SlideShare a Scribd company logo

What\'s the Difference Between a Registrar and a Cataloger?

A talk sponsored by the Committee on Archives, Libraries and Museums (CALM) at the Museum Computer Network, 2004, exploring the differing conceptions of cataloging practiced by museum and library catalogers. Includes comments gleaned from a casual survey of museum catalogers on the role and organizational position of catalogers in museum. Discusses the role of standards in cataloging strategies.

1 of 29
Download to read offline
1
2
The cataloging function is typically buried deep in the job description for the
registrar. In fact, most museums don’t have a position known as a cataloger, but
subsume cataloging within registration duties.




                                                                                   3
4
If cataloging is just a function of the registration process (at least in most situations),
then how do we define it? There is a subtle difference between the way CIDOC
describes cataloging and the way this randomly discovered definition of library
cataloging describes it. In the museum case, we are told that cataloging means
describing an object according to some system and arranging the resulting
information into a record. Nothing is implied about what is to be done with this
orderly record.
The library definition tells that the purpose of the record is to help us FIND the item
and that to do so, we should create the record so that it may be found in a variety of
different ways. The first definition emphasizes careful description. The second
emphasizes access to the information we create.




                                                                                              5
Occasionally we do find a position in a museum that is actually called a “cataloger”.
Note that this position reflects the CIDOC definition fairly accurately. Also note that
this position reports to a curator and not a registrar. In fact, in the few instances I
was able to locate cataloger positions in museums, they all reported to curators, not
collections managers. Also, in this case as in most of the others I found, these
positions were temporary.




                                                                                          6
Ad

Recommended

‘The network reshapes the research library collection’ - Lorcan Dempsey (OCLC)
  ‘The network reshapes the research library collection’ - Lorcan Dempsey (OCLC)  ‘The network reshapes the research library collection’ - Lorcan Dempsey (OCLC)
‘The network reshapes the research library collection’ - Lorcan Dempsey (OCLC)CONUL Conference
 
RLG Partnership Update Webinar Slides
RLG Partnership Update Webinar SlidesRLG Partnership Update Webinar Slides
RLG Partnership Update Webinar SlidesOCLC Research
 
Undue Diligence: Seeking Low-risk Strategies for Making Collections of Unpubl...
Undue Diligence: Seeking Low-risk Strategies for Making Collections of Unpubl...Undue Diligence: Seeking Low-risk Strategies for Making Collections of Unpubl...
Undue Diligence: Seeking Low-risk Strategies for Making Collections of Unpubl...OCLC Research
 
ARLIS 2010 RLG Partnership Round Table
ARLIS 2010 RLG Partnership Round TableARLIS 2010 RLG Partnership Round Table
ARLIS 2010 RLG Partnership Round TableOCLC Research
 
Beyond the Silos of the LAMs - Library, Archive, Museum Collaboration
Beyond the Silos of the LAMs - Library, Archive, Museum CollaborationBeyond the Silos of the LAMs - Library, Archive, Museum Collaboration
Beyond the Silos of the LAMs - Library, Archive, Museum CollaborationOCLC Research
 
The New Evidentiary Cinema
The New Evidentiary CinemaThe New Evidentiary Cinema
The New Evidentiary CinemaRick Prelinger
 
Not the Unthinkable, But What We Didn’t Think Of: Preparing For and Recoverin...
Not the Unthinkable, But What We Didn’t Think Of: Preparing For and Recoverin...Not the Unthinkable, But What We Didn’t Think Of: Preparing For and Recoverin...
Not the Unthinkable, But What We Didn’t Think Of: Preparing For and Recoverin...Chuck Patch
 

More Related Content

Viewers also liked

Define Future: Finding the Common Ground Between IT and Digital Preservation
Define Future: Finding the Common Ground Between IT and Digital PreservationDefine Future: Finding the Common Ground Between IT and Digital Preservation
Define Future: Finding the Common Ground Between IT and Digital PreservationChuck Patch
 
Who's Driving? Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Collection Information Syste...
Who's Driving? Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Collection Information Syste...Who's Driving? Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Collection Information Syste...
Who's Driving? Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Collection Information Syste...Chuck Patch
 
Imb sales presentation general
Imb sales presentation   generalImb sales presentation   general
Imb sales presentation generalrkern21
 

Viewers also liked (16)

Define Future: Finding the Common Ground Between IT and Digital Preservation
Define Future: Finding the Common Ground Between IT and Digital PreservationDefine Future: Finding the Common Ground Between IT and Digital Preservation
Define Future: Finding the Common Ground Between IT and Digital Preservation
 
Projects
ProjectsProjects
Projects
 
Who's Driving? Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Collection Information Syste...
Who's Driving? Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Collection Information Syste...Who's Driving? Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Collection Information Syste...
Who's Driving? Implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Collection Information Syste...
 
