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In praise of cataloging

February 24, 2010

Just read this blog post from Speaking of Information. As a cataloger, I often feel unappreciated and undervalued. At least this blog post makes me think the contrary.

The praised cataloger, while working on the retrospective cataloging project, added a particular 1901 publication to our online catalog at some point during the project. At that moment, our copy of the book was exposed to the world through the miracle of the Internet. The staff member who sent me the email told the story of how our copy of that 1901 book had recently been requested through interlibrary loan by the library at Princeton. In the interlibrary loan system, only two U.S. libraries were shown to own the book: Harvard and our library. After the initial shock wore off, this realization offered a beautiful success story of the value of cataloging librarians and their efforts. On an average day in the back room with no one around, our cataloger clicked the save button to add a record to our online catalog. Little did she know at the time that because of her unobserved efforts our library was positioned to connect a library user a thousand miles away with a book not widely held in libraries.

The moral of the story? Work diligently, and never underestimate the value of your contributions–even (and perhaps, especially) if they come from the unassuming back room. Look around. There are more success stories just waiting to be told.

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