What is a cataloguer? (and what does one do?)

Entering our office

Entering our office

If you have been reading this blog, and maybe following our Twitter account @CUCataloguing there is a good chance that you know what a cataloguer is, however, if you don’t, this brief post will give you a small insight.

According to Wiktionary, a ‘Cataloguer’ is 1) Someone who catalogues or 2) (informal) A person who is fanatical about buying items from catalogues. (Really? Seriously?  Ok, I just learnt a new definition!)  We are, unsurprisingly however, going to concentrate on definition number one.  In this context we are specifically looking at people who catalogue items for the libraries at Cardiff University.  Notice I said ‘items’ not ‘books; because these days libraries contain a greater variety of material in addition to books.

There are currently six cataloguers working for the library service, five of whom work on material for the main libraries, and one who is a specialist rare book cataloguer.  For the library user to know what the library holds there is need of a catalogue (you should be familiar with Library Search or Voyager) giving details of which library holds what items and where they are.  It is our job to create this information.  Records are created, or downloaded and upgraded; we ensure that the details on the record match the item we are holding in our hands (books, journals, DVDs, CDs, Cd-Roms, music scores, etc) or that are held electronically (e-books, e-journals, databases).  One wrong word in a title might mean that students can’t find that crucial text from a reading list.  While you might find it hard to imagine that titles would be wrong, you should be aware that publishers issue pre-publication details for items that are often quite different to the final version that is published (even with totally different authors!); and of course, we shouldn’t forget human error and mistyped words.  So, its part of our job to check all the details, from the great big obvious ones (is the title correct), down to all the fiddly little bits of punctuation and coding that can mean all the difference in how an item is searched or displayed.

Once all the details have been added, checked, corrected etc, and we have added/checked the subject headings (i.e. authorised keywords which also help you search for items) we then move on to classification.  There are several different classification schemes used at Cardiff University, and they will be dealt with in greater details in further posts.  These are the classmark numbers you see on the spines of the books, these are the numbers by which the books are put in order – so it is quite crucial to ensure we assign the correct number to each item.

Well, that’s the basics of our job, but we do a whole lot of other things too.  For example, we train staff, we work on ORCA the institutional repository, we attend (and chair) meetings, we write up project reports, check a variety of metadata, perform maintenance work on the catalogue, contribute to blogs, upgrade records for the AWHILES libaries, check for broken links and update them, etc etc.

Check out the links if you’d like to know more about what makes a good cataloguer and the role of the cataloguer in the 21st century.