How to prepare for and pass the CIA exam?
How to prepare for and pass the CIA exam? How to prepare for and pass the CIA exam?
How to prepare for and pass the CIA exam?
 
Fraud Awareness Program - OpenThinking
Fraud Awareness Program - OpenThinkingFraud Awareness Program - OpenThinking
Fraud Awareness Program - OpenThinking
 
Best Practices in Internal Audit - Iyad Mourtada
Best Practices in Internal Audit - Iyad MourtadaBest Practices in Internal Audit - Iyad Mourtada
Best Practices in Internal Audit - Iyad Mourtada
 
Business Analysis and Forecasting
Business Analysis and Forecasting Business Analysis and Forecasting
Business Analysis and Forecasting
 
Internal Auditor Roles
Internal Auditor RolesInternal Auditor Roles
Internal Auditor Roles
 
CMA(Part1): Budgeting Concepts
CMA(Part1): Budgeting ConceptsCMA(Part1): Budgeting Concepts
CMA(Part1): Budgeting Concepts
 
Imb sales presentation general
Imb sales presentation   generalImb sales presentation   general
Imb sales presentation general
 
Financial Statement Fraud
Financial Statement FraudFinancial Statement Fraud
Financial Statement Fraud
 
How ethical you are?
How ethical you are?How ethical you are?
How ethical you are?
 
How to lie, cheat and steal your way to success
How to lie, cheat and steal your way to successHow to lie, cheat and steal your way to success
How to lie, cheat and steal your way to success
 
OpenThinking Land
OpenThinking LandOpenThinking Land
OpenThinking Land
 
The Future of Accounting Standards
The Future of Accounting StandardsThe Future of Accounting Standards
The Future of Accounting Standards
 
CISA Part2
CISA Part2CISA Part2
CISA Part2
 

Similar to What\'s the Difference Between a Registrar and a Cataloger?

Organizing Resources
Organizing ResourcesOrganizing Resources
Organizing ResourcesJohan Koren
 
A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015
A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015
A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015Eric Lease Morgan
 
Organizing Resources
Organizing ResourcesOrganizing Resources
Organizing ResourcesJohan Koren
 
The network reshapes the research library collection
The network reshapes the research library collectionThe network reshapes the research library collection
The network reshapes the research library collectionlisld
 
What is the Role of the Professional Archivist in the Evolving Archival Space?
What is the Role of the Professional Archivist in the Evolving Archival Space?What is the Role of the Professional Archivist in the Evolving Archival Space?
What is the Role of the Professional Archivist in the Evolving Archival Space?Kate Theimer
 
Thinking about technology .... differently
Thinking about technology .... differentlyThinking about technology .... differently
Thinking about technology .... differentlylisld
 
Classifying toward an Ensemble of Works: an essay on the centrality of classi...
Classifying toward an Ensemble of Works: an essay on the centrality of classi...Classifying toward an Ensemble of Works: an essay on the centrality of classi...
Classifying toward an Ensemble of Works: an essay on the centrality of classi...Gwen Williams
 
Introducing CIDOC-CRM (Cch KR workshop #2.1)
Introducing CIDOC-CRM (Cch KR workshop #2.1)Introducing CIDOC-CRM (Cch KR workshop #2.1)
Introducing CIDOC-CRM (Cch KR workshop #2.1)Michele Pasin
 
Emory Presentation Slides
Emory Presentation SlidesEmory Presentation Slides
Emory Presentation Slideslcarro2
 
Emory Presentation Slides
Emory Presentation SlidesEmory Presentation Slides
Emory Presentation Slideslcarro2
 
Processing workshop 2010_04_23_final
Processing workshop 2010_04_23_finalProcessing workshop 2010_04_23_final
Processing workshop 2010_04_23_finalarchiwicz
 
Digital preservation and curation of information.presentation
Digital preservation and curation of information.presentationDigital preservation and curation of information.presentation
Digital preservation and curation of information.presentationPrince Sterling
 
Libraries: Change and our Future
Libraries: Change and our FutureLibraries: Change and our Future
Libraries: Change and our FutureMal Booth
 

