The Future of Cataloging
Deanna B. Marcum
Address to the Ebsco Leadership Seminar Boston, Massachusetts
My career in librarianship has included work in cataloging, which I have always
understood to be a major part of library functioning. But I didnt fully realize how
major until I made a discovery when I became associate librarian of the Library
of Congress. e discovery was nancial—the Library of Congress is investing in
cataloging at the rate of forty-four million dollars a year! You can well appreciate
that a cost of that magnitude really got my attention.
If such an expenditure produces great benets for the Library of Congress,
libraries across the country, and others around the world, then we can justiably
argue that the forty-four million is well spent. But in the age of digital informa-
tion, of Internet access, of electronic key-word searching, just how much do we
need to continue to spend on carefully constructed catalogs? at is the question
I have come here this evening to pose—how should we think about cataloging in
the Age of Google?
I have not come to say that we no longer need the cataloger-produced biblio-
graphic entry. I recognize that my own institution, the Library of Congress, cre-
ated the bibliographic structure that is used by nearly every library in this country
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and by many around the world. Before starting any revolution against that struc-
ture, I want to take care to consider the potential consequences.
But I have many questions about cataloging, and I believe we must face them
together and begin answering collectively. I therefore welcome the invitation to
speak here as an opportunity to begin that discussion. I need your advice, your
judgment, and that of others in the library and research communities to consider
what the technologies that all of us are now adopting mean for cataloging in the
future. I ask you to think of this evening as the rst step in a longer exploration
of a dicult issue.
Let me begin with a practical demonstration of the questions importance—an
example of how digital-era students work.
Let us suppose that you are a librarian at a small college near the middle of
the continental United States. Let us even suppose that yours is the library whose
Web site I recently picked at random to see what digital resources it was oer-
ing. I am pleased to tell you that I was impressed. In addition to an electronically
searchable catalog of your own physical holdings, I found that you oer four-
teen EBSCOHost Online Databases, thirteen online databases from OCLC First
Search, eleven InfoTrac Online Databases, ve Lexis Nexis Online Databases,
three Proquest Online Databases, and at least nine other online resources, includ-
ing encyclopedias, dictionaries, electronic books, and materials for research on
current issues. Consequently, users of your library have online access to literally
hundreds of scholarly journals and other resources on all kinds of topics in a wide
range of academic elds.
Now let us suppose that I am one of your colleges students with a term paper
coming due. And let’s also suppose that I’ve been assigned to write about the for-
eign policy of President Fillmore. (I dont know why I am using this subject as an
example, except that I cant get out of my mind the name of an amusing recording
of political ditties that a friend recently told me about. Its entitled “Sing Along
With Millard Fillmore.”)
Now, in the old days, I might have walked to your library, looked in an ency-
clopedia there for “Fillmore,” then searched your paper card catalog to identify
books on Fillmore, located these books by call number on a shelf, and looked
through their tables of contents and maybe indices to nd what they contained
on foreign policy. But today I dont want to go to the library. I want to stay in
my cozy dorm room, where I have a computer, which your college may even have
provided me. So I decide to use it to do my research. One option, I nd, is to do
it through your librarys Web site.
I click on your library’s Web site (that is, on the Web site of the actual library
that I selected). ere I nd the term “Online Catalog,” and click on that. en I

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