My Internship Experience

By Irina Stanishevskaya

After a four month internship (January-March 2006) in the Cataloging Department of Mervyn H. Sterne Library at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, I've discovered that cataloging is a puzzle, one in which the cataloger acts as both the solver and collector. Creating a document record for the local catalog is much like the process of assembling a puzzle. Every document has certain pieces of information and the role of a cataloger is to put all these pieces together by using standardized rules and to create a comprehensive visual work about a document that will be understandable and useful not only for professional librarians but also for users of the library. This internship gave me a great opportunity to be a puzzle solver in the process of creating bibliographic records for print, audio-visual, and electronic materials. Due to a budget cut in print materials, I unfortunately did not have a chance to practice much copy cataloging, but I was lucky to able to perform some original and complex copy cataloging. Having no experience in cataloging, I started the internship by learning how to use the most important cataloging tools such as:

  • OCLC Connexion Client, which allows users to search the WorldCat database, create and edit bibliographic records, export and import MARC records, control headings in bibliographic records, and search the Library of Congress authority file.
  • Endeavor's Voyager Cataloging Module, a component of Endeavor’s Integrated Library Management System that manages all cataloging processes in the library.
  • Library of Congress Classification Web, which provides access to a full-text schedule display of all Library of Congress classification schedules and makes the assignment of subject and class numbers faster and easier.
  • Cataloger’s Desktop, which provides online access to the most important cataloging resources.

Additionally, I gained valuable learning experience from using professional standards including the Library of Congress Classification System (LCCS), the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR 2), and the MARC 21 standard.

Many years ago, Seymour Lubetzky described cataloging as an "intellectual operation." My internship confirmed this idea. Applying traditional cataloging principles to the creation of bibliographic records is not only a technical work, but also an intellectual one. Classification assignment, subject analysis, and authority control are intellectually challenging tasks that may improve the searching capabilities of the catalog or create many problems for searching. By starting off very slowly at the beginning of the internship and asking million of questions, I was able to complete the bibliographic records correctly and to create records from scratch at the end. Thanks to my internship, I learned that cataloging truly is an art.

This internship would have been impossible without great help from many staff members at the Sterne library. I would like to thank Library Director Jerry W. Stephens, the Head of the Reference Department, Linda Harris, the Head of the Cataloging Department and my Internship supervisor, Susan Holt, and cataloger Carolyn Walden. It was a pleasure to be involved in the cataloging process and to be able to work with many wonderful specialists. I gained many useful skills that I cannot wait to use in the future.