Similar to What\'s the Difference Between a Registrar and a Cataloger? (20)

A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015
A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015
A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015
 
LIS Degrees in Museums
LIS Degrees in MuseumsLIS Degrees in Museums
LIS Degrees in Museums
 
Organizing Resources
Organizing ResourcesOrganizing Resources
Organizing Resources
 
A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015
A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015
A few possibilities for librarianship by 2015
 
Beyond the Silos of the LAMs
Beyond the Silos of the LAMsBeyond the Silos of the LAMs
Beyond the Silos of the LAMs
 
Organizing Resources
Organizing ResourcesOrganizing Resources
Organizing Resources
 
Librarian Standards Essay
Librarian Standards EssayLibrarian Standards Essay
Librarian Standards Essay
 
The network reshapes the research library collection
The network reshapes the research library collectionThe network reshapes the research library collection
The network reshapes the research library collection
 
Resource Description Pres and Paper
Resource Description Pres and PaperResource Description Pres and Paper
Resource Description Pres and Paper
 
What is the Role of the Professional Archivist in the Evolving Archival Space?
What is the Role of the Professional Archivist in the Evolving Archival Space?What is the Role of the Professional Archivist in the Evolving Archival Space?
What is the Role of the Professional Archivist in the Evolving Archival Space?
 
Thinking about technology .... differently
Thinking about technology .... differentlyThinking about technology .... differently
Thinking about technology .... differently
 
Classifying toward an Ensemble of Works: an essay on the centrality of classi...
Classifying toward an Ensemble of Works: an essay on the centrality of classi...Classifying toward an Ensemble of Works: an essay on the centrality of classi...
Classifying toward an Ensemble of Works: an essay on the centrality of classi...
 
Introducing CIDOC-CRM (Cch KR workshop #2.1)
Introducing CIDOC-CRM (Cch KR workshop #2.1)Introducing CIDOC-CRM (Cch KR workshop #2.1)
Introducing CIDOC-CRM (Cch KR workshop #2.1)
 
Emory Presentation Slides
Emory Presentation SlidesEmory Presentation Slides
Emory Presentation Slides
 
Emory Presentation Slides
Emory Presentation SlidesEmory Presentation Slides
Emory Presentation Slides
 
Processing workshop 2010_04_23_final
Processing workshop 2010_04_23_finalProcessing workshop 2010_04_23_final
Processing workshop 2010_04_23_final
 
Digital preservation and curation of information.presentation
Digital preservation and curation of information.presentationDigital preservation and curation of information.presentation
Digital preservation and curation of information.presentation
 
Library use for beginners
Library use for beginnersLibrary use for beginners
Library use for beginners
 
Library use for beginners
Library use for beginnersLibrary use for beginners
Library use for beginners
 
Libraries: Change and our Future
Libraries: Change and our FutureLibraries: Change and our Future
Libraries: Change and our Future
 

What\'s the Difference Between a Registrar and a Cataloger?

