Why I Was Planning to Kill My Last Job

Not like, oh, I hate this damn thing– let’s blow it up! More like, I have a Vision of the Future! And it involves *gasp* outsourcing.

I know it is controversial. I love to catalog, and I am going to keep doing it no matter what. (YOU CANNOT STOP ME!) But let me tell you about the workflow at my last job:

Divide books up into ones w/CIP data and ones without

Give ones w/CIP to student worker, who uses OCLC Connexion to
–create a call number using Cutter shortcut (i.e., ShortCutter (TM! I just made that up!))
–add 949 fields for interactive importing to Innovative
Student writes OCLC record number on workslip, gives books to cataloger

Give books (and other media) w/o CIP to cataloger, who
–does the same as student worker, sometimes more complicatedly

Cataloger then takes all those books and
–revises call number so it is unique within the collection (and checks to make sure it fits there/is accurate/is the best choice of call number)
–performs authority control on all subject and authority headings
–downloads authority records, as needed; replaces outdated authority records in existing database, as indicated
–checks for any other anomalies
–exports records from Connexion into III, individually
–writes call number in book and on workslip

My vision for the job:

Outsource the initial cataloging (or pre-cataloging or whatever) OR
Automate the initial cataloging

Cataloger checks as in the final group procedures

The cataloging focus would then be on quality control. In fact, I foresee a future when the authority control could be done automatedly, with quality checks, natch.

And the job itself would shift to management of the entire Cataloging/Processing Department, rather than strictly focusing on the cataloging part. Of course, there would be a need for original cataloging from time to time. (By my estimation, with just DVDs, VHS, and books, the library where I worked required the OC (“Don’t call it that.”) on about 80-90 titles a year. My supervisor did original cataloging on far more CDs, I think.) So, Head of Cataloging and Processing would need to be a cataloger. (Like me!)

About the controversy:

1) Job loss: I get that. It is real, and I don’t want to dismiss it. But I truly think that there will be more library professional and paraprofessional jobs in the long run. You know how ppl were all freaked out about automation taking jobs away from humans? Well, it turns out that the machines cannot (YET!) maintain themselves. And, as I’ve said before, there’s always going to be a need for information professionals who can translate the info for hu-mons and help people learn to evaluate sources, etc. More jobs, not fewer!

2) Lack of quality of outsourced cataloging: I have heard (i.e., read on listservs) the lament that Library of Congress is cutting corners and it is being reflected in the quality of their records. The (vast) majority of records we used at my library (and this is pretty standard) were copy-cataloged from Library of Congress records. And it’s true– there are some egregious mistakes in the records. Not all of them or even most, but, man, when they are wrong, they can be Very Wrong. (I wish that I had written down some amusing examples! How fun would that be!) Which is why I advocate for a cataloger to check every single record.

I really think that hybrid is the way to go, here. You need somebody to supervise the department, take care of the technical aspects, and approve the records, but I think that it makes more sense, economically and in terms of using people’s time and energy to its best.

Oh, man, I just realized what a technical, specific post this is. But everyone, cataloger, department head, library patron, or person with a heart can enjoy this (noisy noisy video):

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