For many people, the word catalog, in the library sense, invokes memories of searching a card catalog for a new book to read or use as a source for a research paper. Each card within the card catalog held various pieces of information that enabled us – the user – to find the book. Although the card catalog is nearly non-existent today, the catalog itself is still a vital part of all libraries. Cataloging librarians create catalog entries, ensuring they are accessible for users in libraries OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) systems. While cataloging is discipline specific, it is important for all librarians to have an understanding of what cataloging is, including the process, required information for each catalog entry, how to search through a catalog entry, and the use of metadata in cataloging. According to a 2004 article, Cataloging and Metadata Education in North American LIS Programs, Ingrid Hsieh-Yee discusses her survey findings of the dwindling requirement of cataloging and metadata courses in LIS programs and the less than desired amount of education of future catalogers.
Catalog librarians have dealt with many changes over the past few decades, including moving away from card catalogs towards digital catalogs and having to devise ways to catalog new media formats, such as DVDs, web sites, and digital journals. While these new formats should have increased cataloging and metadata courses and expanded the areas taught within the courses, Hsieh-Yee (2004) notes that “technologies and the need to organize digital resources did not seem to result in greater emphasis on cataloging education” (p. 60). As a result, LIS schools are pumping out graduates who are unsuited to current cataloging and metadata needs.
Instead of requiring students to complete catalog and metadata courses, LIS programs are incorporating cataloging and metadata into an introductory course. While integration of cataloging has seen an increase from thirty-eight percent in 1997 to seventy-nine percent in 2002, there are too many other topics being covered in these introductory courses for students to acquire an appropriate understanding of cataloging (Hsieh-Yee, 2004, p. 61). Among the LIS programs that do require cataloging courses, Hsieh-Yee’s (2004) “data also [revealed] that most courses focused on the cataloging of print resources, with 61 percent reporting coverage of electronic resources” (pg. 62). With regards to metadata, only thirty-two percent of LIS programs offer metadata courses and a mere nineteen percent “[offer] advanced metadata courses” (Hsieh-Yee, 2004, p.63). These results are not conducive of an effective cataloging and metadata education. New LIS graduates who have focused their discipline around cataloging and metadata are placed at a large disadvantage to compete in the job market, which begs the question of why LIS programs are not making immediate changes in response to both the continuously changing world of technology that immediately affects cataloging and the demand for better-educated catalogers.
Although LIS professors are incorporating various workable cataloging scenarios into their classes, they are doing so mainly for the “creation of bibliographic records by AACR and MARC format” (Hsieh-Yee, 2004, p. 63). With regards to other cataloging formats, “fewer than 30 percent of the educators included exercises for metadata record creation using non-AACR schemas” (Hsieh-Yee, 2004, pp. 65-66). While some LIS professors are offering exercises on various metadata topics, the majority of the professors are only knowledgeable of the basics of metadata. Hsieh-Yee (2004) suggests that
One way to strengthen the coverage of metadata in LIS programs is to help faculty members develop expertise in this area. Since most of the development and implementation of metadata takes place outside LIS programs, it will be beneficial to involve practitioners in enhancing faculty knowledge in metadata. This will improve the teaching of metadata across the board and provide students with a more consistent coverage of topics and issues related to metadata. (p. 66).
As a soon to be LIS student, the results of Hsieh-Yee’s survey leave me feeling nervous about why there is such a large disparity between what is being taught in LIS programs and what is being demanded by libraries. With ten years having passed since the publication of Hsieh-Yee’s survey there may have been significant progress in cataloging and metadata education in LIS programs. I certainly hope so.
Hsieh-Yee, I. (2004). Cataloging and Metadata Education in North American LIS Programs. Library Resources & Technical Services, 48(1), 59-68.