Log in

Tue, Oct. 20th, 2009, 11:01 pm
o2bntheuk: Questions about Copy Cataloging as a Job

Hello all,

I have acoupla questions I hope y'all might be able to answer.  

Currently, I work part-time in the Serials Dept. of a local university.  It's a student job, but I love it.  I would happily stay if I didn't have to be a student (and unfortunately, there's no grad program here that interests me).

I've been looking around for jobs (hoping to get settled in a job and then start a distance MLIS program), and a position as a copy cataloger has opened up at another university--actually, the one university in the state that offers the MLIS.

If that university was nearby, I would have already applied, but it's not.  I'd have to move.  Besides the fact that I just *hate* the whole process of moving, I'm really close to my family, and well, I've always lived in this area.  My friends are here, and I can get where I wanna go without a map or a GPS device.  : )  I'd be moving to a city I have never even visited!

So ... I'd really have to like the job, you know?  Liking the job as much as I like my current one?  The move would be worth it.  But to move and not like the job....?  Not so much.

Thus, my questions.  Could anyone tell me more about copy cataloging?  I'm especially interested in just how your day goes.  I'm afraid I'm a fidgety sort of person.  Is this (and I suspect the answer is 'yes,' but I'd love to be wrong) a tied-to-your-desk/computer-all day-long kind of job?  Our university has no copy cataloger, only a single cataloging librarian.  He's at his desk a good bit, but he is also up and about (reference duties, student supervision, committee meetings, etc.)  A copy cataloger?  One of several at a university ... what would their day-to-day job be like?

I'm also curious about the actual job/process of copy cataloging.  From a bit of web research, I get the sense that's it's fairly complicated, but the only requirements for this job are a HS diploma / GED and a year of library work.  (I'd have a bachelor's and two years as a Student Library assistant.)

Any feedback I'd much appreciate.  : )  

Wed, Oct. 21st, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)

The basic process of copy cataloging is very much a sit-at-your-computer kind of job: look up titles on OCLC, import bibliographic records into local ILS, clean them up as necessary, create item-level records. One thing to ask about this particular job would be whether the copy cataloger is involved in any ongoing projects beyond that -- for example, one of the things I've worked on as a cataloging assistant is retrospective conversion, bringing older books into the ILS, which at least brings me out from behind my desk and into the stacks. However, if you're looking for a job that has a public interaction component, copy cataloging probably wouldn't provide that.

Also, there tends a lot of repetition while remaining attentive to detail in copy cataloging, so if you need variety to stay interested in a task, it may not be for you.

Wed, Oct. 21st, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)


I work as a Cataloging Associate in a public library, part time. While the job requirements didn't state the MLS was required (we have three catalogers, and one has her MLS) I am working on mine and I suspect that was a big factor in my getting the job. I'm in a public library so academic may be different but the basic job is probably the same.

My typical day is split between vendor verification and copy cataloging with the rare original cataloging record. My library does a lot of outsourcing, as in, we have lots of books that come in pretty much shelf ready from our vendor (cataloged, processed and ready to stick on the shelf), but we still eyeball the catalog record and the processing to catch errors.

Copy cataloging, which will probably be the bulk of your job, is a lot of fiddly details but I don't think it's very hard. Then again, everyone seems to point out that I am the rare person born to be a cataloger -- either you'll love cataloging or you'll hate it with a passion.

The general process of copy cataloging is searching OCLC's massive WorldCat database for a correct record (and there can be multiple hits, so you need to look over the details carefully to make sure you're choosing the best record); then downloading the record and making any local edits (like adding local subject headings or assigning a local call number); then adding the record to your local catalog.

As far as being tied to a desk, yes, you'll be spending the bulk of your time at the computer. I tend to get up, get a cart-load of books, work my way through them, leave the cart for the processing people and get another one. That's my exercise for the day :)

If you're curious, see if someone in your current library has a copy of AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules Version 2, 2005 Revision), and take a look through that. Read your way through chapter two, rule by rule, making the appropriate jumps to rules in chapter one as it tells you, and see if you can get your way to the rules on writing down the ISBN before you go nuts ;) That'll probably give you a good idea of the fiddly rules you need to follow.

