Changing libraries, changing catalogers

Shortly after I graduated from library school, I met with a library director who told me that librarianship had changed a lot since I was in library school. I pointed out that I had only graduated two weeks earlier. She repeated that librarianship had changed a lot since I was in library school. I doubt that it really changed much in two weeks, but it didn’t take long for me to begin to see big changes. Until the late 1800s, library catalogs were contained in books. Whenever the library acquired anything new, the cataloger had to make note of it … Continue reading

Catalogers: the invisible librarians

You see their work, but when you go to the library you don’t see them. Or if you do, you can’t distinguish them from patrons like you unless you know them personally. Catalogers. I have been haunting libraries for as long as I can remember. Especially after I got to graduate school, I became very sophisticated in my ability to use the card catalog. (That should date me.) I was ABD (all but dissertation in completing a doctorate) when I got my first job working in a library. It was there that I learned to catalog. Until that moment, it … Continue reading

How to find titles in an online library catalog

Some online library catalogs, trying to imitate Google, show only a single search box, which works as a general keyword search. If you want to look up a title, you need to switch to “advanced search,” which is actually less frustrating to use. Google is a search engine, and the online library catalog is a database with multiple indexes. You need a screen that will let you choose which index to search. The better-designed catalogs offer a choice between “title” and “title keyword” search boxes. For “title,” type the beginning of the title, omitting the initial article if any. In … Continue reading

How do you find anything in a library catalog?

The simple answer is that you can look by keyword, author, title, or subject. Just type your search terms in the appropriately labeled box and look at whatever results come up. Sounds like Google, only not quite. The more complicated answer is that a library catalog is a database with separate indexes for keyword, author, title, subject, and so on. Unlike the Web, they are structured in such a way that there is only one official way to express a name (personal or geographic), title, or subject. They are also structured in such a way that you do not have … Continue reading