What They Don’t Teach in Library School: Competencies, Education and Employer Expectations for a Career in Cataloging

By Amanda Ros

The purpose of the ALCTS Preconference
What They Don’t Teach in Library School: Competencies, Education and Employer Expectations for a Career in Cataloging was not only to help new catalogers bridge the gap between what they learn in library school and what it is expected of them when working in the field, but also to recruit members for the new “Task Force on Competencies and Education for a Career in Cataloging.” The mission of the Task Force is to assess the current state of education and employment in cataloging, recommending new programs that seek to promote continuing education and training in the profession. The Task Force will serve as an umbrella organization for three new initiatives:

A Cataloging Education Fellows Program to promote cataloging education, educational programs such as workshops, and internship opportunities;

2. A program to
connect cataloging practitioners and employers with library educators to build upon the ALCTS/Committee on Education, Training, and Recruitment for Cataloging (CERTC) Mentoring Program, link catalogers and employers with educators in order to provide better internship and practicum opportunities, and establish a lecture series to discuss current trends and future developments in cataloging;

A clearinghouse for cataloging resources for Internet resources related to cataloging, including training courses, documentation, terminology and tools, as well as links to cataloging related Internet resources.

Randy Call, Director of Technical Services, Detroit Public Library described “Cataloger Competencies for Public Libraries”. He made two key points. New librarians generally do not have enough training to step into full-time cataloging positions. Institutions also expect degreed librarians to assume non-cataloging duties such as leadership roles, special projects, and professional involvement while maintaining productivity levels.

Beacher Wiggins, Director for Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access, Library of Congress discussed “Managing a Shortage of Catalogers: A Research Library Perspective”. “Blended” or “hybrid” positions are becoming the norm. These changes will give the professional cataloging staff the ability to offer solutions on how to describe bibliographic elements covered by cataloging rules, or that require interpretation. A long-term goal is to have support staff be responsible for descriptive cataloging.

Karen Calhoun, Vice President, OCLC WorldCat and Metadata services, OCLC presented “On Competencies for Catalogers”. Calhoun reiterated the previous observations that professional catalogers are being down-sized, and expected to assume more responsibilities. The focus of cataloging is evolving as the Generation X and Millennial users’ needs and expectations change. Additionally, fewer LIS programs are offering cataloging and fewer new librarians are choosing cataloging as a career.

Janet Swan Hill, Associate Director for Technical Services, University of Colorado—Boulder Libraries discussed “The Brick Wall: Recruiting People to a Career in Cataloging”. Hill said that in addition to fewer LIS programs offering cataloging, catalogers are “invisible” to patrons. Patrons consider “librarians” to be reference and circulation staff. In order to counteract these hurdles, practicums and mentorships are essential.

Brian E.C. Schottlaender, University Librarian, University of California at San Diego described “What They Don’t Teach in Library School: Employers’ Expectations for Cataloging Recruits”. The skill sets of librarians will evolve as users’ needs and expectations change.

Matthew Beacom, Metadata Librarian, Yale University Libraries presented “Training Issues Managers Face”. Beacom also focused on the skill sets. Employees need proper training and good workplace morale in order to be more productive, because productivity equals success.

Sylvia D. Hall-Ellis, Associate Professor, Library and Information Science Program, University of Denver discussed “Cataloging Education: A New Emphasis on the Library and Information Science Curriculum”. Hall-Ellis focused on new avenues for cataloging education within LIS programs. The evolution of cataloging and the convergence of technologies present ongoing challenges. The most effective ways to meet these challenges is through communication, mentorships, and research.

There were two breakout sessions during the preconference. The morning breakout sessions focused on competencies in cataloging, continuing education in cataloging: resources available, and how institutions can promote continuing education in cataloging. The afternoon sessions focused on design of a Cataloging Education Fellows Program to recruit, educate and train the next generation of faculty members; construction of a practitioner-library educator partnership for teaching, cataloging, classification, metadata, mixed media information, etc.; and the implementation of a marketing strategy to connect potential users of and contributors to the Clearinghouse of Cataloging Resources.

The above article was originally published in the ALCTS Newsletter Online, vol. 18, no.4. Reprinted with permission.