future.
  • Create functional catalogs and databases, by providing quality control services, record enrichment and authority control.
  • Describe and provide access to items in library collections, including unique items in special formats and foreign languages, and items of local interest. These original cataloging records provide access to local users, as well as being shared in international databases.
  • Provide subject analysis for items in library collections, creating subject-based call numbers, which allow shelf browsing by users, and subject headings using standardized terminology and thesauri, which allow for increased retrieval by subject and/or keyword searching. This subject analysis is shared in original cataloging records added to international databases.
  • Enhance cataloging provided by other libraries and vendors with additional subject terms, call numbers, search terms, links and other information of local interest, reflecting the needs of local users and increasing retrieval.
  • Provide authority control on all types of headings added to records, including authors’ names, series titles and subject terms. This provides the basis for reliably consistent search results and collocates the terms, saving the time for users.
  • Provide direct user services including rush cataloging in-process items on request, and resolving errors in the catalog.

Develop Professionally

  • Educate themselves in new technologies and changing standards and apply those new technologies and standards to local workflows.
  • Research issues in cataloging and publish or present the results, so that other libraries can apply them.
  • Work collaboratively in local, regional, national and international groups, both in person and online, to solve problems, learn, grow and develop.