Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cataloging and beyond

The Library of Congress' Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control recently released their report., "On the Record": -- while the report is an interesting read in itself, it is noteworthy that the report only has a page and a half on LIS education for "present and future needs"... page 38 + 39. This short section is curiously vague in its language; it starts by starting:

"The educational preparation for catalogers, indexers, and other librarians and information professionals is not standardized across programs or curricula. Many LIS programs have shifted from teaching cataloging to teaching organization of information, although some programs continue to offer both." (p. 38)

I can hear two reactions to this:
a) "There you go, this just proves that LIS educators have no connection to reality; they are just interested in theoretical stuff with no practical bearings. LIS education is removing itself from the field and are ignoring its foundation"
b) "See this just proves that LIS education today values KO issues, but now expands the issues beyond the traditional library setting and equip students with a broad, inclusive education in information, incl. library issues"

Both are probably right. And both can point to this report as evidence for their claims.

However, the second paragraph goes on and claims that there has been a shift in the demand of KO skills from libraries to the "information industry" -- and is does say that LIS programs "tend to focus on the former, rather than the latter". Which correspond will with my experience in this area -- and does speak to the two radical different expected reactions to the first paragraph.

The thing is that we need room for both areas in LIS education. We need to continue to educate library catalogers; but we also need to expand the field and educate information architects, taxonomists, theorists, etc. etc. It isn't and shouldn't be an "either or"! But most importantly, we need to realize that the common foundation for this *isn't* library cataloging (or library bibliographic control) -- the common foundation has to do with categories, intertextuality, epistemology, interpretation, language, etc, etc. Both areas will come out stronger if we recognize this and rebuild and retool the KO field from such a foundation.

OK. Enough. Back to my "Introduction to Bibliographic Control" class...

1 comment:

  1. Your comments remind me of Ken Wilber's Twenty Tenets. George Leonard has a concise description of them at

    Root foundations must be included in order to build integral sustainable systems in any field. There are no one-size fits all solutions to any problem.