Friday, December 5, 2008

Creative cataloging

Yesterday I volunteered at K's school, helping to enter new books into the brand-new library's database so they could go on the nearly-empty shelves for the children to check out. I was working with a bona fide, veteran children's librarian, henceforth known as CL, and I learned a number of reasons why I am not a children's librarian. It's taking a great deal of effort on my part not to rant about those things now; I did, in fact, rant about those things to my children's-librarian-mother-in-law last night; but she understood that I was just venting, and if I ranted again here I would just sound like a witch; so I will just mention the issue I had that relates to creativity:

Creative cataloging.

That is to say, choosing a cataloging record for the book you have in your hand based on what you'd like to have in your database, rather than choosing (or creating!) a record for the book you have in your hand based on the book you have in your hand.

Case in point:

Me: "There's no record for this book."

CL: "Oh, that's okay. There's one with a picture of the book."

Me: "But that's a different publisher, and the date's not the same."

CL: "Oh, that's okay. We decided it was more important that the kids see a picture of the book."

Okay. Who am I to argue? I haven't worked in a library for ten years. I don't even remember the Dewey Decimal System, which clearly renders me an idiot to CL. (Note to self: brush up on that.) If that's the way they want their catalog to be, I'll go along with it. They'll still be able to find the book by its barcode. Chances are the only one whose sensibilities will be offended is me. And the answer to that is obvious: go get a job in Technical Services, honey. You don't belong here.

On the bright side, I did get to create a couple of records from scratch -- for board books that no one else would have bothered to catalog because no one else would have bothered to circulate them, because no one in their right mind would have accepted them as gifts to their library, they were so atrocious. (And, just to rub salt in it, they were Tweety Bird books that I was told to place in the Disney genre, which don't even get me started on.)

In the end, though, I did enjoy working as a sort of "sub-librarian" and am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. Ten years is a long time to be out of it. I think, though, that I can work my way back and gain some credibility before too long, especially as neither CL nor the woman who is serving as the school librarian (and who is not, technically, a librarian) is particularly computer-savvy. Perhaps I can bring some skills to the mix that would be valuable and useful. I hope so.

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