  • 1. 1
  • 2. 2
  • 3. The cataloging function is typically buried deep in the job description for the registrar. In fact, most museums don’t have a position known as a cataloger, but subsume cataloging within registration duties. 3
  • 4. 4
  • 5. If cataloging is just a function of the registration process (at least in most situations), then how do we define it? There is a subtle difference between the way CIDOC describes cataloging and the way this randomly discovered definition of library cataloging describes it. In the museum case, we are told that cataloging means describing an object according to some system and arranging the resulting information into a record. Nothing is implied about what is to be done with this orderly record. The library definition tells that the purpose of the record is to help us FIND the item and that to do so, we should create the record so that it may be found in a variety of different ways. The first definition emphasizes careful description. The second emphasizes access to the information we create. 5
  • 6. Occasionally we do find a position in a museum that is actually called a “cataloger”. Note that this position reflects the CIDOC definition fairly accurately. Also note that this position reports to a curator and not a registrar. In fact, in the few instances I was able to locate cataloger positions in museums, they all reported to curators, not collections managers. Also, in this case as in most of the others I found, these positions were temporary. 6
  • 7. This is the job description for the curatorial cataloger where I work. It reports to a relatively new position at the museum known as the Programs director. This person is, in practice, a curator, although his other duties include management of a nascent education department and the creation of symposia, workshops and seminars. I should also note that our institution includes a library and manuscripts archive along with the museum. 7
  • 8. In early 2004 I posted a number of questions to the MCN list that were intended to be not so much a rigorous survey as a way to incite a conversation about the role of cataloging in museums and the use of cataloging standards Only in the larger museums were people actually dedicated to the task of cataloging objects and only in the rarest of circumstances was that task carried out on a full- time basis. In all cases, these people reported to the collections manager 8
  • 9. Cataloging was usually described as something that was done on an as-needed basis. If a lot of stuff was acquired, there was a lot of cataloging 9
  • 10. The real truth here is that very few places actually seem to employ the vocabulary standards that we take for granted as of utmost importance. I sure was relieved to discover that we weren’t the only place in the world that couldn’t seem to get this act together! Actually, the response seemed to explicate the conception of what cataloging actually means in most cases. For the most part, it’s about providing an accurate description of an object so that you can be sure that the object you’re looking at is really the one described in the record and that you therefore match it to its administrative data. It’s almost never about facilitating an ad hoc search across a set of broad categories. The quote is by a librarian in a museum. It came in the context of discussing the problems of getting folks who had very full plates to learn how the standards work and how to apply them. And it also spoke to a sense of insularity that is felt not just between museums, but between different groups and departments within museums. How does this happen? What is it about our particular culture, organizational structure, values or whatever that leads to what in many cases becomes a devaluing of cataloging as a profession and the trivializing of the standards that are designed for that profession? 10
  • 11. Public Access vs. mediated Presentation Perhaps the most fundamental difference in approach between libraries and museums, is in their relationship to the public. The mission of the library is to provide access to its holdings by the public. By definition this assumes that information is extracted by the patron and not a curator. In contrast, in a typical museum information about the collections is dispensed pedagogically via exhibits, publications, public lectures and symposia. The only people accessing the database without programmatic guidance are museum staff. In terms of information system design, the library assumes a public access system providing largely unmediated access to information about its holdings. The Museum, on the other hand, operates on the implicit assumption that information on collections will be accessed primarily by staff members in the process of putting together mediated presentations of museum holdings for the public. In the former case, the system emphasis will be on “discovery;” the ability to locate relevant material within the database. In the latter case, the emphasis will be on depth of description and unique physical attributes: curatorial staff, for the most part, knows what is in the collection and how to find it within the database. What they need from the database is accurate ownership information, dimensions and thorough descriptions. 11
  • 12. 12
  • 13. Effects of “Inward” vs. “Outward” Orientation Facilitating discovery involves the adoption of standardized descriptive techniques, including the use of standardized categories and vocabularies. These standardized data structures and vocabularies make it possible for researchers to work comfortably in systems at many institutions without needing to learn the idiosyncrasies of local terminology. Standards also facilitate public access via the Internet and, of significance to potential inter-institutional collaboration, make possible the creation of union catalogs. This is the technical area of information services that bibliographic and archival catalogers are trained in. In the past decade it has been increasingly important in museum cataloging as well. With certain exceptions, the Museum’s emphasis on depth of information, combined with its reduced need to facilitate discovery, diminishes the need for controlled vocabularies and content standards. While it is true that terminology employed by curators tends to be highly specialized, it is not necessarily the same terminology adopted in standards such as the AAT or the ULAN or even at other institutions by other curators. At the same time, the orientation to an audience that is almost exclusively internal decreases any interest in adopting widely accepted standards in the information management professions. The feeling that “we know what we’re talking about” overrides interest in adopting widely used standards or even in making this information publicly accessible. What has happened at THNOC is that the majority of relevant and detailed information input by members of the “curatorial” staff is stored only in free-text description fields. This information can be extracted during a search by in-house users who know and understand our terminology, but the data is much less accessible to users outside of the collection. In the case of information entered into category-specific fields, such as object type, Medium and even Maker, cataloging has often not used standard vocabularies or even in-house authority terms. 13
