Library of Congress Professional Guild

Local 2910

The Future of Cataloging

Recently, the value and future of LC cataloging practices have been directly challenged.

The Library of Congress Professional Guild, AFSCME 2910, represents professional employees, including catalogers. We would like to draw the attention of the larger library community to some of the current dialogue on cataloging here at the Library of Congress.

To this end, we present the following articles:

  1. "The Future of Cataloging," by Dr. Deanna B. Marcum, Associate Librarian of Congress, January 16, 2004, address to the Ebsco Leadership Seminar, Boston, Mass.

  2. "Will Google's Keyword Searching Eliminate the Need for LC Cataloging and Classification?" by Dr. Thomas Mann, Reference Librarian in the Library of Congress Main Reading Room, August 15, 2005.

  3. "Survey of Library User Studies" also by Dr. Thomas Mann, Reference Librarian in the Library of Congress Main Reading Room, October 2005.

  4. "Copyright Office Makes Final Decision on Cataloging Record," (pdf) by Margaret Holley, cataloger in the Performing Arts Section of Copyright Cataloging, March 2006.

  5. "The Changing Nature of the Catalog and Its Integration with Other Discovery Tools. Final Report." March 17, 2006. Prepared for the Library of Congress by Karen Calhoun. A Critical Review by Thomas Mann," April 4, 2006.

    According to the Calhoun report, library operations that are not digital, that do not result in resources that are remotely accessible, that involve professional human judgement or expertise, or that require conceptual categorization and standardization rather than relevance ranking of keywords, do not fit into its proposed “leadership” strategy. This strategy itself, however, is based on an inappropriate business model – and a misrepresentation of that business model to begin with. The Calhoun report draws unjustified conclusions about the digital age, inflates wishful thinking, fails to make critical distinctions, and disregards (as well as mischaracterizes) an alternative “niche” strategy for research libraries, to promote scholarship (rather than increase “market position”). Its recommendations to eliminate Library of Congress Subject Headings, and to use “fast turnaround” time as the “gold standard” in cataloging, are particularly unjustified, and would have serious negative consequences for the capacity of research libraries to promote scholarly research.

  6. Resolution on the Library of Congress Management's Decision to Cease the Production of Series Authority Records, adopted by the Guild Executive Board, May 11, 2006.

  7. New essay: "What is Going on at the Library of Congress?" Prepared for AFSCME 2910 by Thomas Mann, Reference Librarian in the Library of Congress Main Reading Room, June 19, 2006.

  8. Statement of Saul Schniderman, representing The Library of Congress Professional Guild AFSCME Local 2910 before the Committee on House Administration concerning the World Digital Library July 27, 2006 (PDF format)

  9. "More on What is Going on at the Library of Congress " prepared for AFSCME 2910 by Thomas Mann January 1, 2007.

  10. "Eliminating Series Authority Records and Series Title Control: Improving Efficiency or Creating Waste? Or, 12 Reasons Why the Library of Congress Should Reconsider Its SARs Decision" prepared for AFSCME 2910 by Gary M. Johnson, January 11, 2007.

  11. "The Peloponnesian War and the Future of Reference, Cataloging, and Scholarship in Research Libraries" prepared for AFSCME 2910 by Thoams Mann, June 13, 2007.
    ABSTRACT: The paper is an examination of the overall principles and practices of both reference service and cataloging operations in the promotion of scholarly research, pointing out important differences not just in content available onsite and offsite, but also among necessary search methods. It specifies the differences between scholarship and quick information seeking, and examines the implications of those differences for the future of cataloging. It examines various proposed alternatives to cataloging: relevance ranking, tagging, under-the-hood programming, etc. The paper considers the need for, and requirements of, education of researchers; and it examines in detail many of the glaring disconnects between theory and practice in the library profession today.

  12. "Steroid" Scandal Rocks Major League Libraries. A satirical response to erosion of support for cataloging at the Library of Congress, by Daniel Cohen, December 14, 2007.

  13. “‘On the Record’ but Off the Track, A Review of the Report of The Library of Congress Working Group on The Future of Bibliographic Control, With a Further Examination of Library of Congress Cataloging Tendencies,” by Thomas Mann, March 14, 2008. The paper also examines the reorganization of LC's cataloging department proposed by Library management, and the predicably damaging impact it will have on libraries in all Congressional districts. The URL for the Working Group Report itself is

  14. "Library of Congress: Study of the North American MARC Records Marketplace," by Ruth Fischer and Rick Lugg for R2 Consulting LLC, Oct. 2009. The R2 Consulting report, contracted by LC, studies the economics of production and distribution of cataloging records. They gathered information with survey responses from 972 libraries and 70 vendors. The report addresses many issues, including the value of and challenges facing cooperative cataloging, the costs of original cataloging, and responsibility for those costs. The entire report is 47 pages long, and conclusions are condensed on pages four and five.

  15. "What is Distinctive about the Library of Congress in Both its Collections and its Means of Access to Them. . . , by Thomas Mann, November 6, 2009. Mann's paper covers three major tops: "What is Distinctive about the Library of congress in Both its Collections and its Means of Access to Them," "The Reasons LC Needs to Maintain Classified Shelving of Books Onsite," and "A Way to Deal Effectively with the Problem of 'Books on the Floor'." In addressing these concerns the essay provides an important clarification of the mission, functions, and responsibilities of the Library of Congress in relationship to Google, Amazon, OCLC, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Internet.




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This page was last updated on January 11, 2007.