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Cataloguer


Description

Libraries are full of things. Not only are there the books on the shelves, but there are CDs, video tapes, newspapers, and microfiche filling up the library. Every library, no matter what the size, has someone who works as a cataloger, documenting items in the collection, keeping track of everything available for public use. The cataloger may work exclusively in this area in a large library, while in a small library, cataloging may be the responsibility of administrators and reference librarians.

Catalogers take each new item that arrives at the library and records the title, author's name, publication information, and a short summary of what the item is (non-fiction reference, children's science fiction, classical music recording). Certain items which are valuable or important may be photographed for the records. Then, each item is assigned a code. This code explains to the librarians, as well as to the public, where to find the items in the library. The codes, along with the relevant information, are recorded into a reference database, available to the public and the library staff on computers in the library. The codes also help librarians locate lost or stolen items, charge late fees and ensure they don't order too many of one item for the library collection.

In the past, catalogers recorded all their information on cards, which were kept in libraries for the public to flip through. Now, cataloguers are using computerized database retrieval systems, and keeping tabs on the library collection is as easy as clicking a mouse.

Catalogers work in public libraries, but also company libraries, government libraries, law libraries and archives to make sure no document is ever lost in the shuffle.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Catalogers need to be patient, firm, and decisive individuals with good communication skills, and especially good organizational skills. They should have good eyesight, and should enjoy research. They need to love books, as well as be comfortable working alone. An analytical mind, as well as a thorough, methodical approach to work and tasks are important qualities for catalogers.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Examine each item upon arrival to library, finding out as much as they can about publication history, author, and subject matter
  • Assign each item a number
  • Enter program information and number into computer programs
  • Update the catalog when necessary
  • Retrieve information for other library staff
  • The typical day for the cataloger will involve working in offices. There, they examine each new book, sound recording, or magazine before cataloging it. They will consult with other library staff when necessary. They will use a database for recording new acquisitions, and when staff are looking for a particular item. The cataloger will locate the item using the cataloging systems. The job may allow for some travel, when visiting other libraries or archives.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Catalogers divide their time among offices, archives, storage spaces and library floors. They will work regular hours, unless a large number of books are acquired, and need to be stored or displayed immediately, which means overtime and weekend work. Libraries are usually government institutions, although some are privately run or function as non-profit organizations.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Catalogers can become archivists, reference librarians, or take on administrative positions. They can work in public, private or university libraries, or become catalogers in museums. They can apply their methodical and analytical skills to other fields, such as history, bibliography and data entry.
 

  Educational Paths  
Catalogers generally require a master's degree in library or information studies, along with a bachelor's degree in general arts. Prospective catalogers should supplement this education with courses in computers and business studies. It is also a good idea to volunteer with a library, archive or museum now, as any experience in the field will be beneficial in the long run.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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