Hope that helps! Feel free to bug me if you have any other questions, I love rambling on about cataloging and my job!

Wed, Oct. 21st, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)

It's good to take a chance, and get more experience in the field, and have the opportunity to get an "in" to the MLIS program (maybe discounts? ooo!). I mean, you could always apply, see what happens, and then if they do end up making you an offer and the whole situation still isn't sitting well with you by then, you can always turn it down and see it as an experience of interviewing, to help you prepare for another job in the future you may like better.

Just from the little bit I've learned about cataloging, I'd say it's a job for people who like coding, and are very introverted, and would prefer to work at a computer in an office rather than work at a public service desk with patrons.

However, I also work in serials (REPRESENT! haha) next to the catalogers and I find that it's about the same vibe, job-wise, as cataloging. I also sit at a computer in a quiet office all day, rather than being out on a public service desk or in the stacks with patrons. Previously working in circulation with the public, I was easily stressed from the minor conflicts that arose from day to day, and after a few years, moving to a cubicle was a welcome change. But, after working in serials for over a year and having those minor annoyances and stresses fade away, I started to miss the chance to help the type of patrons who were a joy to interact with and made the job worth doing. Working with inanimate objects isn't as fulfilling to me as working with people - that's why I wanted to be a librarian in the first place, to use my natural talents to help people, not to be sitting in an office poking away at a computer. But I'm so thankful for my job because it's pretty frickin' sweet in other ways (it's a job in the first place, it's very flexible with hours, with benefits, etc etc etc). No matter what job you do, there will always be things about it you don't like, right? So if this potential job is just a step you're taking on the path to doing what you truly want to do in life, it's worth making sacrifices to get to a place that would make you even happier once you get there. And in the library world, having experience in fields other than your main focus can be a big benefit.

But no job is worth more than time with your family, so if you're really close to them, is this potential job/school close enough that you could still go home to visit as often as you'd like? I live about five hours away from my family and I have to truly make an effort to visit them, and when I'm taking classes it's even harder to find the time to visit, let alone make the drive there and back, too.

Also, if you have the means, it may not hurt to visit the place you'd be moving to, to see how you like it. If you really like it, it would push you more to get this job and go to school there and be on your own for a few years. And if you don't like it, you can easily write it off and look elsewhere. :)

GOOD LUCK, whatever you decide to do. :) :) :) :) :)

Wed, Oct. 21st, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)

I work part-time as a copy cataloger at a large university. I'd have to agree with the others--if you are one of many other copy catalogers, there would be very little of the reference work/committee meetings that may occupy the full-time cataloger. You're basically going to be tied to a computer screen/desk for the majority of your day. And your job is going to be dealing with lot of detail-oriented work. Some of it may be very repetitive.

I might preface my answer with saying I have an MLS, and I LOVE my job. I am a natural-born cataloger: I love putting things in their correct places. Cataloging is almost like puzzle/problem-solving. And you never know what wacky thing is going to cross your desk, even in an academic library (I get stuff from history to medical books to physics books to children's books). so that sometimes keeps the "boring" to a minimum--I'm always learning about new subject headings and new ways to create call #s.

Copy cataloging isn't nearly as fun or exciting as original cataloging, but if I were you, I'd ask the full-time cataloger at your work to explain to you what copy cataloging is all about, maybe have him/her give you a few examples. That way you won't be going into something totally new without any idea of whether you like it or not.

Either way, good luck!

Thu, Oct. 22nd, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)

love your icon - refresh me on who the artist is? I know I've seen it before but I can't remember the name!

Thu, Oct. 22nd, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)

It's The Librarian painted by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. It became one of my favorites the day I saw it in library school!

Thu, Oct. 22nd, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)

I worked as a copy cataloger for the rare books collection of my state university for a time.
I loved my job beyond all reason, but that was due to personal reasons vis a vis a) I adore cataloging (proof that I am insane) and b) the collections I worked with specifically were a group of eclectic rare books from a personal collection, books from the african american history and culture collection, and the GLBT collection (cataloging gay porn FTW!) and of course c) really great coworkers (for the most part)
If you can handle a job that isn't much on the group work or seeing the public and that will probably hole you up in a cubicle or office for most of the day, I say go for it.