Hopefully it goes without saying that writing a textbook is all about the students. In the photo above, you can see three of the current MA LIS students, snapped by another student at the party to launch Practical Cataloguing and Collection Management in the Digital Age. In my acknowledgements, I also credited students 2009-2011 – without working out how to describe some of the book’s more challenging concepts in a real-life teaching situation the core chapters would have been a lot poorer.
However, I’m in the fortunate position of teaching at the last UK university whose MA LIS still includes 20 hours of practical work with cataloguing standards alongside 10 hours of theory in a core module, and then the chance for enthusiastic students of an optional advanced course. When writing, I was really aware of our students’ needs, and, from my past career as a cataloguer, of the needs of librarians learning to catalogue in their workplace. The one category of beginning cataloguers of which I have little experience is those emerging from the majority of UK LIS courses, in which cataloguing is taught in theory without much practice. I knew what they wanted – Steve Carlton’s article in Catalogue & Index 162 was particularly helpful in outlining the issues:
Overall, the course [undergraduate at Manchester Metropolitan University] did not give us many opportunities to put the theory we had learnt into practice. While we were taught about why libraries need to catalogue and index materials, we were not shown how to catalogue and index beyond the basic introduction we were given in the first year. I would be incapable of cataloguing something from scratch, and would probably find it difficult constructing a Dewey Decimal number. These are the kinds of skills that libraries look for when recruiting new staff, and I do worry that I will struggle to get a job unless I do further training.
I really hope that by including lots of examples of basic and complex cataloguing in action, Practical Cataloguing will be useful to students looking for the kind of knowledge Steve Carlton was seeking. Certainly, at UCL, I confront students with these and many, many more items to push their newly-acquired knowledge of the principles to the limits and beyond.
It’s great to read that City University is recommending our textbook to their students. It was also good to see the articles I commissioned for Catalogue & Index in 2007 by Heather Jardine and Alan Danskin being quoted again. I’m currently working on an article on teaching cataloguing, based on my papers at the RDA Executive Briefings 2010 and 2012, so I’ll wait before writing a blog post on that topic. For now, I’m just happy to have good feedback about the book from such a respected source.