  • 14. At the same time, the opposite trend has taken place with processing staff assigned to manuscripts and library materials. There, emphasis has moved increasingly toward the adoption of national and international information standards. The THNOC library has been cataloging all new materials within the OCLC library system for many years. The manuscripts department has adopted both the use of MARC format cataloging for collection level data, and Encoded Archival Description for the production of finding aids. This has been done even though our ability to display and access data in these formats is almost non-existent. It’s sort of a leap of faith – the belief that we would someday be able to put this data in a real system – but it also reflects a fundamental professional viewpoint: it is difficult for folks trained as librarians and archivists to see the museum CMS as an information retrieval system. [1] See the Online Archive of California, www.oac.cdlib.org/, The Consortium for the Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI), www.cimi.org/, The Open Archives Initiative, www.openarchives.org/ 14
  • 15. So what it comes down to is that we catalog stuff when the stuff itself is going to be sent somewhere or put on display or have it’s picture taken and put in a book or on a web site. To add a thought to the second quote: not only does access to information call attention to the way information moves in and out of museums, it is the movement of objects in and out of museums that calls attention to problems of access. And the huge danger is that descriptive cataloging tends to occur only at these transition points – when the object is going on display, or loaded to a web site or a digital library – and that this now-fixed information stays at those transition points; i.e. on the web site, in the digital library, in the book, on the wall label, and NOT in the core information system for the museum? How often is it that the only time that standards for descriptive cataloging are really adhered to is when the destination requires it, such as in a digital library. How often has extensive label copy been written that never gets back into the collection record, even though every modern CMS is designed to facilitate this? How often have Dublin Core records been created from scratch for uploading to a digital library because they can’t be pulled from the CMS? 15
  • 16. 16
  • 17. We’re unique – don’t hear this as much as you used to, but still a favorite claim. There is also the common misconception that a vocabulary standard imposes a strait-jacket-like constraint on use of descriptive terminology, whereas the recommendations are generally to use and/or adapt terminology as needed. Indeed, the hardest concept for many museums is the understanding that a controlled vocabulary is one that is consistent. Also, the adoption of standards means designing local practice and lexicons in such a way that you can map your system to another system that is documented, known and understood by other institutions and system vendors. The argument that we don’t share our data with others is a typically a narrowly interpretation of the concept of “other” that designates the other as someone from outside the institution that conveniently neglects the data that is supplied to the Education and Development departments and assumes that the institution will never migrate to another system. Lack of resources is a very serious issue in most institutions, but in many cases the argument that inadequate resources requires the institution to stop cataloging acquisitions is probably symptomatic of the structural indifference to the extended value of the collections data. When such decisions are made, how often is extensive research on items presented on web sites and in exhibitions continued? When such decisions are made, are records still being prepared for submissions to digital libraries? Does it seem likely that catalogers would be laid off in libraries who acquired primarily rare materials that had no footprint in OCLC? 17
  • 18. There are many standards in existence and many that are in use in most museums. Many of these are simply part of the environment and we use them without any more thought than we give to the standards that supply the 120 volt power we power or machines with 18
  • 19. There are many conventions that we use directly in our work that suffer little controversy because they are part of the software systems that we use every day. These are implemented by our vendors and not only are they accepted by users, they often come to shape our workflows and practices. 19
  • 20. Finally, there are “optional” standards, and the vocabulary standards typically fall into this category. Here we often run into arguments over adoption and implementation, simply because we have to think about them. We realize that we are possibly expected to change long-standing practices that, viewed from the standpoint of daily routine seem “better.” 20
  • 21. 21
  • 22. The problem of NOT adopting – and adapting – standards is that the in-house standards, assuming they exist, are typically designed to service the needs of a specific area of the institution – one or more of the famous information “silos” that develop in many companies and institutions. As such, they produce data that becomes difficult to re-purpose which really means moving between systems. Also, while a locally developed system may be better than a standard, it also requires local maintenance. Maintaining such a system adds a significant layer of work to the institution, work that is typically not done. Finally, even if you do none of the activities that require integration with other systems, you will still have the problem of moving your data to a new system. You will be sharing your data with yourself in about 6 to 8 years when you replace your system. In the case of THNOC, a migration of the collections information from our 14 year old CMS to our new system required 6 months of planning and a cost of 36,000 dollars. On the other hand it took hours to import our MARC format data into our library system and minutes to get our EAD formatted Manuscripts finding aids into our archival system 22
  • 23. 23
  • 24. 24
  • 25. The level playing field can be seen in the marketplace with off-the-shelf products that implement standards that have been adopted by professional organizations, thus guaranteeing a market, 25
  • 26. Or totally new categories of product, such as a CMS sold as a subscription application service that relies for its sales appeal on a widely accepted data standard? 26
  • 27. The most important way to think of standards is as an “exit strategy” or a way to bail on a product or method that you don’t like or can’t use anymore. Not everything uses the same standard, but being able to move between them is the reason they exist. In the data field we call the tools to do this “cross-walks”. Think of the brick that connects your laptop computer to the wall outlet as a cross-walk between A/C and D/C current. 27
  • 28. Take it seriously The people who do this work are specialists. They need training and authority to over-rule some smart and very powerful people in your institution 28
  • 29. And who does all this? 29